Jason, Freddy, Chucky… from horror movies to ghost stories around a campfire, some people like the thrill of a good fright. A few of us have paid real money to watch a psychopathic, knife-wielding doll terrorize full-sized adult people. I’m not saying who, cough cough, but some of us have. Still, we aren’t so thrilled about being scared at work. Yet, scary things do happen.
Last month, I wrote a blog on horrible management styles. It was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Or so I thought. This month, with Halloween right around the corner, I asked a few people to share some management horror stories. And… wow. It’s enough to send shivers down your spine, especially when we know retention is harder than ever, and turnover costs organizations in big ways.
I once worked for a small office that collected unpaid physical therapy claims from auto insurers. It wasn’t exactly a fun job, but it was super close to home (I had just had my first son), the people in the office were nice, and I had hit it off with one of the other collectors (work friends are great). The claims reps I spoke to every day were professional and helpful, so it wasn’t dreadful to make those calls. Everyone was a joy, except for my boss. She was a nightmare and caused me and others in the office more stress than I care to admit. I honestly don’t remember her name, but I remember the fear that would sweep across the office as she headed to the fax machine; this was the 90s. You could see brows furrow with worry and a sheen of cold sweat on the faces of my office mates.
Because if a fax came through and it sat unattended for more than 30 seconds, she would literally lose her mind. Someone, anyone, was required to jump up at the sound of the fax and deliver it to the correct person. If she walked by the machine and found a fax sitting there, never mind that it just came through or that people are on the phones nonstop as part of their jobs, she would, and I swear I am not making this up, YELL AT EVERYONE, loudly and rudely. She had no qualms about berating people in front of other people or simply berating the entire office at once, she was efficient that way. I never understood why faxes created such a sense of anger. We were all good about checking the machine and distributing them, and nothing sat there for an unusual amount of time.
I didn’t bother to find out why she hated faxes so much. Or her team. I left that job faster than you can imagine, as did my friend, not on the same day, but neither of us gave notice. We simply reached our limit. I’m not proud of that, but I was young, I was intimidated, and I was miserable. I was also pretty good at that job, having worked on the other side of the insurance equation. I had a knack for getting claims paid. I left the manager and the culture, not the job.
The obvious lesson is, “never scream at people.” Also, don’t get upset about inconsequential stuff; there is plenty of big stuff to worry about.
One of my Omnia colleagues told me she took a job in outside sales where the sales manager would walk around the cubicles and listen to conversations, even between teammates. Worse, and by far creepier, he would track when you went to the bathroom. He would also line people up in his office and scream about sales numbers. Screaming seems popular amongst nightmare managers. He also made negative comments like, “I don’t want to hear any family or kid stories.” I find it unlikely anyone was eager to share anything with him. My colleague said this was the worst leader and most demoralizing job she has ever had. Like me, she quit.
The obvious lesson here again is never scream at people, and don’t follow them to the bathroom.
The less obvious problem is that my colleague and I liked the jobs. We might have even liked the companies if we were able to see past the toxic boss. So it begs the question: How many employees does an organization lose because of a nightmare leader? The longer the horror draws out, the more people lost and the more expensive the cost to what could otherwise be a great organization.
These were actual horror stories that drove good employees away. Someone who could have stopped the bleeding definitely noticed. It’s hard to say what not taking action cost them. But more often than not, the issue isn’t a nightmare leader at all, it’s just a leader who has not had the opportunity to hone their leadership soft skills or learn how to manage at an individual versus a one-size-fits-all level. When a leader is interested in learning as they grow and making adjustments to keep getting better, along with treating people with respect and fairness, companies can retain top performers and reduce unwanted turnover.
Omnia can help in two ways using the power of behavioral insight. First, understanding the personality tendencies and personal motivators of your team is a way to personalize each manager-employee relationship and connect with team members in a way that will resonate with them. Second, taking the time to learn about our own tendencies as a leadership self-awareness exercise improves our ability to relate to other people, appreciate their differences, and work to meet their personal motivators.
