It’s Presidents’ Day, the day we set aside to honor the great men who have led the United States. The history of the Presidency is one of colossal triumphs, memorable failures, and endurance in the face of unimaginable obstacles. As managers and business owners, there are countless lessons we can learn from the decisions made by these giants.
George Washington: Make the Most of What You Have
Washington is arguably the most famous man ever to hold the office of President. He’s become as much a folk hero as an actual man at this point, but there’s no doubt he had some very real accomplishments in his long and storied career. As great a President as he was, though, he was probably an even better General. As the head of an outmanned, outsupplied army, Washington routinely made the most of a bad situation through tactical genius and a clever allocation of resources.
Follow his example in leading your own business. Sometimes, it’s not about how much you have, it’s about how creatively you can put your resources to use. Know when to make a tactical retreat and when to charge forward despite long odds. You might start out as an underdog, but marshal your forces properly and you could become a legend.
Jefferson, Madison, & Monroe: Be Growth Oriented
Obviously, the Declaration of Independence is the seminal moment in United States History. In terms of shaping the country that we know today, though, nothing rivals the importance of The Louisiana Purchase. Where France saw the opportunity to make a quick profit, these visionaries saw a future bound only by geography. Their foresight, going deeply into debt in order to massively expand the fledgling country’s territory, created the America we know today, one that spans from sea to shining sea.
Apply that same big thinking to your business. Don’t be content with what you have. Look for every opportunity to grow and expand your company. Take big risks in order to reap huge rewards. Carve out a bigger space for yourself in the current business landscape.
Teddy Roosevelt: Speak Softly & Carry a Big Stick
This phrase has become a time-worn cliché for a reason. Some leaders choose to rule through fear, constantly making threats and using derision as a motivational tool. Effective managers, as Teddy Roosevelt could have told you, lead by example and always handle their subordinates with a deft hand.
To get the most out of your employees, treat them respectfully and give them room to maneuver, but make your expectations clear and back them up with definite consequences. It’s good to be permissive to a point, but only as long as the necessary work is getting done.
Obviously, these are just a few examples of the lessons you can learn from America’s Presidents. Each President has similar lessons, and a good manager could pick up some invaluable advice by following their examples. You’ll gain inspiration to move forward and learn quite a few pitfalls to avoid. Just remember that, regardless of their legacies, each of these men achieved something amazing, so look to them for example.