Chris Wilkinson with the inspirational Herb Strongeagle and Herb's wife Joyce. (Chris Wilkinson photo)

Chris Wilkinson column: Herb Strongeagle – the humble leader

Long list of accomplishments is not even the most impressive thing about Herb

By Chris Wilkinson

When you’re in the presence of special people, deep down you feel it and you just know.

An elite athlete. An entrepreneur. A leader in his family and community. A residential school survivor. A family man. Husband, father, grandfather, brother, cousin, friend, leader. This is only the beginning when trying to honour and describe Herb Strongeagle.

The most impactful and respected leader is one who has the talent and character to lead, works hard and learns the skills to be a great leader, then leads with a servant heart to take care of those closest to them and in their community — without ever boasting about their talents or accomplishments.

Herb Strongeagle is one such special person. And he lives right here in the Cowichan Valley with his equally amazing wife, Joyce. It took Joyce’s help to pull this information out of Herb, as he is such a humble and modest man. It’s an honour to share more with you about him.

Check out this list of accomplishments:

• 1953 winner of the Tom Longboat Athletic Award at age 19 for track and field, hockey, baseball, and basketball; the Tom Longboat Award recognizes exceptional Aboriginal athletes for their outstanding contributions to sport in Canada.

• Starred on the Fort Qu’Appelle Sioux Indians hockey team that won the provincial crown in 1957

• Graduate of the University of Ottawa, Bachelor of Commerce degree

• Designated Elder of the Aboriginal Financial Services Corporation

• VP of Finance and Administration at the First Nations Federated College

• Various management and finance positions in federal and provincial government departments

• AFN Indian Residential Schools Advisory Committee

• 1996 Rural Sports Hall of Fame, Indian Head, Saskatchewan

• 1997 Sports Hall of Fame, First Nations, Saskatchewan

• 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award, First Nations, Saskatchewan

• Regina Pats WHL junior hockey scout from 1986 to 1998

• Pro hockey scout for the Vancouver Canucks from 2002 to 2005

That long list of accomplishments is not even the most impressive thing about Herb. Accomplishments are great; however, what’s most impressive about Herb is the character he has demonstrated his whole life. When I think of character I think of resolve. Overcoming adversity and choosing the gifts of strength and learning from that adversity. Being trustworthy. Living one’s values, intentionally. Having self-discipline and being accountable to self. Being honest and fair. Respecting others. Living in integrity, loyalty, and courage. Understanding the importance of education. Working hard. Cherishing community. And doing so with excellence and humility.

Level 5 leaders, as Jim Collins terms skilled, humble leaders in his popular business book, Good to Great, have experienced mentorship from other great leaders at some time in their life. I was most curious to ask Herb where these influences came from for him. Herb gave much credit to his grandfather Antoine Strongeagle, as well as his grandfather Pat Cappo, and his other family members. It was grandfather Antoine who was most firm in instructing Herb as a young boy to get educated. Grandfather Antoine was a spiritual leader and medicine man of his tribe and was sought out for his healing knowledge. It was apparent in our discussion how important the counsel and leadership of his two grandfathers has impacted Herb, lifelong. And Herb has inspired his family and all those who know him, in similar ways. It’s another great reminder of the importance of leaders and mentors in our own lives.

It’s but a handful of times in one’s life that one gets the opportunity to spend time with people of the character and leadership demonstrated by Herb Strongeagle. I consider myself lucky and very grateful to have sat down with Herb and Joyce, and to have shared time learning even more deeply about the fabric of great people. Thank you, Herb and Joyce, for the uplifting, character-revealing conversation. And for setting such a strong moral example for others to follow.

Chris Wilkinson is a Professional Life and Results Coach who works with leaders and entrepreneurs. For more information visit www.CoachingWithChris.ca or email Chris at info@CoachingWithChris.ca

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