What makes a great leader?

When thinking of a great leader, Marie Curie is the perfect example. Marie—born in Poland, where ladies weren’t permitted to attend colleges or to be professionals—was top in her class throughout her schooling. She loved science, and followed this love to Paris where she would eventually use this passion for science to achieve something great that is still being used today and to inspire others to succeed in their own education and research. This passion is something that all great leaders have, and it is what drives people to follow them to become great themselves. This love—this passion—is the reason that she was a two-time Nobel Prize winner in both Chemistry and Physics, but it also inspired her husband—Pierre Curie—to finish his thesis and earn his Ph.D. and this also carried over to their daughter, Irène Curie, to win the Nobel Prize as well in Chemistry for related research and discoveries 37 years later. Not only did she lead and inspire those around her during her time, she led the entire scientific and medical community with her perseverance and subsequent discoveries in radiologic science and helped shape much of the diagnostic procedures and cancer treatments that we know today.

            Marie Curie is credited for her work with radiological substances that are involved in diagnostic radiology and radiation treatment for cancers. Her research—partnered with her husband—lead to the discovery of the elements polonium and radium. Her example paved the way for her daughter Irène to become Marie’s laboratory assistant at the Radiologic Institute and eventually partnering with her own husband to continue making discoveries though research on radiologic materials, creating the first artificial radioactive substance. All of this started because of one woman’s eagerness and passion for research that successively passed down through this family by means of Irène’s children and grandchildren, as well as all others since that had a passion for radiology, medicine, and science; every radiologist today uses Marie’s work and examples in their duties, likewise, every scientist researching and working with radioactivity is following in her—and her family’s footsteps.

Marie and her daughter Irène were both eventually overcome by their excessive exposure to these harmful materials—Marie perishing from aplastic anemia and Irène succumbing to leukemia—but where would science and medicine as we know it be without their determination, dedication, and leadership in this field? At long last, the passion that stemmed with Marie Curie has unquestionably changed science and modern medicine and in turn, saving countless lives and inspiring the minds of medical science researchers for generations to come. (famousscientists.org, 2016; famousscientists.org, 2014)

            These are the qualities of great leaders: passion, drive, determination, and ultimately, sacrifice. These characteristics that Marie Curie possessed are the kind that motivate others to reach and dream, creating admirers and experts. This is what I think of when I hear the word leadership or the term role model. The woman—the scientist—Marie.

How can you apply what you’ve read to become a better leader?

Author: Rita Fae Aulbach-Emira, A.S., C.O.C., C.P.C., C.D.E.O., C.P.B., C.P.M.A., C.R.C., C.E.M.C., C.P.C.D., C.R.H.C., C.C.A., C.M.C.S., C.B.C.S., C.E.P.F.G., Certified Melanoma Educator

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famousscientists.org. (2014, September 08). Marie Curie. Retrieved from Famous Scientists The Art of Genius: http://www.famousscientists.org/marie-curie/

famousscientists.org. (2016, October 09). Irène Joliot-Curie. Retrieved from Famous Scientists The Art of Genius: http://www.famousscientists.org/irene-joliot-curie/

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