As we celebrate our nation’s independence, it brings to mind the kinds of leaders who helped to create and sustain the ideals of the United States of America. Political parties and individuals who rise in influence through the processes of our democracy can be extremely polarizing, yet it is important to remember that leadership of a place so vast, diverse and powerful as our nation is an unimaginably complex and Herculean task.
The tone of good leadership and consistent actions to reinforce it must come from the highest levels of any organization—but these qualities are relevant to all of us, regardless of our personal or professional roles. Here are six quotes from past United States Presidents that are as true now as the day they were spoken, and serve inspiration for qualities of leadership to which we should all aspire:
1) "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry S. Truman
The power of not taking credit is often underestimated. When leaders and peers openly take joy in the accomplishments of others and demonstrate the satisfaction of seeing team members achieve goals or spark innovation, the results can be highly motivating within an organization. People want to work harder when they know they are appreciated and the value of their contributions are celebrated.
2) "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
Constant self-doubt can quickly derail leadership. It’s important to recognize that while self-awareness and ongoing evaluation of how we’re doing is key to growth as leaders, it is equally important to remember that rising to a place of leadership comes about because of recognized capabilities and skills. Make informed decisions and take actions with confidence, look for peers to offer validation, and reflect occasionally on past successes that might have once seemed unattainable.
3) "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams
When a leader gives others the chance to dream, they are offering team members the power to determine how tomorrow can be better. Aspirational thinking generates fresh solutions, new products, improved services and a healthier work environment. Encouraging others to learn more shows a belief in the value of knowledge and the impact of personal and professional growth—which in turn builds loyalty and confidence. Leaders who inspire others to do more are delegators who are ultimately communicating the belief that their teams are competent, productive and meet high standards. Team members who are guided to become more are able to grow in their abilities and talents, benefiting themselves and the organization as a whole.
4) “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore Roosevelt
Successful leaders are able to assess and capitalize upon what they do have, rather than focus only on what they need. Regardless of resources, time and circumstances, there are always ways to make an impact at any stage of an organization’s lifecycle. The best leaders look for how to take the current state to the next level, ultimately growing in strength, improving the status quo and earning increased resources over time.
5) “There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.” - James Garfield
Leaders exist in every role or capacity and have the potential to influence and inspire others. Living one’s values through steady, consistent actions and words is powerful. It is important to not only cultivate and exhibit our own gifts in ways that support others, but to also recognize the capabilities and contributions of others—no matter where they may be.
6) "Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching." - Thomas Jefferson
We never know who we may inspire and encourage, or who we may disappoint and disillusion. The strongest leaders understand that every action has consequences and we are solely responsible for the attitudes and actions we perpetuate. Leading with kindness and unwavering ethics will never fail a person, even in the face of difficulty or crisis.
Our team at Milestone Leadership has the honor of growing and guiding leaders worth following, and we are inspired every day by the actions and accomplishments of those we serve. We know it’s not necessary to be at the very top of an organization—or a nation—to make an impact.
What is at the heart of great leadership is just that: HEART.