For example, knowing that you are highly social but one of your employees is reserved will help you approach that person differently and communicate with them differently. You might like to pop in and start brainstorming while this particular employee finds that frustrating. Instead, you could provide some initial information, ask them to think it over, and then set a time to go over ideas. Someone else on your team might love when someone pops by to hash over a problem. Neither is wrong or bad, but a leader who can appeal to both by taking the time to uncover preferences will be a hero.
Screaming, tracking people’s bathroom breaks, eavesdropping on conversations, and other scary management behaviors go beyond normal misalignment of behavioral preferences. They tend to indicate a concern with a manager’s ability to think through consequences using basic empathy and professional judgment. This could show as low Perspective on an Omnia Assessment. Even if you aren’t near enough to hear the screaming, you can tell a manager with low Perspective by their pale, sweaty, angry employees, and by the high turnover rate.
Of course, regardless of personality type, communication style, or perspective rating, screaming is never going to motivate anyone. The only time we should be screaming is if we are being chased by a demented 2-foot tall, red-headed, knife-wielding doll.
It’s tough out there. People are reprioritizing what they want at work and leaving jobs that aren’t meeting those needs. We’ve talked a lot about ways to increase engagement and improve retention, but none of that matters if you aren’t taking a close look at your own leadership strengths and weaknesses. We hear, more often than not, that people leave managers not jobs. So even if an employee likes their job and feels a sense of purpose at work, they are likely to look elsewhere if they do not connect well with their boss and will most certainly leave if they don’t like their boss.
Even if you’re an awesome manager and your people adore you, there’s always room for improvement! Acknowledging what you struggle with can be just as useful as being aware of what you do well.
Below is a ridiculous list of some extreme leadership styles. Be honest, can you spot hints of yourself in there?
There is NO doubt you are the boss. You make the rules, and everyone falls in line…or else. The job is your life. You demand perfection and there is no such thing as work/life balance for you or anyone else. You enjoy setting ridiculous goals that you know will be close to impossible to achieve and you provide little to no direction. It makes people better and stronger! Of course, when people achieve your goals, you do not offer a hint of gratitude. It’s their job after all, why congratulate them?
Sure, you know your stuff and you want things right. There is no goal you can’t achieve, and you command results from others. But fear only works as a motivator for so long. If you aren’t providing any real support, motivation, empathy, direction, or recognition, you are inviting any sane employee to look for another job. Even if they don’t leave, having such a fierce personality will inhibit others, instead of inspiring them. Your team likely has some great ideas that they are too scared to express.
You just want to be liked, accepted, popular. You would rather do almost anything else than upset your team, especially the ones you like. Sharing bad news, making unpopular decisions, stepping up to quickly stop performance problems from getting out of control… you don’t like it, so you don’t do it. You see it as being supportive and empathetic, and you don’t want to lose people. But your team, at least the A-players, don’t see it that way at all.
Sure, you keep staff happy(ish); they know you care about them. You create a fun work environment and foster a sense of team; you value culture, as we all should. But, as awful as it is to admit, some people will take advantage of a nice guy. Someone is always going to test boundaries or sink to your lowest level of acceptance. If you aren’t ready to hold everyone accountable, you will have some people working hard and others coasting along collecting paychecks. Which group do you think is looking elsewhere?
You love procedures and you don’t miss a trick. You have your eye on everything and have an uncanny ability to detect when a mistake has been made...or maybe it's the constant monitoring of everyone, every day. There is no room for ambiguity or experimentation. Sadly, life doesn’t always work the way we expect and a good leader needs to be ready to roll with the punches while encouraging their team to do the same.
Sure, your team follows the rules and rarely makes mistakes. Of course, when they do, you are right on hand to correct them. You have a great idea of people’s strengths and weaknesses. But, people are demoralized by micromanagement and need to be comfortable solving their own problems. If they know what they are doing, they need to be trusted to do it. Give your team the chance to try their own methods and express ideas.
Then there’s the manager who wants everything yesterday and changes deadlines, plans, and procedures with every exhale, leaving people confused and gasping for air. Or the logic-driven leader who considers every factor in the management equation, except the human one; and the social butterfly who wants to have a “quick” meeting about every situation resulting in very little time spent working.
