A Leadership Story: Louis Vuitton and Muhammad Ali

August 17, 2012

Are you a leader?

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

Muhammad Ali

It’s been weeks since I’ve written about the things that travel my heart. Weeks. I just needed a little inspiration. Something beautiful to carry me to words that could float me. Float me like a butterfly and give me a sting. Like a bee.

Muhammad Ali

Louis Vuitton’s online feature of Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) was just the thing. Muhammad Ali (nicknamed The Greatest) is an icon – not was. Three-time Heavyweight Boxing Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, Ali did not just hit hard in the boxing ring, he hit hard with words. For Civil Rights, Human Rights, and the dignity of the human person.

Oh – Ali threw his Olympic Gold medal into the Ohio river when an American restaurant refused to serve him a meal because he was black.

Muhammad Ali is also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005). The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor that is bestowed upon a man or woman in the United States of America. This high honor gives recognition to the individual who has made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

It is an honor that you or I, perhaps, shall never receive. In other words, you and I may never compare to The Greatest. Remember that when you think of Ali. And don’t stop trying to be a better you.

Louis Vuitton Ad: Muhammad Ali

See the Louis Vuitton feature on The Greatest here:


Muhammad Ali’s story reminds me that leadership is not just about glory and the epic, fortunes, windfall, and accommodations. It is much more about the service, of what was given, and the sacrifices made to advance a good cause.

I am reminded that leadership demands that we have to stake our resources (personal, financial and otherwise) against the challenges which we face as leaders. And the challenges we must face because someone must do the right thing, set an example, and demonstrate the taller measure of humanity.

Muhammad Ali put his career and honor on the line – when he spoke out against war. He was arrested. He was illegally and unconstitutionally harassed by the United States Federal Government. Yes. That’s right. Any government is capable of doing as much evil as it may do good.

Ali was even on the President’s black list. For all the wrong, ignorant and, yes, prejudicial reasons.

Years later, the United States Supreme Court vindicated Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves

What good cause do you serve, today? What good cause do I serve?!

What kind of future are you building? Is it a future of we. Or just you?

It is a question that I put to the man in the mirror. Often.

Stan Faryna
17 August 2012
Bucharest, Romania