Have a Heart

“And what happened then?  Well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”

Dr. Seuss from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

“But I didn’t pay much attention until Secretariat came along.
He was completely out of everybody else’s league. 
Looking back at what he had done,
it was easy to put a connection to it. 

The heart was what made him able to do what he did”
Dr. Thomas Swerczek, head pathologist at the University of Kentucky,


What do The Grinch and Secretariat have in common?  What might it have to do with being a good leader?  I never gave it a thought until I watched both movies over the holidays.   

Everyone knows the story of the Grinch.  His dislike of the Whos and their happiness around Christmas caused him to dismantle their Christmas celebration.  However, the Whos’ heartfelt response was to continue to celebrate even after all their trees, decorations and roast beast were gone.  This rubbed off on The Grinch in a way that had a profound effect on him.  He was a changed man…er Grinch.  As a result, he found his heart.   

Secretariat was a legendary Triple Crown winning racing thoroughbred.  He set records in each of the races that make up the Triple Crown (The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont) that still stand today. 

After Secretariat’s passing, it was found that, he had a heart almost three times the size of a normal horse’s.  It was speculated that attribute is what gave him the ability to win races the way he did.  He won the Belmont Stakes by an incredible 31 lengths.  It became clear to me that having a good heart physically and figuratively could contribute to a leader’s chances to lead well.  It is essential to successful leadership, for an employee/customer centric focus is the foundation of the servant attitude a good leader should possess.  This type of attitude is evident in those who have others best interests in mind whether they are in leadership or another role. 

Just this past week, a friend and fellow volunteer at a tutoring program we both worked at passed away.  Sue was a retired teacher in her late seventies, although you would have never guessed it given how active she was.  She gave a great deal of her time to others as a tutor, nature guide, nursing home volunteer and grandmother.  While she was a petite woman, the size of her heart was most noticeable.  She was always willing to give of herself and her students, fellow volunteers and others responded to her because of her generosity of spirit.  She wasn’t a leader per se but she was a fine example through her actions, kind manner and obvious caring towards others.  This confirmed what The Grinch and Secretariat started me pondering. 

Leadership requires many attributes including a big heart; one that provides stamina for the periods of challenge and empathy for the hard times organizations face and those faced by their employees.  Every good leader should desire and cultivate a heart capable of empathy that can be moved by others. 

Want to be a good leader, have a vision, value others and have a big heart. 

Here to serve,


John Duba

Dedicated to my friend Sue Zorn

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One Response to Have a Heart

  1. Amazingly written John. Beautiful. And as for leadership, yes, those things mentioned are very important. Unfortunately, they can be put to rest with one controlling blow from another leader. It is time for transformation of organizations not just one leader or two. Having the heart to see things through to the end means believing and breathing an organizations mission, vision and value statement at all times. Your friend’s values matched those she lead and those she served…this is the combination that speaks success. Rest in peace Sue.


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