Of course, these are just caricatures of traits most of us have to some extent but seeing them in ourselves and acknowledging them is the first step towards leveraging our strengths and working on our weaknesses so we are better equipped to lead and retain a strong, productive and engaged team.
Better yet, take it a step further and learn the traits of the individuals on your team. The more you manage to their needs, the more successful you’ll be at keeping people. We all want to be understood and treated as individuals.
To quote Sir Richard Branson, “Businesses are nothing more than a group of people, and they are by far and away your biggest assets.” Are you doing everything you can to bring out the best in your people?
If you want a more detailed (and more serious) exploration of your management assets and growth opportunities, contact us today and ask about our Leadership Style Reports.
Before I started work at The Omnia Group, I worked briefly in the marketing department of an investment firm. Looking back, I don’t think my manager (we’ll call her Darla) had much experience as a manager. What she did have was a LOT of energy for marketing and a lot of ideas. When an idea came to her, she wanted to (and wanted her staff to) act on it immediately. On paper, that sounds great. In action, well, it was chaos. Projects were started and abandoned. I would get pulled off a task because some new idea would come up. Sometimes she had plans she thought she’d told me about but hadn’t. The deadlines were all yesterday. It got to be a bit much, and I eventually left. (They say people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, and I definitely left Darla).
Shortly after, I joined Omnia as an analyst. The analysts are the ones who write the assessment reports, so we spend a lot of time in training going over the results, including our own. Once I understood what I was looking at, I laughed when I saw my column 6. It was TALL! Omnia uses an 8-column bar graph to visually represent personality traits. Column 6 measures the need for predictability and stability. I agree that I need those things, but I remember being VERY decisive about some of the words I selected when taking the assessment after working with Darla. I retroactively diagnosed myself with something I called Darla Poisoning.
I don’t want to imply she was a bad person. She wasn’t. She just wasn’t a good manager, especially not for me. And since managing was a secondary part of her job (marketing being first), she really wasn’t interested in learning how to manage me or anyone else effectively.
That brings us to…
As mentioned recently, there are certain traits that make being a manager more natural, primarily assertiveness and independence/big-picture orientation. But those traits are not necessarily ideal for all the positions being managed. For example, a person who is quite assertive might not always be as helpful or accommodating as needed for handling support and service duties. You don’t want your customer service agent always trying to “win” an interaction with a customer. A person who is big-picture oriented may not always want to use required processes or pay attention to the details needed to accurately handle data or administration.
In Darla’s case, being quick and big-picture oriented suited her role as a manager – there were a lot of priorities for her to handle and a lot of innovation was required. But the people who were trying to perform the work needed more time and information to get it right. We also needed more direction and information. She expected us to read her (very busy) mind.
It’s important for managers to reflect on the kind of traits necessary to succeed in a given role and embrace the differences among them and their staff. Have you ever contemplated doing a task that you’re about to delegate and thought something like, “Ugh, I would rather stroll through a lion’s den with lunch meat in my pocket than do this?” If so, that’s a great clue that someone with a different set of traits than yours might need to tackle the project.
Also, don’t underestimate other people’s abilities to enjoy something you would hate doing. I could enter data all day long and be fairly content, while it would make someone else crazy. But I would likely turn into dust if I had to give a bunch of presentations.
(Be realistic about this too, though. At a different previous job, my manager, we’ll call her Marla, assigned me to periodically smell the bathrooms after a heavy rain to make sure the plumbing wasn’t backing up. That’s not something many people would want to do.)
Understanding that not everyone wants to be managed the way you do is the first step to successful management, but keep in mind that not everyone is different from you in the same way! This is not to imply that employees should have different standards or opportunities because they have different needs. Being fair is critical, but the way to help them achieve goals and grow their careers should be tailored to the employee. Some people are motivated by variety, some people are motivated by praise, some are motivated by chances to learn, some need more information or specific direction than others. Being attuned to each of your employees’ hot and cold buttons will help you manage more effectively.
