Saturday, June 30, 2012

4 Leadership Lessons from the Founding Fathers

The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world – James Madison

In the book, Resources, by Kenneth L Dodge, he writes of the experiences of the Founding Fathers after the Declaration of Independence was signed. As we know, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families.

Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another two had sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty.

At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson’s home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forest and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.

In celebration of our independence it is worth noting some leadership lessons from our Founding Fathers that we can benefit from today. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” She’s right. Here are four leadership principles our Founders taught us.

The courage of convictions. Our founders clung to and fought for the cause of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Through years of hindsight and the benefit of our modern comforts, it is hard to comprehend their sacrifices.

Leadership today requires a steady conviction in the face of incredible challenges. What will be the hallmark of your leadership? To say that our Founding Fathers were men of conviction would be an understatement, but all great leaders are.

The sanctity of sacrifice.  In the formation of our republic and in signing the Declaration of Independence, the Founders pledged to one another, “our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor,” The leadership principle of sacrifice is not new. Our Founders understood it well. And to that end we understand that sacrificial leadership is selfless, not self-serving. 

The commitment made 236 years ago reminds us that no great thing worth achieving comes without sacrifice and that causes greater than self are generally the lasting ones. Great leaders understand the power of sacrifice. What causes are you serving?

The fulfillment of faith. To their credit, the Founders understood and valued the practice of faith.  In their wisdom the founders recognized the truth that we are all “created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” by which we live our lives and practice our faith. It is not a prerequisite of leadership to be a person of faith, but it certainly is an asset.

It is through the practice of our faith that we see the world around us and the people entrusted to our leadership in a more meaningful way. A thoughtful leader seeks to be a blessing and to serve causes greater than self; a wise one remembers the source.

The power of purpose. It was through persecution, hardships, and struggles whereby the Founders rallied and mutually pledged their “reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” in declaring our independence.

The innumerable lessons our Founders taught us transcend political ideology and religious creed. The rally today is for leaders with purpose, backed by the power of their convictions, faith and sacrifice, to make a difference in the world. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must undertake to support it.” Our Founders were leadership pioneers; let us honor their memory as we celebrate.

Happy 4th!

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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