What History Teaches Today’s Leaders

 The Inauguration of President Barack ... Photo credit: WikipediaFour Leadership Qualities from History’s Great Figures.

Great moments in history occur when the seemingly impossible becomes reality.  In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood “in the symbolic shadow” of Lincoln and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.  In 2013 and a mere 1.9 miles away, President Barack Obama was sworn in as the President of the United States on the steps of the Capitol using Bibles from President Lincoln and Dr. King.  Irrespective of your political inclinations, it was incredible to see history being made – marking the progress of a nation.

Democracy and freedom are fraught with conflicting ideologies, deeply held beliefs and seemingly impossible struggles.  Yet, out of uncertainty comes remarkable leadership with four unyielding qualities.

History’s Lessons for Business Leaders

Today’s business leaders can embrace these four qualities from history’s great figures:

1. Be Authentic – Lead from who you truly are and not what others want you to be.

 “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

2. Believe – Believe that change is possible.  Your belief will inspire others to follow you.

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”  – Ronald Regan

3. Act – Lead by your decisions and actions.

“Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

4. Persevere – Have the courage to act in the face of challenge with the steadfast belief that success will come.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

While very few of us will go down in the history books, we will leave an indelible mark on the future – whether it’s the direction of our businesses or the imprint we leave on the next generation of leaders.

As JFK said,

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events….it is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.”


What inspires you as a leader?

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