I recently saw the movie “Facing Darkness”, the story of volunteers’ courageous and selfless service to others in face of the Ebola virus. If you follow the news then you already know the story – how the Ebola fighters from Samaritan’s Purse and Medicin Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) fought against Ebola with exceptional courage and devotion. Time Magazine later collectively named them “Person of the Year.”
The movie reminds us of how Dr. Kent Brantly, staff members and volunteers (Americans and Liberians) elected to stay at ELWA Hospital to help others instead of evacuating themselves to safety. It is a remarkable story. Their work was a marker of their faith. They were willing to lay down their lives for their friends and for people they did not know at all.
The ELWA team labored alone long before the CDC, international NGO’s and western governments got involved. Notably, well before the outbreak of Ebola, each of the Ebola fighters had made a self-leadership decision. Each had chosen to break away from the mold that society had prepared for him or her. Kent Brantly could have taken a safe medical job the States and never gone to west Africa. Liberian nurse Iris Martar did not have to work at ELWA Hospital in the first place and did not have to stay there after the outbreak. David and Nancy Writebol, who had manned their post at ELWA for years, did not have to do mission work overseas. They could have had safe jobs back home and the security of suburban living. In choosing to reject the mold, each person faced down his or her own internal fears and chose to express an individual calling, talent and abilities. They did not glob onto society’s offer of “security.” Each followed his or her own internal north star and did something daring, creative and “artistic” as Seth Godin would say.
What are the lessons to be learned from these people?
What if most professors got back to teaching, educating and empowering college students and encouraging them to think instead of being focused on the rote of exams and the rule of publish or perish? What if legislators were civil and bold enough to break away from the spirit of party and just did the right thing for the common good? What if society, through churches and parents got close enough to young people to provide and abundance of insight, love and support before those young people leave home and face the lure of drugs and the challenges of marriage and parenting in the modern age?
There is no magic wand for fixing the ills of society all at once. But the power of individuals breaking free from the mold should never be underestimated. The highest form of self-leadership involves self-awareness, vision and action that breaks away from conventional behavior. As Godin suggests, most of us need to generate the hubris to fly higher and not be afraid. 
 Godin, Seth. The Icarus Deception. Penguin, 2012, print, New York.
 Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. 10th anniv ed., Thomas Nelson, 2007, print, Nashville.
 Reference is to Godin, Seth. The Icarus Deception. Id.