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Monday, February 18, 2019

Leadership Lessons on Presidents's Day

Happy Presidents Day!

With most national holidays, you have a pretty good idea of what to reflect on. On Memorial Day, we honor the veterans who have protected our nation. On the Fourth of July we celebrate our country’s independence. And on Labor Day we contemplate the social and economic achievements of American workers.

Presidents’ Day itself was created as a way to combine the celebrations of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays. They are the two presidents that Americans of all backgrounds admire and respect; both led us successfully through unique and overwhelming challenges. Hence, their approach can help modern leaders in any organization.

George Washington was more than just an inspiring battlefield commander. His leadership, his vision, and courage united a war-torn country and set the United States on the path to greatness. Washington was an effective, inspiring, and visionary leader whose historic contributions to the nation were rooted in his character. Throughout difficult times he remained steadfastly honest and ethical, making him a role model for leaders everywhere. And, since his time, not one president has admitted to chopping down a cherry tree.

Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest president in the history of the United States. Lincoln’s brilliant leadership rose from obscurity to the presidency, triumphing over three gifted rivals with greater national reputations. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his more accomplished competitors were dismayed and angry. Surprisingly, Lincoln invited all three to join his cabinet in prominent roles. Goodwin demonstrates that Lincoln’s success was founded in a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged rivals. He possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. It was this capacity for empathy that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

While we live in a different age, the prominent leadership characteristics displayed by these two  Presidents are still important characteristics that make define leaders of today. Leaders are not born, leaders are made. Being a leader is also not an assigned position – It’s taking action. It’s accepting responsibility. It’s moving people towards a goal.  We can all learn from the traits and abilities of these leaders, and look to apply them to our own leadership identity.

Both Washington and Lincoln brought out the best in their teams with a visionary and participative leadership style, and that’s as good a way as any to think about Presidents’ Day.

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