May 21, 2012
Leading Yourself First by Jerry Murray
Ever felt inspired by the ambition and intentionality of well-known leaders? When I read A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I was struck by the great lengths to which Abraham Lincoln and the members of his cabinet went to be of use to society. They studied, worked and served – all with seemingly endless energy. They bettered themselves for the purpose of creating a great future for others. It wasn’t just their energy and ambition that convicted me, it was that their effort was based on a vision that would mostly benefit those who would come after them. They acted as though their time and talents were first to be used for the benefit of the greater community, not for personal gain alone.
I thought about this recently on a family vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia. The destination was my wife’s idea. Kim comes from a family of educators and lives that gene out through her influence over the Murray vacation schedule. I like to moan and groan to her about having to learn something on vacation, but I almost always come home thinking it was great. This time was no different.
In addition to getting to be with my family for an extended period of time and eating ice cream almost every day, I learned some inspirational things. I learned about the sacrifice and physical trials that were required to sail across the Atlantic for a chance to build a new Virginia Colony. I learned about the cooperation of American and French forces to defeat the British in Yorktown, Virginia at the last major land battle of the American Revolution.
My lasting memory, though, will be from a speech given by Thomas Jefferson (or at least an actor portraying Thomas Jefferson) behind the governor’s palace on Tuesday morning. Jefferson’s view of humanity and the rights that should be afforded to humanity were stated thoughtfully and purposefully. His conviction made me believe without a doubt that the statesman’s actions would support those beliefs. History tells us that they did. As Jefferson’s speech transitioned from his beliefs to the work that needed to be done, he stated: “Leadership of others can only be entrusted to those who lead themselves well.” I’ve been thinking about that concept ever since.
Lincoln and his cabinet and Thomas Jefferson both inspired me for the same reason: They led themselves well by aligning their beliefs with their actions and by maximizing the use of their time and talents for noble reasons. Their ambition was for something great.
Self leadership blesses both leaders and those who depend on them. The integrity of aligning beliefs with actions offers efficiencies in decision-making; it builds trust in relationships and it empowers engaged team members.
Thanks again to Kim for a great vacation idea. The ice cream was good; the lessons learned were even better!