3 Leaders From The Past We Can Still Learn From
On Monday, Feb 18th our country celebrated President’s Day. I started thinking about the truly great leaders we have had that lead us to the inspiring republic we have now. From our visionary first president, George Washington, to our most empathetic, Lincoln, and our most positive, FDR, each displayed vision and have stood the test of time as the epitome of a good leader. (I also consider Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt and JFK among other great leaders of our nation’s history) This made me think about leadership and I came to a realization- true leadership is timeless and universal.
Great leaders are present in humanity’s oldest stories, from Homer’s Iliad to The Bible, and in contemporary stories like Malala and The Hunt for Red October. Stories inspire us that feature leaders with a keen ability to command others, who are brave and selfless, and who have natural composure under fire, heavy conflict or adversity all while leading other people. What makes a leader? What are the qualities a leader should possess? There is no single answer that is correct. There are different types of leaders and leadership (or management) styles.However, a common theme for strong leaders is that they lead from the front, make hard decisions, and above all, do what they believe in. Today, Friday Feb 22nd is George Washington’s birthday. (DYK- In 1752, The British Empire switched from the Julian to Gregorian calendar? That is why there is some discrepancy in dates you may see) In honor of Washington’s birthday, here are three examples of leaders from America’s early past that we can still learn leadership lessons from that are applicable in today’s day and age.
George Washington, Ethical Entrepreneur
Leaders (I dislike the word boss) who want to nurture and develop new ideas while maintaining a consistent code of ethics should take a long look at how George Washington handled himself. Washington was more than just our first president or an inspiring commander. His leadership, his vision, and courage set the United States on the path to greatness. He was a visionary leader, honest and ethical, making him a role model for leaders everywhere.
If you have some time to read up on him, investigate some of the innovations he pioneered. He didn’t just lead a country, he was also an entrepreneur. Initially, he grew tobacco, but when he realized it was not sustainable, he switched to grains as his cash crop. His vision led him to a very successful farming business, one that led to his contemporaries considering him to be one of the most influential persons of his day, all before his presidency.
Those who embody strong leadership qualities stay focused on the end goal and mission. Organized and thoughtful, they remain flexible enough to handle unexpected challenges. A leader thinks out each strategy and understands how each of his or her actions will affect the rest of any given scenario. Having a clear purpose allows you to not only achieve your goals but will help you to lead teams of people to succeed as well.
Abraham Lincoln, Empathetic Facilitator
Abraham Lincoln is considered by many as the greatest president in the history of the United States. Great leaders in the mold of Lincoln listen to intelligent, even opposing perspectives, and are confident enough to lead in and stay true to their belief in difficult times. Lincoln was the leader during one of the most difficult and divided times in American history. Talk about leadership.
His brilliant leadership took him from obscurity to the presidency. Then he invited his greatest political rivals to join his cabinet in prominent roles. He possessed the ability of empathy and could understand others motives and desires. This empathy, combined with his extraordinary ability to communicate, brought his opponents together and marshaled their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.
Although having opponents in his cabinet caused Lincoln difficulty, by taking their advice into consideration, he ultimately won their respect and overcame the greatest obstacles ever faced by an American president.
The strongest leaders treat others honestly and lead by example in their work and attitude.They lead with character. Whether you’re trying to lead your business or your family, the truth is that each person you interact with looks at your values and ethics. Trust is a factor in every kind of relationship. Your employees should trust that you will lead them well. Make sure each member of your team knows what your core expectations are and show them how much you value character through setting a valuable example by your interactions with others.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), Political Positivity
In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” inspiring a nation still reeling from the Great Depression.
Although not the first president to be on the radio, FDR was the first to use his communication skills to inspire Americans through the Depression and World War II through his fireside chat. He projected a calm, can-do attitude, that helped Americans stayed focused and positive through the war and the great depression.Additionally, FDR had a brilliant sense of timing. He understood when to invoke the prestige of the presidency and when to hold it in reserve. Nothing was more important to Roosevelt’s success than his belief in himself, his belief in his mission and purpose, and his confidence in the American people.
What is more, he had a remarkable capacity to transmit his cheerful strength to others, to make them believe that if they pulled together, everything would turn out all right. Bosses who inspire with their own indomitable spirits and ability to get diverse groups on the same team can compare to FDR.
It has been in my experience, that when you treat people well, empower them and believe they are capable of great things, they will often do their best to prove you right. A phrase that I have used often over the last two decades in meetings and talks with teams I have led is that “Together, we win.”
Bringing it all together, there are many types of leaders. Know that leadership is a skill and that like any skill, it can be improved and developed. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and constantly seek self-improvement. Lead from the front and empower those around you. One of my favorite leadership quotes is from Tom Peters, a business management expert and the author of In Search of Excellence.
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.”
If you want to go down in your company’s history as one of its greatest leaders, I leave you with this.
Be the kind of leader you wish you had when you weren’t the person in charge.
Until Next Time,
Your Staffing Partner, Darrin Rohr- President, CEO and Chief Servant
Current owner of HH Staffing and Former Chief HR Officer for several successful Multinational Fortune 500 Companies. Brings fresh perspective from decades of experiences creating Great Workplace Cultures by building high performance teams while leading and managing people from all different backgrounds. HH Staffing is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida and is uniquely positioned to serve both local and national clients.