There are multiple different ways to learn about leadership. Sure, we can learn about all the different theories, sure, and they are helpful. However, one of the best ways to learn about leadership is to learn about those who have put those theories into practice.
Taking HST 110LWI, the American Experience, is a required part of my LAS protocol. This class was meant to teach us about various leaders throughout American history. Here is what I learned:
There have been many different types of leaders through the course of our nations history. During this class we were tasked with reading two different books, one on an American leader prior to the Civil War, and the other on a leader from the Civil War to the 1980’s. While researching different American leaders, I realized that there were a lot of different definitions to the term ‘leader.’
The first leader I researched was George Washington, our nations first president and general during the American Revolution. Upon studying him, I learned a lot about what a great leader is. People did not follow him because they felt obligated to; they WANTED to follow him. He made people feel important, and he valued their input. He put a lot of confidence in his inferiors and treated them like they were his equals. That was what made him a great leader.
The next leader I chose to research was J. Edgar Hoover. He was their first Director of the FBI, and he turned it into the grand national police force that it is today. Upon reading his book, I discovered that this leadership style is vastly different than that of Washington. Everything he accomplished was through manipulation, of both his inferiors and his superiors. His 40+year career was littered with blackmail and corruption at every turn; the only reason Hoover lasted so long was because people were too afraid of what he would do to them if they fired him.
So, what does all this mean? What can I do with this information?
There are different ways to go about leadership. Washington went about it in a civil way- by respecting those around him. Hoover, on the other hand, did his job through any means necessary. Sure, both were successful in their respective fields, but success isn’t everything. A good leader is more like Washington; listens to all ideas and gains respect through his actions. He was elected president not because he wanted the job, but because the people WANTED him to lead. They did not trust anyone else with the job. They probably wanted him to lead more because he didn’t want the job; he wasn’t power hungry, and therefore they knew he would not abuse his power (like the FBI director would nearly 150 years later).