Once a year, we dedicate a day in February to remember and honor the past presidents who served our country, committing their time and talent to improving the lives of every American. As the leader of the free world, the President of the United States has an extremely demanding, stressful, and at times impossible position, for even the most experience and poised chief.
Our most successful and admired presidents, regardless of political parties, had reach beyond their generation. Demonstrating progressive voices and examples of excellence which can be easily reimagined in today’s business landscape. In honor of these timeless leaders, we have put together a few examples from four past Presidents we should consider as we embark on or continue our own leadership journeys.
George Washington: First President of the United States
Entrepreneurship & Ethics
George Washington served as the first President of the United States of America from 1789-1797 and was one of the Founding Fathers. His entrepreneurial spirit and moral compass were the foundation of his success as the leader of our country and are important to remember and implement some of the foundations of his legacy left.
When George Washington first took office the country was going through a very politically divided and fearful period. He led the country through these troubling times by thinking about the country as a business, focusing on growth, stability, and infrastructure. He was committed to honesty and integrity throughout his presidency, giving the nation faith in him as a leader, and helping bridge the division that existed in our country.
Take-away: To create a culture that is unified and will innovate, great leaders are honest and transparent about their vision and goals.
Abraham Lincoln: Sixteenth President of the United States
Trust, Respect & Strong Alliances
Abraham Lincoln served as the sixteen President of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. He is often remembered for his success leading our nation through very trying times. During his run for office, he triumphed over three nationally recognized, and gifted rivals.
After he took office, he appointed all three to his cabinet in prominent positions, giving them the opportunity not only to make change in our county but also to challenge him on his policies, ideas, and vision for the nation. His willingness to work with people who held different believes, gain the respect of his adversaries, and to think and act with empathy, are what ultimately made him such a successful leader.
Take-away: Seek diversity of thought to broaden your cultural capital. Great leaders surround themselves with highly talented individuals, delegate to them and allow them to do their jobs.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Thirty-Second President of the United States
Optimism, Curiosity & Confidence
Franklin D. Roosevelt, often referred to as FDR, served as the thirty-second President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. During his tenure he showed the profound affect optimism has on the success of a leader. His presidency began during one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s history: The Great Depression.
He was an excellent communicator and used these skills to inspire and uplift the spirit of our nation, during a very difficult time. He was also highly inquisitive and curious, constantly reading and researching, giving him the ability to talk and debate at great length on a wide variety of topics. This not only made him more knowledgeable on the decisions he made but gave him confidence that was evident to the public, both foreign and domestic. This optimism, curiosity, and confidence were an important combination that highly influenced his success.
Take-away: Innovative leaders can find the upside in any situation and are forward-thinking. You don’t grow your business by doing what worked 10 years ago,
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Thirty-Fifth President of the United States
Thoughtfulness, Focus & Patience
John F. Kennedy, also referred to as JFK, served as our thirty-fifth from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. JFK is remembered for his deep focus and thoughtfulness, during times of crisis. He avoided a nuclear war with the Soviet Union in the 60s when he refused to bomb missile sites in Cuba, which would have almost certainly led to retaliation by the Soviets.
He remained focused on his goal to remove the missiles from Cuba peacefully, and avoided creating additional conflict. He successfully analyzed his options, took the time needed to make the right decision and effectively avoided a nuclear war. These skills served him well not only during the Cuban Missile crisis but throughout his presidency, and are critical skills for every business leader today.
Take-away: Temperament and well-informed decision making are a sign of sound judgement and a great leader. You can be decisive while exploring all outcomes of a decision.
Our current landscape of businesses and communities can benefit and take note here. It is now always about rewriting the book, but building on strong basic principles left for us by some of the greats.