Guest Blog by Lee Ellis
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?
More specifically, let’s compare presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson*. Both presidents were successful on many points. Here’s a brief look at their accomplishments
- 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
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 similar 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.
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
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?
- 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 talent 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.
Interesting Fact – Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4th, 1826. Adams was 90 years old, and Jefferson was 83 years old.
About Lee Ellis
As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.
*More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to FreedomStarMedia.com/Training.
**Traits described in the book “John Adams” by David McCullough, © 2001 Simon & Schuster, New York