President’s day is the perfect time for self-reflection as a leader. There are presidential qualities and characteristics that epitomize a great leader. Undoubtedly, there a few presidents that stand out above the others–Washington, Lincoln, FDR, are three of several that usually top the list. Their presidencies are marked in history and their legacies continue to grow. On this day, it’s important to ask, what president would you want to emulate? What skills did he posses that you are growing toward?
Although, there are several characteristics of an effective president, often what separates the average from the exceptional is their ability to make the optimal decision. The “right” decisions are the hallmark of a leader; unfortunately, we don’t operated in a vacuum and are limited on information, time, and experience when we make them. We strive to perfect our practice and equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills necessary for good decision-making based on the information we are presented with. According to Andy Stanley (2015), pastor and leader, talks about making the “wise decision based on our past experiences, current circumstances and our future hopes and dreams.”This is true personally and professionally. How well do you make decisions? Do you ask for counsel? Are you patient and reflective? Have you ever reviewed past decisions, especially with your leadership team whether they went right or wrong?
President Lincoln was known for keeping a cabinet with individuals who disagreed with him, from different political parties, but who he believed were clear on the goals of the nation. How different would our nation be if Lincoln acted differently? It’s impressive considering he knew the dissonance he would encounter with various decisions. On this day, to contemplate the incredibly difficult decisions many presidents have made is an act of learning and willingness to grow. As a student of history, I’ve delved into the difficult world of presidents and not just looked at the political science aspect, but the leadership side through the lens of difficult decisions. I’ve questioned how they arrived at various conclusions amid dramatic circumstances involving wars, natural and human disasters, domestic conflicts, embargoes, and nuclear threats with a keen desire to understand the underpinnings that led to a decision.
Whether the CEO of a company or the principal of a school, we can learn from the presidents that led our country and faced incredibly difficult circumstances. By learning from our mistakes (reflection), willingness to listen (tolerance), to seek counsel (vulnerability), and put others first (humility) we empower ourselves to make better decisions and improve our organizations.
Stanley, A., (2015, January 2). Ask It, Part One—Question Everything.
Your Move with Andy Stanley Podcast. Podcast retrieved from