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A Lesson in Leadership: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Pictured above) is one of America's most well-known Presidents. It's not hard to understand why. He was our leader who lead us through some of our country's worst times. He lead us through the Great Depression. He also lead us to victory during World War 2. He is the only President in our history who has served more than 2 terms (He served 4!). There is so much we can learn from this man, but I would like to focus on one of his greatest attributes.

Let's go back to 1940, where President Roosevelt was having a meeting with a whole group of Generals. In that group was General George C. Marshall. At this point, General Marshall was one of the lowest ranking Generals in that group. Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer prize-winning historian and author, shared during her masterclass that President Roosevelt was pitching one of his ideas to the group where all the Generals except for one, agreed and complimented it.

This General was none other than George C. Marshall. He spoke up and said that it was a horrible idea. General Marshall then explained to the group why he thought the President's idea was bad and offered suggestions. He openly disagreed with the President and after the meeting was over, many of the Generals told General Marshall that he shouldn't have done that. Many of them told him he probably hurt his chances of keeping his job.

(Pictured above is General George Catlett Marshall)

What did President Roosevelt do? HE PROMOTED HIM! President Roosevelt later explained that General Marshall is what he wanted in a leader. Someone who wasn't afraid to disagree with him. Someone who would tell it to him straight. No beating around the bush and no bullshit. President Roosevelt did not want to be surrounded by a bunch of yes men. Men who would just do what he said, or what they thought he would want. He wanted men who would do what's best for the country. Men who are willing to share their honest opinion and not coward away from it. The whole country and organization would benefit from that.

General Marshall went on to become the great General who lead our war efforts in World War 2 and later developed the Marshall Plan, responsible for rebuilding the destroyed European countries. He ended up developing a strong and trustful relationship with President Roosevelt precisely because of this incident. President Roosevelt would trust in General Marshall to make the strategic decisions needed to advance and eventually win the war. He was an indispensable member of his leadership and there's no other way to put it.

(President Roosevelt and General Marshall getting ready to meet with British leaders in Casablanca during World War 2)

So what can we learn from President Roosevelt? The lesson in leadership in this case is that we need to allow for disagreement to occur in our teams and in our lives in general. It is not beneficial to surround yourself with people who will only echo your thoughts and opinions. People who will agree with you for the sake of being agreeable or kind. Don't isolate yourself from disagreeing people because you can find beneficial truth in their disagreement. Keep an open mind and realize no one can know everything.

President Roosevelt was an intelligent man. He was of above average intelligence. Even he knew he didn't know everything and I think that is important to note. That is what makes him one of the greatest leaders of all time. He had the emotional intelligence that oftentimes most "leaders" lack. This was one of the characteristics that allowed President Roosevelt to build winning teams. Often those who think they know it all hurt their chances of growth and success, because they are too prideful to admit they are wrong or that they don't know much at all. To be a leader you have to be aware of this to be able to lead others. This is what separates the great leaders from the bad. Take note of this and you'll benefit from it. President Roosevelt and General Marshall sure did.

"I'm not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues."- Franklin D. Roosevelt

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