Leadership and Presidents Day

Leadership & President’s Day

Leadership and Presidents Day

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Since we’re headed into President’s Day weekend, I thought I’d re-post a piece that examines the leadership characteristics of the two Presidents for which the holiday is celebrated; George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. It’s an astute person who studies history and then applies the lessons learned to their present day life. In the text that follows I’ll look at the unimpeachable character of our first President, and the unparalleled resolve of our sixteenth President.

If I were to take a casual poll asking readers to name our two greatest Presidents it would not shock me at all if Washington and Lincoln would show very well among their peers. However, what I find so interesting in comparing and contrasting these two great men is that while they were both men of staunch character, willing to do the right thing regardless of opposition or public opinion, they were also men who rose to their place in history by traveling very different paths.

Washington was seemingly blessed with success at every turn, while Lincoln failed much more often than he succeeded during his lifetime. Even during Washington’s early years where he was often considered to be brash and impetuous, he was nonetheless considered a bright light and incredibly successful for his age. He consistently sought out positions of leadership & responsibility, and rarely met with any set-backs to speak of.

Born in Westmoreland County, Va., on Feb. 22, 1732, George Washington was a surveyor by trade, joined the Virginia militia just prior to the French and Indian War, served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and was the first President of the United States (1789-97). His rise to success was nothing short of meteoric, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel by the age of 22. His transformation from an ego-centric young man to a polished and savvy leader was nothing short of remarkable.

Even though Washington was both personally and professionally polished, becoming well known for his economic, military, business, and social success, it was his character that he was most admired for. The arrogance of his youth had been transformed into a true and unwavering confidence in his own judgment, underpinned with an implacable foundation of principled moral conviction. George Washington was a man of integrity beyond reproach. This made him a man worthy of respect, and a force to be reckoned with. It is important to realize that he did not just espouse a vision, but that he was willing to put his life at risk to defend his vision, and live his life with the singular pursuit of seeing his vision become a reality.

Washington’s life gives testimony to the fact that great leaders can accomplish great things. It is important to remember that Washington was not merely a man among midgets who garnered his success because of the ineptness of his contemporaries, rather he was someone who rose to the top of a peer group comprised of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and John Hancock among others. Perhaps the greatest testimony to his character was Washington could have been a king, but chose not to. His interest was not in acquiring power, but to serve the best interests of a new nation.

By contrast, for the majority of Lincoln’s life he was largely regarded as a person of little consequence, if he was regarded at all. While he sought positions of leadership and responsibility, he was met with continuous challenges and defeats. Interestingly enough, many of Lincoln’s perceived successes ended in failure.

Simply put, Abraham Lincoln is one of the most inspirational case studies in examining the leadership traits of persistence, commitment, determination, passion, conviction, and overcoming failure. There is perhaps no greater lesson the world can offer in overcoming failures and understanding the value of persistence than what can be learned from looking at the life of Abraham Lincoln. Born into poverty, Mr. Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout most of his life. He twice failed in business, lost eight different elections and suffered a nervous breakdown. The following bullet points summarize Lincoln’s path to the White House:

  • 1816: Lincoln’s family lost their home and he had to quit school to support them.
  • 1818: His mother passed away.
  • 1831: He failed in business.
  • 1832: He ran for state legislature and lost, also lost his job, and while he wanted to go to law school he couldn’t get in.
  • 1833: He borrowed money to start a new business and was bankrupt by the end of the year. He spent the next 17 years paying off the debt.
  • 1834: He ran for state legislature again and this time he won.
  • 1835: He was engaged to be married and his fiancé died.
  • 1836: Mr. Lincoln suffered a total nervous breakdown and spent six months in bed recovering.
  • 1838: He sought to become speaker of the state legislature and was again defeated.
  • 1840: He sought to become elector and was defeated.
  • 1843: Lincoln ran for Congress and lost.
  • 1846: He ran for Congress again and this time he won.
  • 1848: Lincoln lost his re-election race for Congress.
  • 1849: He sought the position of land officer in his home state and was turned down.
  • 1854: Lincoln ran for the US Senate and lost.
  • 1856: He sought the Vice-Presidential nomination and lost receiving less than 100 votes.
  • 1858: He ran yet again for the US Senate and lost.
  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth President of the United States.