Managers who are very accommodating, sensitive to criticism, or focused on maintaining relationships with employees can sometimes struggle to take a strong stance, address performance problems, or press people to meet challenging goals. They don’t want to seem mean. The problem is, they can’t avoid seeming mean if they don’t stand firm. Unfortunately, there are likely to be people who take advantage of lenient managers, and there are others who will naturally do the right thing. These are the ones who are punished by a manager who doesn’t hold people accountable. They do more work for fewer rewards, and while they might not complain, they are likely to leave.
How do you take assertive management action if you’re not an assertive person?
Even those who like having direction and want as many facts as possible don’t want every aspect of their jobs managed. Always looking over people’s shoulders inhibits learning and innovation, and it makes people feel disrespected. If you have an employee who needs closer management because they are not succeeding, this should be addressed via a performance improvement plan. It should be the exception not the rule.
If you feel the tendency to micromanage arise, as yourself these questions:
Once you’ve talked yourself down, step back. Be prepared to offer advice if mistakes are made, but be open to other ways of doing things, too!
Really any of the above problems could be broadly characterized as “communication problems” if you really think about it. Not being transparent about what you expect and not letting people know how they are doing is the fast track to employee disengagement. No matter how much we want it to be so, no employee is a mind reader.
Self-awareness is the key to avoiding management pitfalls. Contact your Omnia Client Success representative to learn more about our development reports geared toward managers and their employees. These can help you identify your strengths and challenge areas and avoid costly turnover, to avoid being a Darla.
Do you remember that scene in Jurassic Park, the original (and best) of course, when Dr. Ian Malcolm played by the talented Jeff Goldblum was explaining chaos theory using drops of water dripping down Dr. Sattler’s hand? Despite dropping the water in the same place each time, subtle, unseen variables shifted the way each drop would travel down the hand. Chaos theory shows how complex systems are extremely sensitive to slight changes that can have potentially significant consequences. Some clever foreshadowing of how the park creators were playing with fire.
After all, who knew amphibian DNA would contribute to uncontrolled dinosaur population growth? Who predicted that the annoying Seinfeld neighbor would double-cross everyone, turn the power off of the electric fences, and let the carnivores loose on the unsuspecting visitors? Who remembers that Samuel L. Jackson was in that movie? And who knew 29 years later we would still be watching new Jurassic Park movies?
Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s not possible to predict everything, especially in a wonderfully diverse, complex, and often confusing world.
People, like drops of water and artificially created dinosaurs, can be driven by subtle, unseen variables on any given day. People are complicated, we are complex systems. We have emotions, pressures, joys, ambitions, fears, and even everyday trivial details or mishaps that might shift how we react to or perceive a situation. It can be overwhelming, especially if you are leading those people. That’s why it’s important to use all the tools and information at our disposal. Some behaviors and motivations are predictable, maybe not 100% of the time, but close enough that tapping into that knowledge will give you a competitive edge and a leadership advantage. And I predict we all want that.
The best place to start is by understanding ourselves as leaders. If we only go so far as to understand our people, we are missing a key piece of the puzzle. Granted, we should not be leading strictly by how we would want to be led, but recognizing our own personal motivators and drivers can help us pivot more easily to meet the needs of our teams.
The Omnia Assessment is a short, yet powerful tool that allows people to freely describe their most comfortable personality traits. We use an 8-column bar graph to visually show an individual’s personality traits in 4 areas – Assertiveness, Sociability, Pace, and Structure. The odd-numbered columns represent active traits while the even-numbered columns represent passive traits. And the combinations contribute to Omnia’s 17 personality groups.
Here’s a look at our data behind leadership.
Assertiveness: Columns 1 and 2 measure level of assertiveness. Many successful leaders, especially if they are directly overseeing a large group of people, have a tall column 1, representing a high degree of assertiveness and leadership drive. Individuals with a tall column 1 are assertive, action-oriented, ambitious, and take charge. They are comfortable driving results, managing conflict, promoting resourcefulness, and implementing goal-oriented solutions as they coach/mentor a team. Through their assertiveness, they show a high level of ownership by taking command of activities.
Sociability: Columns 3 and 4 measure sociability which points to communication and problem-solving style. Some leaders have a tall column 3 representing a naturally outgoing communication style and an intuitive problem-solving style. They are motivational leaders who are highly sociable and verbally engaging. They have strong networking aptitude for building and sustaining strong relationships.
