American presidents come and go throughout history, but think about the presidents that you regard as great leaders. Regardless of their political persuasion, do historically successful presidential leaders have common natural talents and traits?
- Massachusetts Delegate and Leading member of the Continental Congress
- Leading advocate and signer of the Declaration of Independence
- Author, Massachusetts Constitution
- Diplomat to France
- Negotiator and signor of the Paris Peace Accord ending the war with England
- Minister to England
- First U.S. Vice President
- Second U.S. President
- President of the Massachusetts Society of Arts and Sciences
- Delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress
- Author of the Declaration of Independence
- Governor of Virginia
- Diplomat to France and delegate to the Paris Peace Talks with Adams
- U.S. Secretary of State
- U.S. Vice-President
- U.S. President (2 Terms)
- Founder of the University of Virginia
- Godfather of John Quincy Adams
“Interesting Fact – Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4th, 1826. Adams was 90 years old, and Jefferson was 83 years old.”
The Inevitable Comparison
For most of us in society, we tend to have a list of requirements in our minds about the traits of great leaders. Some of them would be –
- Great Communicator
Then, we translate those same traits into our everyday lives and assume that we must have those same traits to be an effective leader; and if you don’t have those traits, then being a leader isn’t your destiny.
Nothing could be further from the truth—we’re all leaders whether we realize it or not.
While Adams and Jefferson each had similarly noted achievements, they had very different leadership styles. Through their own personality struggles and challenges, they still found a way to achieve greatness as leaders.
Significant Leadership Trait Differences
In David McCullough’s book, John Adams, he takes an interesting, deeper look at the natural and learned traits of these leaders. Take a look at these behavioral traits and note the remarkable difference between them** –
- Take-Charge Personality
- Assertive, self-assured, got results
- Intolerant of indifference
- A talker and entertainer
- Passionate and good sense of humor
- Controlling, Never learned to flatter
- Cranky, impulsive, tactless
- Struggled with bringing order to his life
- Had difficulty staying focused on one thing at a time
- Subtle, soft-spoken
- Moved slowly, cautious
- Remote, little sense of humor
- Rarely revealed his inner feelings
- Gracious rarely disagreed with anyone publicly
- Avoided dispute and confrontation
- Always polite, diplomatic
- Neat, kept letter perfect records, detailed
Obviously, both leaders had their own unique set of strengths and struggles, but they worked within their traits to emerge as accomplished individuals in their own regard.
So, What’s the Point?
Where your leadership is concerned, it’s important to remember this:
- Know your strengths and struggles, and manage them well.
- Lead from a place of humble yet confident authenticity.
- Balance your leadership by bringing others around you with different talents and traits.
As we remember and honor our nation’s leaders on Presidents Day this month, think about the president that relates closely to your own leadership style and be encouraged to fulfill your own leadership role in society. Please share your comments in this forum.
**Traits described in the book “John Adams” by David McCullough, © 2001 Simon & Schuster, New York
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Lee Ellis is the Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in team building, executive development & assessments
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His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.