Юлия Орлова
CEO of the best-selling publishing house Vivat
Liberal Arts
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LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM FOUR AMERICAN PRESIDENTS: Theodore Roosevelt (Part II)

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM FOUR AMERICAN PRESIDENTS: Theodore Roosevelt (Part II)
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A leader is a clear line between an abstract desire to lead, to head and a series of competitive actions taken in this direction. Such a separator, capable of distinguishing between words and actions, is a true leader. The ability to balance on the brink like no other was possessed by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, the representative of the Republican Party and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Roosevelt realized his ambitions as successfully as possible in his career as a politician, as Doris Kearns Goodwin speaks of in her book Leadership in Turbulent Times. Lessons from the Presidents (Vivat Publishing House, 2021). And on the way to the presidency, the 26th President of the United States followed a certain credo, personal rules, which can now be grouped into TOP-5 tips from a world leader on achieving desired goals and self-realization.

Theodore Roosevelt’s ascent to the pedestal of achievement and power began with a fall. His story echoes and has a lot in common with the Lincoln drama. Both have gone through severe tests of personality crises and social condemnation. It seemed that their ambitions were shattered. Both vowed to return to politics. Both experienced deep depression. Theodore Roosevelt lost his beloved wife and mother in one day.

 

When a friend from Maine, Bill Sewell, expressed his condolences to Roosevelt, Roosevelt gave an answer full of self-reflection, stoicism and a willingness to face fate. It is these traits that will become markers of his future character.

“Fate was cruel and unforgiving to me, but I believed that I should not give in to the challenge and despair”

 

Leadership in Turbulent Times. Lessons from the Presidents, Vivat, 2021

 

 

Leadership development researchers emphasize that the cornerstone of any leadership growth is resistance, that is, the ability to remain focused in times of frustration. And Theodore Roosevelt, having nurtured and strengthened this resistance in himself, was able to get out of the dark pit of depression, disbelief, disappointment and the desire to end his political career forever.

 

#1 EVALUATE THE RISKS

 

This strategy helped Theodore Roosevelt resolve the fall of 1902, when the strike of the United Miners’ Union – the largest trade union organization in the country – threatened to drag on for more than the current six months.

Workers went on strike against a powerful cartel formed by railroad presidents and mine owners who monopolized Pennsylvania’s profits and coal transportation. The massive shutdowns in the work of the mines became the loudest topic of the newspaper.

 

A few months before the situation became critical, Roosevelt began to actively seek ways of possible intervention and prepare a solid justification for his further actions. He did not rush headlong into a fight, but demonstrated methodicalness, restraint and calmness that were very uncharacteristic of his legendary emotional and strong-willed leadership style.

 

“I’m slowly turning on,” he told journalist Jacob Riis, “before I start using my disabilities. I strive not to shift the responsibility to others, but at the same time, I prefer to avoid hasty decisions that will surely provoke a backlash ”

 

Leadership in Turbulent Times. Lessons from the Presidents, Vivat, 2021

 

#2 ANALYZE THE ISSUES IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

 

Events are cyclical. And much of what is happening now, in the current perspective, has already happened before. It means that appropriate decisions have already been made, tested by time and by the assessments of historians.

As a man who studied history all his life and even wrote on historical topics, Roosevelt realized that the political conflicts that were relevant to him did not arise overnight, but grew for decades. And it was the ability to look at the current situation in a broader historical context that helped Roosevelt solve the problem with the miners’ revolt in 1902.

 

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#3 BE IN THE PUBLIC EYE AND FORM PUBLIC OPINION

 

Publicity is an integral part of the life of a true leader. It is the aspect of activity that forms public opinion, and this opinion subsequently forms broad public support for the leader. President Roosevelt always drew huge crowds on each of his regional tours.

 

As the newspapers wrote, his approach was announced by “cannon volleys, church bells, whistle signals, brass band melodies and the joyful exclamations of thousands of people”, “factories stopped work, shops closed, national flags adorned cities, and residents dressed in festive clothes.” One of the journalists was amazed that residents of small towns came to listen to the president in full force.

 

Roosevelt was well aware that “for people to see the president is like going to a circus.” He smiled, gestured, radiated benevolence, bathed in the rays of people’s love and returned his love to everyone present. During each stop, Roosevelt made an impromptu speech, talked about issues of civic duty, national character and explained the content of his program.

 

Leadership in Turbulent Times. Lessons from the Presidents, Vivat, 2021

 

Like Lincoln, Roosevelt was well aware of the importance of public support for a leader seeking to reform.

 

#4 FORM ANTI-CRISIS TEAM

 

A team of professionals is a reliable rear for a leader. When selecting it, you need to understand well the personal requirements and priority of the professional qualities of each candidate. When forming his anti-crisis management team, Theodore Roosevelt thought through everything to the details.

He invited seven government officials and external experts with unique professional experience and relevant knowledge to join it, which allowed him to analyze the circumstances of the 1902 miners’ strike from different points of view and take into account all aspects of this protracted crisis.

The President knew all the invitees well, understood the level of their knowledge and skills. After all, it is important to realize that “random” people in a team are a wormhole that can grow to the size of a huge hole in team unity, which will instantly affect the quality of effective anti-crisis decisions.

 

#5 UNIVERSAL MAXIMS ARE THE KEY TO EXCELLENT SUCCESS

 

Roosevelt was once asked how he managed to be successful in leadership positions in such various government structures – in the Public Service Commission, and in the New York Police Department, and in the Department of the Navy.

 

He replied that the challenge to these positions did not require administrative “genius” or “superhuman qualities” from him, but only “common sense, elementary honesty, energy, dedication and willingness to learn”.

 

Leadership in Turbulent Times. Lessons from the Presidents, Vivat, 2021

 

It may sound trite or insincere, but Roosevelt’s leadership style really consisted of a set of simple rules and maxims: get down to business; consolidate control; identify the key problems of the organization and strike them directly; do not give in to principles; spend political capital exclusively on achieving a goal; always look for a new solution if your efforts are blocking and never stop at what has been done: after completing one thing, always start a new one.

 

To be continued…

 

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