Though many leaders exhibit a high level of gregariousness, they also have a high level of assertiveness, which prevents them from having an overly friendly leadership approach. As long as their level of assertiveness is taller than or equal to their level of gregariousness, the leader can effectively establish an authoritative role instead of always needing to be popular with the team. When those traits are not in alignment, individuals can place a greater value on maintaining their friendships than on getting results; a debilitating problem in many leadership and sales roles.
Some leaders have a tall column 4 representing a naturally analytical problem-solving style and a direct, fact-focused communication style. They are resourceful, often serious leaders who get to the point and are always looking for problems to solve. As a result, they don’t always focus on the motivational needs of the team, not because they don’t care, but because they are searching for practical ways to improve.
Pace: Columns 5 and 6 measure pace. Often, we see leaders with a tall column 5. Column 5 individuals are fast-paced and multitasking; they have a strong sense of urgency and tend to be effective pacesetters for their team or department. They make the most efficient use of time and maximize productivity. They thrive in a deadline-driven environment and can handle the interruptions and shifting priorities of a busy corporate environment and large reporting staff.
Structure: Columns 7 and 8 measure structure. Overall, leaders have a tall column 7, which represents a low need for structure. Individuals with a tall column 7 are independent, innovative, and unruffled by setbacks. They have a natural aptitude for thinking outside the box. Column 7 leaders take criticism and rejection in stride (they have a lack of discouragement/strong resilience). They can manage around ambiguity with ease and tend to focus on the big picture versus the details.
While perhaps not as exciting as mapping dinosaur DNA, knowing the data behind successful leadership is a key to goal achievement, increased productivity, and better engagement with your team (as opposed to a recipe for destruction and mayhem). You can use this information to assess your personal leadership style, as well as your team’s tendencies, strengths, and challenges.
For the month of July, our Omnia team is putting attention on the traits of leadership in honor of the celebration of the birth of our American nation. Our first blog covered the personality traits of our founding fathers. Now we cast our eyes on current times and what revolutionary leadership looks like in today’s context.
This is a bit of a tough topic today in a world that seems more divided than ever, where leaders are shouting over each other and appear more focused on alienating ideals instead of pursuing common ground to address the core problems at hand.
Revolutionary is defined as involving or causing a complete or dramatic change. When we think about revolutionary leadership the first thing that comes to mind besides our founding fathers are the high profile leaders we see in the daily news headlines or being lauded (or condemned) across social media. Today’s revolutionary context conjures up images of courageousness, boldness, a lot of publicity and — let’s face it — sometimes the loudest voice.
When I asked my network to weigh in on this, the most popular response was Volodymyr Zelenskyy. No matter your political views, I don’t think anyone can argue that he has been the most visible demonstration of courage, fortitude and commitment to his people and cause. I admire his boldness, steadfastness, brave leadership and commitment to the people of Ukraine.
Other high-profile people who come to mind are those who have been personally impacted and are fighting a system that did them wrong with a focus on helping the next generation. I admire Aly Raisman who was willing to share her grueling and personal story of abuse and manipulation to change the tide for future women athletes. Not to mention her continued work with fellow victims to take on a behemoth like the FBI. And Megan Rapinoe fighting for salary transparency and against a culture of systemic bias that leads to unequal pay.
These are all high-profile revolutions happening in today’s time. But what about revolution at the ground level? What does it take to be a revolutionary leader wherever you are with whatever cause that means something personally to you? The good news is we can all be revolutionary in our own right if we embrace the unique and common traits of a revolutionary leader.
First let’s start with basic personality traits of all leaders and the way we define it at Omnia with science. The Omnia Leadership Profile is derived from a short yet powerful assessment instrument that allows people to freely describe their personality traits. We use an 8-column bar graph to visually show an individual’s personality traits in 4 areas – Assertiveness, Sociability, Pace, and Structure. The odd-numbered columns represent active traits while the even-numbered columns represent passive traits. All of these combinations contribute to Omnia’s 17 personality groups, a few of which are most common among leaders.
