This week we celebrate President’s Day. Who is your favorite president? I guess I have a few favorites, but I remember President Kennedy’s inauguration like it was yesterday, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” a phrase that has gone down in history. So encouraging with such a clear message, put your others before yourself. Of course, I didn’t see FDR’s address but remember learning about his memorable statement, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
6 PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP LESSONS
1.) Have a plan. The best presidents created clear, consistent, goal-oriented plans and told the nation exactly where they were taking it. They also communicated updates honestly, in easily understandable words and, when course corrections were necessary, explained why. Washington and Lincoln were good at this.
2.) Stay calm. When faced with a calamity our greatest presidents kept their wits about them. Washington had serious successes and defeats during his first eight years in office. But he remained cool, calm and collected. Ditto with FDR. His inaugural address and those memorable words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” reassured an entire nation. Great leaders rise to the occasion when crisis threatens the very existence of their business.
3.) Be consistent. Course alterations are inevitable and one must stay consistent to the original plan. Consider Lincoln. He stayed consistent to one core objective: To keep the Union intact. He changed his strategies but never wavered from his end goal. Small business leaders should do the same. Remember why you exist and stay true to it as you retrofit your strategies and tactics.
4.) Have empathy. Great leaders allow their employees to fail and learn from those failures. No leader better demonstrated empathy than Lincoln when he delivered his second inaugural address. Instead of demanding severe punishment of an already beaten Confederacy, he argued for leniency, love and understanding. His classic line, “With malice towards none and charity towards all” said it all. Every entrepreneur can use a little less vitriol and a whole lot more empathy in demonstrating leadership.
5.) Don’t be afraid of making unpopular decisions. Sometimes leaders have to make unpopular choices that might alienate a significant percentage of their workforce. Fowler cites John Adams as the quintessential American president who, by choosing not to go to war with France, alienated much of the voting population and virtually assured his defeat when he ran for reelection. But, he kept us out of a war that might have ended the republic within a decade of its birth.
6.) Change when the facts change. Wilson was reelected in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Then, almost immediately after beginning his second term, Germany announced unrestricted submarine warfare (and began sinking American ships at will). Since the facts had changed, Wilson changed and declared war. Ditto with entrepreneurs. Stay focused on your organization’s goals, but adapt when marketplace factors change.
So whether it be, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, John Adams, their leadership lessons are not only historical they are meaningful and easily implemented your day to day leadership role.
Serve at your school, your church, in your community, state or country. You can make a difference by just giving back.
William Fowler, PHD
Carol is a Motivational Speaker, Executive Coach, Fundraising Strategist, Social Media Quarterback and Small Business Advisor. One of the Lehigh Valley’s most sought after consultants who assists organizations with results driven growth. Her strategies can be easily adapted to a for profit or non-profit environment. Carol specializes in high impact leadership, million dollar fundraising, smash the box marketing, and creating word of mouth epidemics for her clients. Visit Carol’s website at www.caroltalks.com and “LIKE” Carol at Caroltalks on Facebook. Carol S. Ritter, Past President, National Speakers Association Philadelphia and past board chair for St. Luke’s University Hospital Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice.