Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘leadership characteristic

Where Did Our Values Originate From?

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Many of the values that define a leader originate from military codes of honor. These were rooted in medieval codes of chivalry. However. The one individual who had the most influence in the creation of values that define American leaders is Benjamin Franklin.

According to Wikipedia: “Franklin is credited as being foundational to the roots of American values and character, a marriage of the practical and democratic Puritan values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of Henry Steele Commager, “In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.” To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin, “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”

These values are still evident within our society and are reflected in the values that leaders are expected to espouse. However there is a noticeable deterioration of these values over time and these could be responsible for many of the leadership problems observed today, either by imbalance or by corruption of this value system.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leader’s beliefs and values, 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 © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

How Would Contemporary Leaders Be Viewed Back Then?

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If it would be possible to travel in time, how would our contemporary leaders be viewed by our Founding Fathers?

The Founding Fathers would be displayed to find the overall deterioration of values they highly prized. However, they would not be surprised, since they observed these values displayed by the aristocrats of the European courts and warned that their introduction would lead to the destruction of the country as they envisioned it.

Our contemporary leaders would not have been allowed to rise to positions of power. The lone exception would be the positions that were obtained through inheritance and wealth. Yet these individuals were viewed as suspect.

Many of the self-serving actions of leaders that led to the destruction of companies and cultures would have led to personal ruin and disgrace, while tolerated, if not hailed today.

The question is why have we as a society allowed the deterioration of values and allowed self-serving leaders to destroy our society and personal security?

Before we can understand how to restore real leadership, we need to understand the answers to this question.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leader’s beliefs and values, 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 © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

Has Leadership Changed or Evolved Over Time?

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My examination of the leadership characteristics of prominent leaders over all periods of American history initially shows that they differ from one period to another.

For instance if you compare the characteristics of the Founding Fathers versus leaders of today, you will discover that while both share common characteristics, the Founding Fathers have a set of unique characteristics that are not demonstrated by today’s leaders.

Characteristics such as virtue, valor, patriotism, and resolve had real meanings in the context of the times, while today, they tend to be meaningless and antiquated terms, only seen on monuments or in contemporary correspondence. They had real meaning to these leaders and were highly valued.

Personal vision for the Founding Fathers was something that allowed them to endure long years of adversity and keep them focused on the ultimate goal; the founding of the Republic.

Another term is beloved. Can you imagine a leader called beloved, yet George Washington was. His officer corps wanted to crown him king. The states only ratified the Constitution on the premise that Washington would be president. He was the only president to receive 100% of the electoral vote. He was truly beloved as a leader by the citizens of the United States.

As one reviews the leadership characteristics over time, a clear deterioration of values is evident to the point that many or non-existent in contemporary leaders. This may be one reason for the lack of leadership that is on display in many sectors of our society.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leader’s beliefs and values, 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 © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

The Value of Sacrifice

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Whether effective or ineffective, individuals viewed as leaders are models of behavior that are closely observed and judged by others. Inherent expectations of leaders include personal sacrifice. They are expected to sacrifice for the benefit of others within their organizations. Leaders who expect sacrifice from their employees, stakeholders or constituencies and yet refuse to make the same personal sacrifices are judged as hypocrites.

Nothing undermines organizational leaders more than an attitude of “do as I say, not do as I do.” This is clearly demonstrated during the current recession when jobs are cut, wages frozen and budgets slashed. As individuals suffer from the consequences of these actions, they become enraged at the excesses displayed by their so-called leaders who collect large bonuses and spend monies for parties and expensive trips and dinners. There is no sacrifice displayed, while others have to pinch their belts. This destroys credibility and undermines trust.

When leaders demonstrate a posture of shared sacrifice, a term I don’t like to use due to its political and progressive definitions, this builds loyalty and trust that can be built on when its needed to rebuild the business.

Leaders need to model sacrifice within their organizations if they expect their employees to sacrifice during difficult times.

Sadly, too many high profile leaders ignore this. However, many others do, so I can’t make a broad accusation. Yet this is one of the reasons for the demise of leadership and its failure. Too many leaders take care of themselves, while ignoring the needs of those they are tasked to lead.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leader’s personal sacrifice, 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 © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

The Courageous Leader

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One perspective I’m observing in my research is the role of courage and how it may have changed over time. Many prominent leaders early in our history and responsible for the founding of the United States had strong courage of their convictions. The personal courage they displayed included placing their lives and personal fortunes at risk as they stood up against the British Crown. If they lost their battle for independence, they would have been branded a traitor, at a terrible price.

Fast forward to the current economic crisis, where we saw prominent financial leaders, jumping the ship with their golden parachutes, leaving their employees to fend for themselves. They placed nothing at risk, nor had the courage the deal with the situation they were responsible for creating.

Now obviously, I citing two end points of the courage spectrum, but they are insightful in understanding the changing role of courage as it applicable to leadership.

All leaders must display a courage of their convictions that is included in their personal vision. Does this mean that they must put everything on the line? They must model a level of courage that is expected of their employees. Does that mean potentially sacrificing everything? Maybe not everything, but it does mean putting his or herself on the line and a willingness to sacrifice something of consequence.

Leadership is tested during times of adversity. A so-called leader who cuts and runs when faced with adversity is not a leader. A true leader, at any level of an organization, will confront adversity and use his or her skills to summon his or her available resources to overcome it. This is where courage plays an important role in leadership.

In addition to their courage of convictions, other forms of courage displayed by leaders include: mental, moral, physical and spiritual courage.  The prominent leaders I’m researching from the founding of our country to contemporary times all display these types of courage in one form or another. One thing is evident is when times got tough, they didn’t cut and run. They mustered their resources and worked through. They knew what need to get done and did it.

If you would like to learn more about the courage 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 © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

You Want Me to Hold My Employees Accountable?

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“Employees today seldom become emotional about their organizations or its output; they are only interested in making money or getting ahead. And many organizations are killing their employees with kindness, undercutting their sense of responsibility with an ever-increasing permissiveness. This is a fatal error. For where responsibility ends, performance ends also.”

Hyman Rickover

The subject of responsibility and accountability has been a topic of great interest to me over a number of years. It has always astonished me the number of managers and their companies who refuse to hold their employees accountable. They will invest large sums of money to train employees to develop their skills and improve their performance, but refuse to hold them accountable to apply those skills to ensure that performance is improved and that the monies have been wisely invested. Most often these are management decisions that reflect the organizational culture.

These tendencies are exposed by periods of uncertainty and turmoil such as we are now experiencing and there is a trend developing over the past several recessions. After each, I’ve observed more pressure from CEO’s to demand more results and a squeeze for accountability. Yet there is considerable push back from employees for their own reasons. Yet as Hyman Rickover, father of the U.S. Nuclear Navy observed, “For where responsibility ends, performance ends also.”

My research of the successful characteristics of well-known leaders demonstrates that they focus on selecting the right people. They role model, and demand personal excellence of themselves, and their employees. They focus on responsibility and execution and hold them accountable for the results. They expect that this culture of excellence flow down through their entire organization.

They also demonstrated this characteristic early in their careers, whether a supervisor or manager. They didn’t wait for this to come from above. They took the initiative, whenever and wherever they were in their careers. It was an intuitive characteristic that they applied because they knew it was the right thing to do if they were to be successful in the jobs and assignments given to them.

They understand the connection between performance and the right team of people. They knew with the right people, any plan can be made to work, and that a great plan with poor performing people is doomed to fail.

If you would like to learn more about the leadership 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 © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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