Some of the most common traits of leaders are:
All of these traits can be found in the examples of our founding fathers and in leaders we see in the headlines today. One can also argue that there can be a downside to some of these traits. When we are so assertive, so hard charging and driven to win our cause or our argument we can create an unintended consequence of turning people away. No leader has ever achieved a revolution by themselves. Every leader in our history — good or bad — has done so with a group of people who helped create the change. The best leaders bring people together and find common ground — they don’t break them down.
Revolutionary leadership doesn’t have to be headline making either. I believe some of the most impactful and dramatic changes being made today are happening at the ground level and often out of the news. One of the best examples I can think of is in my own community by my friend Mindi Vaughn. Mindi has overcome her own personal battle with addiction and is now a community leader supporting initiatives to fight addiction, help former incarcerated persons find gainful employment and end homelessness. You can learn more about Mindi’s story here. She’s come a long way even since this was filmed in 2018 and is now the manager of The Portico Café. To me, that’s revolutionary.
So I’m going to take a bold step here and make an appeal to all leaders reading this article. Let’s use our traits for good. Let’s get involved at the ground level volunteering and actively supporting causes we care deeply about. Let’s bring people together, and work together to solve the problems. Let’s listen to and engage the people whose column heights are opposite of ours. We need everyone to solve the big problems. Nobody can do it alone.
It begins with understanding ourselves and where we need support. I’d suggest you begin with taking stock of your own leadership traits. You can do so by completing the Omnia assessment, and we will provide you with a complimentary report.
What continues to make the United States the peculiar and incredible place it is lies in the ideas Thomas Jefferson put forth in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, signed 246 years ago this Fourth of July: one does not need to be of a specific religion, race, or lineage to be an American, you must only embrace the self-evident truths that all men are created equal and that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A revolutionary idea, indeed!
We have all learned about the bravery of our Founding Fathers and how they beat the odds against the most powerful empire in the world. But like everything else in history, we sometimes hyper-focus on events themselves and overlook the great traits of our past leaders that made life as we know it possible.
The celebration of the birth of our nation doesn’t need to begin and end with fireworks and hotdogs. The men and women who shaped our nation were not just brave (although they undoubtedly were). There is a lot we can learn from these individuals about revolutionary leadership, and this week is the perfect time to reflect on their characteristics.
Unlike many other Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin was never a U.S. President. He made his mark in other ways: helping to draft and then signing the Declaration of Independence, representing the U.S. in France during The American Revolution, and serving as a delegate for the Constitutional Convention, for starters. Franklin was also an avid writer, a printer, a scientist, and a political philosopher, but perhaps the most impressive thing about Ben Franklin was his proclivity toward innovation.
Many people are aware that Ben Franklin invented bifocals and discovered how to harness electricity via a lightning rod, but his innovation surpassed these well-known designs. When Franklin apprenticed with his older brother, James, at the family print shop, James refused to publish anything 16-year-old Franklin wrote. In response, Franklin fabricated the pseudonym Mrs. Silence Dogood, a fictional widow, and ended up publishing 14 witty letters under the name of Dogood without his brother knowing.
A lesson in tenacity and of following one’s passions, this instance of Franklin’s antagonism and problem-solving is one of the more interesting yet lesser-known facts about Franklin. He went on to author and publish numerous pamphlets, owned several of his own newspapers, became the official printer for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and published the famous Poor Richard’s Almanac 25 years in a row. This means that 16-year-old Franklin’s act of defiance and problem-solving began his life-long career as a writer. When met with seemingly insurmountable roadblocks, consider the example of Ben Franklin’s innovative determination and find a way to create your own Mrs. Silence Dogood.
Thomas Jefferson, one of our more divisive Founding Fathers, is primarily known for authoring the Declaration of Independence, the document whose signing marks our annual celebration, and for later serving as the 3rd U.S. President. However, Jefferson also had an intense love of reading and writing and was the founder of the Library of Congress.
Jefferson’s love of language is seen most clearly in his ability and passion to communicate clearly. His writing, although quite different in style than writing now in the 21st century, was clear, concise, and served a vital purpose in creating the United States as we know it.
Jefferson mastered the ability to clearly articulate a vision, and that clear articulation has shaped our country in ways difficult to quantify. Jefferson was able to accurately put words to the ideas our other Founding Fathers were passionate enough about to begin the Revolutionary War over, and therefore, Jefferson breathed life into and provided concrete grounds for the beginning of our nation, showing just how powerful it is to clearly communicate one’s vision.
Patrick Henry, one of the lesser-known Founding Fathers, was a skilled politician, orator, and lawyer. Henry did not always agree with other Founding Fathers, either, and he was outspoken and well-known for his riveting speeches. Henry was a delegate to the Continental Congresses of 1774 and 1775 and was a member of the first Virginia Committee of Correspondence, which was tasked to help with intercolonial cooperation.
At the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, Henry gave the speech he is most well-known for and is said to have helped spark the American Revolution. Henry was convinced that a war with Great Britain was unavoidable, and in an attempt to rally support for organizing and establishing a defensive militia, he ended his speech with these brave words: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
While Henry served only briefly in the Revolutionary War, the declaration of “Give me liberty or give me death” has resounded throughout generations for their sheer clarity and courageousness, instilling in anyone who considers their true meaning a sense of patriotism and pride. Displaying courage in light of potential conflict is no easy feat, but it can rally unmatched support and result in revolutionary change.
Abigail Adams, wife of the second President of the United States, John Adams, has not traditionally been considered a Founding Father, but Abigail Adams was a trusted advisor to her husband and an important political figure in her time. While John Adams traveled frequently for his work, the couple wrote to each other frequently, and John Adams often consulted Abigail, writing to her when he was elected president, “I never wanted your Advice and assistance more in my life.”
In a letter to her husband during the Second Continental Congress, Adams famously warned her husband and the other Founding Fathers to “remember the ladies.” Adams wrote, “I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors…Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.”
John Adams responded casually to her comments, but Abigail continued to warn him and speak about how our republic’s independence would suffer if women did not have the right to property and education. One of the first American women who spoke out about women’s rights, Abigail Adams’ outspokenness was impactful, beginning to pave the way for great future change. Speaking truth to power and encouraging change is often uncomfortable, but having the courage to do so may create transformative and impactful change felt for generations.
George Washington is, as Joseph J. Ellis phrases it, perhaps the “Foundingist Father of them all.” Washington was the first American President and Commander and Chief of the Continental Army, and, interestingly enough, he desired neither position. When Washington was elected Commander, he refused “any payment beyond his expenses and called upon ‘every gentleman in the room’ to bear witness that he disclaimed fitness for it.”
Throughout the Revolutionary War, Washington displayed incredible shows of leadership, maintained strength and morale anyway he could, and outwitted his opponents. After being encouraged by some to use his command of the military to make himself a king, Washington dutifully resigned from his position as Commander and turned over a request for only his cost of living throughout the war, again denying himself salary for serving the country for nearly a decade in the most important position at that time.
In the chaotic aftermath of the Revolution, Washington urged his fellow statesmen to take steps to create an “an indissoluble union” to protect what so many lives were sacrificed for. At the Constitutional Convention, Washington was unanimously chosen to be the President of the Convention. Washington wanted to help build the framework of the country and retire to his home, Mount Vernon, but he was again unanimously voted for–this time to be the First President of the United States. Washington never desired the power bestowed upon him, he never sought it out, and he was acutely aware of how his actions would affect the country forever.
Washington’s reluctance to accept power and his self-restraint almost seem unnatural, but this one man’s self-awareness and humility are a great lesson regarding the power of forethought and humility.
This list of great leadership traits and interests do not even begin to cover the impact many men and women have had on our nation–our Founders were also deep lovers of debate, life-long learning, and philosophers. But the aforementioned characteristics–innovation, clear communication, courage, and self-restraint–are the bedrocks of any successful community-based endeavor, whether you are establishing a free republic or creating a thriving business.
If you’re interested in learning more about inspiring your own workforce and building effective leaders, request a demo today and begin transforming your workforce with Omnia’s behavioral assessments.