History and Leadership

I recently returned from a two-week vacation where - as is my usual fare - I spent a lot of time reading. This year's reading list entails historical biography, and of course, I am reading them through my leadership lenses. During June, I read about Andrew Carnegie, Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and one of my favorites - Abraham Lincoln. I plan to spend this summer reading more and reflecting on that reading in this blog. So let's start with one leadership characteristic that came out, and of course, you might guess that it is paradoxical.

Good leaders exercise great patience. Much of what we read in the leadership literature is that leaders know how to make decisions and make them quickly. Not so in the case of people like Franklin Roosevelt. What amazed me is how, when the country and the world was at war, he could take the time to listen to people, think about the options, discuss the possible outcomes, and only then begin to come to a decision. How hard it must be to wait (and for FDR to know that in waiting more people were dying) so that the decision is a wise course of action. How long did Lincoln wait to send relief to Sumter? How long did it take congressional leaders to investigate President Nixon?

Many people move into leadership positions because of their ability to think on their feet and make decisions. Once they are in a leadership position, then they need to SLOW DOWN in their decision making process due to the new complexity involved in those decisions. Think about how you make decisions...and next time pause, breathe, and then begin to decide.