It was in fact Abraham Lincoln who later said: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Lincoln was obviously someone who was more focused on pursuing his goals than being guided by a fear of public opinion or of failure. Thomas Edison failed more than 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb and he was later quoted as saying: “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

The bottom line is that great leaders are not easily deterred. While most professionals don’t naturally associate the words “success” and “failure” as having anything to do with one another, under the right circumstances failure is absolutely the best experiential learning tool available. In fact, I would go so far as to say failure is an essential element of becoming successful. You can easily validate this premise by placing any individual under the scrutiny of the following litmus test…if you show me a professional who has never experienced failure I’ll say that person is likely an underachiever who either hasn’t tried hard enough or is very new to the world of business. Great leaders don’t fear failure, rather they fear the loss of what could have been achieved had they not had the courage to press on.

The lessons here are simple…be a person of action, stay passionately convicted to your vision, make sure that your motivations and decisions are based upon a deeply rooted sense of character and integrity in both your personal and professional conduct, and be willing to take great risks in order to insure that your vision becomes a reality. While this brief post cannot even come close to doing justice to the incredible lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I do hope it provides some inspiration and some guidance as you move forward on your own leadership journey.

Thoughts?

President’s Day – Part Two

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

President's Day - Part 2Today’s post is the second in a two-part series celebrating President’s Day by examining the leadership traits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In yesterday’s post I looked at the unimpeachable character of our first President, and in today’s post I’ll examine the resolve of our sixteenth President. It is an astute person who studies history and applies the lessons learned to their present day life as a method for preventing the completely avoidable mistakes that plague many. I hope that these brief examinations into the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln will help you become a better and more effective leader.  

If I were to take a casual poll asking readers to name our two greatest Presidents it would not shock me at all if Washington and Lincoln would show very well among their peers. However, what I find so interesting in comparing and contrasting these two great men is that while they were both men of staunch character, willing to do the right thing regardless of opposition or public opinion, they were also men who rose to their place in history by taking very different paths. 

Washington was seemingly blessed with success at every turn, while Lincoln failed much more often than he succeeded during his lifetime. Even during Washington’s early years where he was often considered to be brash and impetuous, he was nonetheless considered a bright light and incredibly successful for his age. He was always seeking out positions of leadership and responsibility, and was rarely met with any set-backs to speak of. By contrast, for the majority of Lincoln’s life he was largely regarded as a person of little consequence, if he was regarded at all. While he sought positions of leadership and responsibility, he was met with continuous challenges and defeats. Interestingly enough, many of Lincoln’s perceived successes ended in failure. 

Simply put, Abraham Lincoln is one of the most inspirational case studies in examining the leadership traits of persistence, commitment, determination, passion, conviction, and overcoming failure. There is perhaps no greater lesson the world can offer in overcoming failures and understanding the value of persistence than what can be learned from looking at the life of Abraham Lincoln. Born into poverty, Mr. Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout most of his life. He twice failed in business, lost eight different elections and suffered a nervous breakdown. The following bullet points summarize Lincoln’s path to the White House:

  • 1816: Lincoln’s family lost their home and he had to quit school to support them.
  • 1818: His mother passed away.
  • 1831: He failed in business.
  • 1832: He ran for state legislature and lost, also lost his job, and while he wanted to go to law school he couldn’t get in.
  • 1833: He borrowed money to start a new business and was bankrupt by the end of the year. He spent the next 17 years paying off the debt.
  • 1834: He ran for state legislature again and this time he won.
  • 1835: He was engaged to be married and his fiance died.
  • 1836: Mr. Lincoln suffered a total nervous breakdown and spent six months in bed recovering.
  • 1838: He sought to become speaker of the state legislature and was again defeated.
  • 1840: He sought to become elector and was defeated.
  • 1843: Lincoln ran for Congress and lost.
  • 1846: He ran for Congress again and this time he won.
  • 1848: Lincoln lost his re-election race for Congress.
  • 1849: He sought the position of land officer in his home state and was turned down.
  • 1854: Lincoln ran for the US Senate and lost.
  • 1856: He sought the Vice-Presidential nomination and lost receiving less than 100 votes.
  • 1858: He ran yet again for the US Senate and lost.
  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth President of the United States.

