The Servant Leader

March 30, 2018


Have you ever faced impossible odds? Not just something difficult, but something so incredibly challenging that even those closest to you and most supportive of you were shaking their heads and didn’t believe what you were trying to accomplish was possible? Perhaps they even tried to talk you out of attempting it for your own good?

When self-doubts emerge, hopelessness sets in. It is a lonely feeling. I suspect many of us have been there.

Forty-eight years ago, Larry Owings felt the sting of being the only person in his field who believed in him. At the Cleveland Convention Center this past Saturday, I heard this humble 72-year-old man relive the event and describe how his accomplishment has followed him throughout his life.

In 1970, ABC Sports was on hand to cover Dan Gable’s final college wrestling match. Gable was undefeated and wrestling in the national finals against Larry Owings, an unknown wrestler from Washington University. Dan Gable had never lost a college match and would go on to win the World and Olympic championships while only giving up one point during those 20 matches. But on that night 48 years ago, Larry Owings took it to Dan Gable. He did not hold back. Instead, he relentlessly attacked and won the match 13-11.

NCAA Division I Championships sponsored the event in Cleveland and had Larry Owings and Dan Gable interviewed together on stage to discuss how that match impacted their lives. Most amazing to me was the final message Larry Owings shared with the crowd, “When you are faced with the impossible remember these three things:

  1. Never quit believing in yourself,
  2. Hard work trumps luck, and
  3. Always have the mindset of helping others in your sport and in life.”



Yes!! I found another servant leader who embraced the servant mindset in developing the heart of a champion by overcoming impossible odds.

I’m eager to hear from you. Let me know what seems impossible to you today and how will applying Larry Owings three principles be useful to you?


John Rodgers


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