“I had been at West Point with Thomas one year, and had known him later in the old army. He was a man of commanding appearance, slow and deliberate in speech and action; sensible, honest and brave. He possessed valuable soldierly qualities in an eminent degree. He gained the confidence of all who served under him, and almost their love. This implies a very valuable quality. It is a quality which calls out the most efficient services of the troops serving under the commander possessing it.”
Ulysses S. Grant describing Thomas Jefferson
The qualities Ulysses S. Grant describes in Thomas Jefferson certainly are the qualities that contribute to the making of a great leader. I sincerely hope that you never experience combat, but leadership is not limited to the battlefield. If you have a team, you are its leader. And to lead, you must be made up of the ‘right stuff’, qualities similar to those of Jefferson.
Leaders such as Grant and Jefferson didn’t need uniforms to give them a commanding appearance. Leaders exude a confident demeanour, which in turn instils confidence in the team. How we carry ourselves is important, especially during challenging times.
Slow and deliberate in speech and action
With such a description, could you imagine Jefferson ever flying off the handle? To think before we speak, to carefully plan, these are qualities that will pay dividends in profit.
By carefully choosing our words, we are less likely to have what we say being taken the wrong way, and to have incorrect meanings read into our words. Also, we will be less likely to offend or demotivate our people, meaning that we will have to apologise less.
Deliberate in speech and action are admirable qualities.
This implies that we have our ego in check and make decisions based on what will work, and on what is right.
In a major employee survey, when asked what they expect of their leaders, right up the top of the list was honesty.
This means honesty in all our dealings. If we are wrong, we admit it and apologise. We do our best to tell the absolute truth, without bending it. Of course, we do this diplomatically, but we tell the truth, when doing so won’t hurt others.
Let people ‘bank’ on your word. That’s integrity.
Some decisions are hard. The toughest decisions are those that involve other people – especially when the decision will affect their future. These decisions are tough because we care.
Firing people is always hard, so hard that many people-pleasing leaders will not do it.
When somebody proves to be a poor fit for the team, to keep such people will cause us to lose the respect of the winners on our team. Cowardice will not go unnoticed.
Yes, sometimes we have to be firm, fair and brave. Sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do. This is the type of decision most likely to give us the greatest success.
The Right Stuff
You may be thinking, “I’ll never be a Grant or Jefferson“. I say, “Why not?” OK, you may never lead a squad into battle, but your ‘squad’, your team, want to be led. And they want to be led well.
With study and practice we can all develop the right stuff – we can all be great leaders.
And, should times turn tough, you will be glad you did.