What a 4-Year-Old and an Alzheimer’s Patient can Teach Us about Leadership

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A few years ago, about midway through my dad’s progressive battle with Alzheimer’s, I remember getting an exasperated phone call from mom:


“I can’t let him bring in the mail anymore,” she said. “We get so many solicitations from every kind of organization asking for money, and I just realized that whenever he gets the mail, he’s been writing checks to ALL of them!”


Now, fortunately he still was clear-headed enough at that point to make the donations in reasonable amounts so that he wasn’t giving away their life savings by the armload, but I certainly understood why mom was concerned.


But in hindsight, part of me can’t help but wonder: was it actually a lack of discernment that moved dad to contribute to all those causes? Maybe he had ultimately reached a point of such pure, innocent, even child-like clarity that he knew exactly what he was doing:


Trying to help as many people as possible simply because it was the right thing to do, and it just felt good knowing he would make a difference to so many people.


Helping people simply because you can is one heck of a leadership lesson. And it’s no accident that I described it above as having a “childlike clarity.”


Sometimes children – unencumbered by decades of baggage and excuses and social expectations – can be our very best models of selfless leadership.


You know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, four-year-old Alex Scott took that to heart, and boy, did she ever make lemonade…


Over $1,000,000 worth of lemonade, and she donated it all to childhood cancer research, before she died just a few years later at the tender age of 8.


If this story rings a bell, you may recognize it as the history of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), and I’m both honored and excited to have Liz Scott, the co-executive director of the foundation – AKA “Alex’s mom” – join me this week on Speaking to Influence.



To date, ALSF has raised more than $200 million toward fulfilling Alex’s dream of finding a cure for childhood cancer, having funded over 1,000 pediatric cancer research projects and assisted more than 10,000 families through their national support programs.


Join the conversation as Liz shares not only her daughter’s amazing story, but offers a behind-the-scene look at what it takes to create a movement.


Hint: it requires knowing how to find the right balance among clear, scientific, and inspirational communication.


Not only that, but building a movement also requires conscious emotional and mental strategies as well as the importance of self-care when leading and inspiring others for the long haul.


As a mom, my heart aches at the thought of losing a child, and listening to Alex’s journey reminds me to be thankful for every moment I get to spend with my kids. But whether or not you have children, and regardless of your professional role, I promise you, Alex’s story and legacy of hope will have you asking yourself what kind of legacy you want to leave for the world.


Listen to our conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.


Leaving a legacy may seem like a major journey, but as the ancient proverb says, “A journey of a thousand leagues stars with a single step,” and when better to take that first step than NOW?


Today is Giving Tuesday, which is a perfect opportunity to take one small step and make a difference to someone whose cause touches your heart.


If you’d like to support Liz and Alex on their journey, you can donate to ALSF here.


And in case you missed National Philanthropy Day on the 16th, (or felt so good by helping others that you want to do it again!), here’s an updated list of all the amazing not-for-profit organizations our Speaking to Influence podcast guests lead.


Find one that touches your heart, and show your support for the amazing work they do:



Imagine if everyone reading this gave just $10 (or $1,000… who am I to put limits on your heart?) to one of these groups. What a difference we could collectively make!

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