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Monday, October 11, 2021

Five Leadership Success Lessons From Christopher Columbus

It’s Columbus Day – our annual celebration to honor the man who led the expedition that discovered the Americas.  Where would we be without his efforts? Christopher Columbus demonstrated several remarkable traits that are just as applicable today as lessons in business and leadership effectiveness as they were more than five centuries ago.

Here are 5 business leadership success lessons you can take from his life:

1. Be Willing to Work

When Christopher Columbus was still a teenager, he got a job on a merchant ship and remained at sea until French privateers attacked and burned his ship as it sailed off the Portuguese coast.

The boat sank, but the young Columbus floated to shore on a scrap of wood and made his way to Lisbon, where he studied mathematics, astronomy, cartography and navigation.

He also began to hatch the plan that would change the world forever.

2. Think “What If?” 

Based on his studies, Christopher Columbus had a different idea than what everyone at the time was thinking:

“Why not sail west across the Atlantic to Asia instead of around the massive African continent?”

3. Partner Strategically

Christopher Columbus presented his world-changing plan to officials in Portugal and England, and he finally found a sympathetic audience in the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

Columbus wanted fame and fortune and Ferdinand and Isabella did too…along with the opportunity to export Catholicism. (Columbus, a devout Catholic, was equally enthusiastic about this possibility.)

Columbus’ contract with the Spanish rulers promised that he could keep 10% of whatever riches he found, along with a noble title and the governorship of any lands he should encounter.

See some similarities with modern day joint venture structures?

4. Be a Trendsetter

Christopher Columbus’ four trips to the Caribbean kicked off centuries of sustained exploration on the American continents.

5. Grow a Thick Skin

Today, Columbus has a mixed legacy.

He is remembered as a daring and path-breaking explorer who transformed the New World…who introduced the horse from Europe which allowed Native American tribes in the Great Plains of North America to shift from a nomadic to a hunting lifestyle…and quite the opposite.

Proof that not everyone will like you at the same time.

As an important historical character, we remember Columbus this day on our calendar, but we can also learn about life, leadership, our humanity, and character. True, the discovery of the Americas forever changed the lives and cultures of the indigenous peoples, but that was not Columbus’s intent. There is still room to honor his achievements and apply leadership lessons to your business.

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