Theodore Roosevelt more commonly known as Teddy Roosevelt was 26th president of the United States and a writer, naturalist, and soldier. He expanded the powers of the presidency and of the federal government in support of the public interest in conflicts between big business and labour and steered the nation toward an active role in world politics, particularly in Europe and Asia. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1906 for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), and he secured the route and began construction of the Panama Canal (1904–14). Theodore Roosevelt is remembered for his foreign policy, corporate reforms, and ecological preservation. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. So, what can we learn from his leadership?
Hire the good people and let them do their jobs
Teddy Roosevelt understood that one person can only do so much. Even the smartest person in the world, cannot be an expert in everything. Therefore, it is important to hire good people who know things that you do not and let them put that knowledge to work. Many leaders only get half of this equation right. They are usually good at identifying people with good resumes and reputations within the industry and they hire them with a good salary and fancy job title. However, they do not delegate the authority that should go along with the job title. He said:
“The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Many organisations have highly capable people working for them, but the truth is that they are often not allowed to make the decisions required. Instead, they have to go to ask approval from someone who does not have the knowledge required to make an informed decision. You will have hired people in your team because you believe they can do the job required, so allow them to do it and get out of their way.
Keep your word
Teddy Roosevelt was always a man of his word. He would go out of his way time and time again to meet any commitment he made. This may seem incredible in this day and age that a politician always did exactly what he said he was going to do, but this is the kind of leader Teddy Roosevelt was. He applied this to all areas of his life. If he promised his children that he would play with them at a certain time, he would end a Presidential meeting to ensure he kept his word. The same was true when he promised not to seek re-election. He was given numerous opportunities to stand for President again, and by all accounts he would have won. But he made the promise and refused to go back on it. He understood that without trust, there was nothing. He once said:
“It is a peculiar gratification to me to have owed my election…above all to Abraham Lincoln’s “plain people’; to the folk who worked hard on the farm, in shop, or on the railroads, or who owned little stores, little businesses which they managed themselves. I would literally, not figuratively, rather cut off my right hand than forfeit by any improper act of mine the trust and regard of these people…. I shall endeavor not to merit their disapproval by any act inconsistent with the ideal they have formed of me.”
I know many that would argue the concept of a man who puts family above career is an entirely modern concept, but it is not. Teddy Roosevelt was a dedicated family man. Despite all that he did as a leader on both the domestic and world stage, he always put his family first and was an attentive father and husband. He understood that success is not defined by a job title or the amount of money one has in the bank, but instead the children one raises. He said:
“There are many kinds of success worth having. It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be a successful business man, or railroad man, or farmer, or a successful lawyer or doctor; or a writer, or a President, or a ranchman, or the colonel of a fight regiment, or to kill grizzly bears and lions. But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.”
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