Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

with 27 comments

Estee Lauder

The levels of determination or resoluteness displayed by the great leaders surveyed were monumental. There were numerous examples, where the only thing leaders could depend upon was their own personal determination to push themselves forward to succeed. A notable example is Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder). “ ‘If you have a goal, if you want to be successful, if you really want to do it and become another Estée Lauder, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to stick to it and you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing,’ said Lauder.

If ever there was an ambitious and relentless entrepreneur who refused to give up even in the face of tremendous doubt and uncertainty, Lauder was it. Stubborn even as a child, Lauder was a woman who refused to quit and walk away even when the going was tough. Her ability to convert her ambition into a charming and lucrative sales technique was one of the main components to Lauder’s success.

‘I have never worked a day in my life without selling,’ she said. ‘If I believe in something, I sell it and I sell it hard.’ Lauder had an unwavering faith in the quality of her products. She felt that if only she could get it in the hands of others, they too would instantly fall in love with her ‘beauty in a jar’ solutions. Thus, she was not afraid to take unusual yet creative steps to make a sale and she came to be known for her often use of guerilla tactics to close a deal.”

Determination is anchored in a leader’s beliefs, values and principles. In many instances, it is based upon the leader’s level of personal faith. Whatever the reason, determination and resoluteness is what allows leaders to remain motivated and to overcome whatever adversity, obstacles and barriers they encounter. Ross Perot (EDS) observed, “’to get things done, you’re just going to have to slug it out and take all the turbulence that goes with it…’ And, as for slugging it out, he has been fighting all his life, taking the heat, wearing down anyone who gets in his way, pursuing his goals with what one close colleague calls his ‘railroad track mentality…’ ‘Most people don’t have the stomach for the fight,’ Perot said. ‘If you don’t have the stomach to develop a plan, develop a strategy, take the hits and win the fight, I say you’re just kind of a morning glory. You’re going to wilt by noon.’ ”

Milton Hershey’s (Hershey Foods) determination was strongly influenced by his mother. She stood by him and actively assisted him in his business until her death. He noted, “When I left home as a boy to tackle the job of making a living, my mother gave me some good advice. She said: ‘Milton, you are now going out into the world to make a man out of yourself. My best advice to you is – when you tackle a job stick to it until you have won the battle.’ I have never forgotten these words; and, when I think about my business and the way it has grown, I think that this same good advice spurred me on in the past and enabled me to win in spite of obstacles.”

Sheer personal determination allowed Joseph Wilson (Xerox) to endure twelve years of frustrating development before Xerox could launch a successful copier. It allowed King Gillette (Gillette) to invest five disappointing years before he developed a razor blade, and upon doing so, only selling 51 razors and 168 blades during the first year. Without it, Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) would not have been able to fight numerous lawsuits and injunctions for years, before a single airplane was allowed to fly. When others would have given up, it was determination that allowed these leaders to endure, move slowly forward and succeed.
William Paley (CBS) used his determination as a motivational driving force. “Paley possessed a will, a force, of awesome power. When he wanted something, almost nothing stopped him… quotes Barry Diller, the formidable chairman of Twentieth Century Fox, after he first met Paley: ‘I have seen pure willpower.’ ”

Another notable example is Henry Clay Frick (H.C. Frick & Company), who sold his coke manufacturing company to Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel), and was instrumental in the creation of U.S. Steel with J.P. Morgan (J.P. Morgan Bank). “Unremitting work and unflinching determination was his style, to which he added his genius for seeing immediately into the heart of a business problem and taking command of the solution.”

Whatever their skills and capabilities, the great leaders demonstrated how they were able to leverage things to their advantage, using the sheer power of personal determination. They believed in their personal visions. They believed in themselves and their ideas. Above all, they were determined to succeed and held steadfastly to do whatever it would take to make them a reality. This allowed them to place their failures and setbacks in the proper perspective, enabling them to remain on course, no matter what was encountered. Determination won wars for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant. It built empires for John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil), Edward Harriman (Union Pacific) and George Westinghouse (Westinghouse). It was their driving force and the primary source of their strength.

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the personal passion, resolve and determination of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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27 Responses

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  1. All of us who have been leaders, not dependent on how much money we have brought to the table, can point to obstacles we have had to overcome i.e. and therefore praise our personal determination. But so can the poor mother of three who works two job just to feed her family — or is this also leadership.

    Does this make this an indicator of leadership — or an indicator of our humanity.

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