It was in fact Abraham Lincoln who later said: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Lincoln was obviously someone who was more focused on pursuing his goals than being guided by a fear of public opinion or of failure. Thomas Edison failed more than 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb and he was later quoted as saying: “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” 

The bottom line is that great leaders are not easily deterred. While most professionals don’t naturally associate the words “success” and “failure” as having anything to do with one another, under the right circumstances failure is absolutely the best experiential learning tool available. In fact, I would go so far as to say failure is an essential element of becoming successful. You can easily validate this premise by placing any individual under the scrutiny of the following litmus test…if you show me a professional who has never experienced failure I’ll say that person is likely an underachiever who either hasn’t tried hard enough or is very new to the world of business. Great leaders don’t fear failure, rather they fear the loss of what could have been achieved had they not had the courage to press on.

A President’s Day Look at Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

President's DaySince we’re headed into President’s Day weekend and the commencement of Lincoln’s Bicentennial celebration, I thought I’d take this opportunity to author a two part series in which I’ll examine the leadership characteristics of the two Presidents for which the holiday is celebrated; George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. In today’s post I begin by taking a brief look at the life of George Washington in an attempt to quickly offer some leadership tips that you can apply to your role as a C-level executive….

First a bit of history…in the minds of many, President’s Day is the holiday in which we celebrate all men who have held the office of the President of the United States. However, it was originally established in remembrance of George Washington’s birthday, and according to the Office of Personnel Management the holiday is still officially referred to as Washington’s Birthday. It wasn’t until 1865, one year after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, that Lincoln’s Birthday was first officially celebrated. As it turns out, celebrating two Presidential birthdays in one month (Lincoln’s on the 12th and Washington’s on the 22nd) was just too much for law makers to endure. So in 1968 legislation was enacted to celebrate President’s Day on the third Monday in February to both simplify the calendar and create a consistent 3 day weekend for federal workers. Anyway, enough of the history and on to the leadership lesson…

Born in Westmoreland County, Va., on Feb. 22, 1732, George Washington was a surveyor by trade, joined the Virginia militia just prior to the French and Indian War, served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and was the first President of the United States (1789-97). His rise to success was nothing short of meteoric, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel by the age of 22, and his transformation from an arrogant and often brash young man to a polished and savvy leader was also quite remarkable.

Even though Washington was both personally and professionally polished becoming well known for his economic, military, business, and social success, it was his character that he was most admired for. The arrogance of his youth had been transformed into a true and unwavering confidence in his own judgment, underpinned with an implacable foundation of principled moral conviction. George Washington was a man of integrity beyond reproach which made him a man worthy of respect and a force to be reckoned with. It is important to realize that he did not just espouse a vision, but that he was willing to put his life at risk to defend his vision, and live his life with the singular pursuit of seeing his vision become a reality.

Washington’s life gives testimony to the fact that great leaders can accomplish great things. It is important to remember that Washington was not merely a man among midgets who garnered his success because of the ineptness of his contemporaries, rather he was someone who rose to the top of a peer group comprised of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and John Hancock among others.

The lessons here are simple…be a person of action, stay passionately convicted to your vision, make sure that your motivations and decisions are based upon a deeply rooted sense of character and integrity in both your personal and professional conduct, and be willing to take great risks in order to insure that your vision becomes a reality. While this brief post cannot even come close to doing justice to incredible life of George Washington, and the leadership qualities he possessed, I do hope it provides some inspiration and some guidance as you move foreword on your own leadership journey.

Tomorrow we’ll take a brief look at the life of Abraham Lincoln in the conclusion of this two part series…