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1776 vs. Today: Great Leaders Are Still Great Leaders

A few weeks ago, Jeffrey Gedmin published an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) entitled “What Made a Great Leader in 1776”. He spoke of the qualities of past leaders, specifically during the fight for American Independence. He references Joseph J. Ellis’s book: Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, and uses the actions of some of the greatest men in early American history to describe what attributes a great leader should possess today.

  1. Success. It depends on a team that possesses the following: complementary skill sets, varying temperaments and differing work styles. Gedmin says, “if you are clear about your objectives, and focused on precisely what you need to develop and execute the elements of your strategy, you can assemble an unbeatable organization”. The Prosperous Leader takes this one step further in chapters 5 & 3. I explain that delegating is the key to leadership and in becoming an Effective Communicator. It's best summed up using a quote directly from my book: “Clearly understand and believe in your own objectives so that you can be firm and outspoken in your ideas and positions. Assertiveness means being able to state your needs without feeling intimidated. It is the ability to stand up for yourself and to express how you feel when necessary. Assertiveness is an art worth learning; it will help you in all areas of your life. It may take a while getting used to, but once you master it, it is highly empowering”.

  2. Good Leaders Need Good Sleep. “Sleep deprivation can produce myriad deleterious effects, including frustration, confusion, irrationality and indecisiveness,” Gedmin states in HBR. Delegation is something I think is extremely important for a successful leader, and is mentioned in Chapter 5 of The Prosperous Leader. In order to be a good leader, you need sleep. In order to find time for peaceful sleep, you need to master the art of delegation. {Churchill was asked once “why he napped ever day, during the war” to which he replied “how else was I supposed to run this war”.}

  3. Balance is Key. This goes along with #2. You need to find a way to balance the four dimensions that Stephen Covey uses in his book “Sharpen the Saw”:

-​The Physical Dimension (D1): our bodies

-The Spiritual Dimension (D2): our “center” or system of values

-The Mental Dimension (D3): our mind

-The Social/Economical Dimension (D4): our emotional life and our relationships with other people.

  1. Good Leaders of the Past Resemble Good Leaders of the Future. Gedmin ends his article with: “Leaders looking for insights on how to do their crucial work better will find them in the vivid accounts of past triumphs. We don’t read history because it repeats itself. We study history because it reveals and inspires”. I think those are great words to end this post with as well!

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