As President’s Day approaches, there’s an opportunity to reflect on the number of great leaders America has had. They haven’t all been superstars, including some on this list. But in nearly 250 years of history, the country has benefitted from the remarkable leadership of some great men.
Here are quotes from US Presidents that give important advice on effective leadership:
1. “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.” -; Thomas Jefferson
2. “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” -; Andrew Jackson
3. “It’s easier to do a job right, than to explain why you didn’t.” -; Martin Van Buren
4. “Well may the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country’s peace and prosperity, and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family.” -; James K. Polk
5. “It would be judicious to act with magnanimity towards a prostrate foe.” -; Zachary Taylor
6. “An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory.” -; Millard Fillmore
7. “The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” -; James Buchanan
8. “There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.” -; James Garfield
9. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” -; Theodore Roosevelt
10. “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” -; Woodrow Wilson
11. “It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” -; Franklin Roosevelt
12. “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” -; Harry S Truman
13. “You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it's usually called ‘assault’ - not ‘leadership.’” -; Dwight D. Eisenhower
14. “In a crisis, be aware of the danger-but recognize the opportunity.” -; John F. Kennedy
15. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” -; Ronald Reagan
In honor of President's Day, I thought it befitting to reflect upon some of the most significant quotes from those who have led this country since its inception. While gathering these quotes it struck me that dating back to the birth of our constitution, the primary focus of our leaders has remained the same. We as a nation have struggled with maintaining integrity in leadership, achieving peace, and preserving the rights of the American people. Some say we've made great progress, others see us falling backward. What do you think?
Government and politics.
1. "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." - Abraham Lincoln
2. "Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery." - Calvin Coolidge
3. "The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty." - James Madison
4. "I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticize their own public officials." - Woodrow Wilson
5. "Although in our country the Chief Magistrate must almost of necessity be chosen by a party and stand pledged to its principles and measures, yet in his official action he should not be the President of a part only, but of the whole people of the United States." - James K. Polk
6. "You cannot extend the mastery of government over the daily life of a people without somewhere making it master of people's souls and thoughts." - Herbert Hoover
7. "There is something inherently wrong, something out of accord with the ideals of representative democracy, when one portion of our citizenship turns its activities to private gain amid defensive war while another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying for national preservation." - Warren G. Harding
8. "Those who want the government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination." -Harry S. Truman
9. "Officeholders are the agents of the people, not their masters." - Grover Cleveland
10. "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president is morally treasonable to the American public." - Theodore Roosevelt
11. "There should be no bitterness or hate where the sole thought is the welfare of the United States of America. No man can occupy the office of President without realizing that he is President of all the people." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
12. "I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." - Dwight Eisenhauer
13. "Peace is the best time for improvement and preparation of every kind; it is in peace that our commerce flourishes most, that taxes are most easily paid, and that the revenue is most productive." - James Monroe
14. "Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. Is there no other way the world may live?" - Dwight D. Eisenhower
15. "I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty." - Woodrow Wilson
16. "Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy
17. "Peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting." - Barack Obama
18. "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." - Alexander Hamilton
19. "There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power." - William Henry Harrison
20. "A president's hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right." - Lyndon B. Johnson
21. "It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn't." - Martin Van Buren
22. "The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there." - James Buchanan
23. "Every expert was once a beginner." - Rutherford B. Hayes
24. "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
25. "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry S. Truman
26. "Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." - Richard M. Nixon
27. "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things." - Ronald Reagan
28. "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." - Thomas Jefferson
29. "We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose." - Jimmy Carter
30. "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader" - John Quincy Adams
31. "No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit." - George Bush
32. "Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
33. "Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time." - Gerald R. Ford
34. "To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do." - John Adams
35. "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." - Barack Obama
36. "Without passion, you don't have energy, without energy you have nothing." - Donald Trump
37. "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." - Thomas Jefferson
38. "Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly." - John F. Kennedy
39. "Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence." - George Washington
40. "Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error." - Andrew Jackson
41. "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away." - Ronald Reagan
42. "A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits." - Richard Nixon
43. "Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction." - John F. Kennedy
44. "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln
And, a little humor.
45. "Being president is like running a cemetery: you've got a lot of people under you and nobody's listening." - Bill Clinton
46. "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" - Abraham Lincoln
47. "If one morning I walked upon the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: President Can't Swim." - Lyndon Johnson
48. "Washington, D.C. is twelve square miles bordering by reality." - Andrew Johnson
49. "Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process." - John F. Kennedy
50. "I left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency--even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting." - Ronald Reagan
It turns out young-adult life isn't much different.
1,200 students--an incredible one in four students at Yale--take Laurie Santos's Psych 157, "Psychology and the Good Life". It's the single largest class in Yale's history, a class that requires a whopping 24 teaching fellows to administer, that had to move to a symphony hall to accommodate the class size, and that tanks registration for any course in its time slot. (As a result, the course won't be taught again, instead moving to an online video course format.)
Its rock-concert-like enrollment speaks volumes about how stressed and unhappy students are these days. A study from the Yale College Council cited that more than half of all Yale undergraduates sought mental health help while at the school. The New York Timescaptured this quote from one of the class participants:
"The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions--both positive and negative--so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment."
You say, "Yeah, but these kids will figure it out when they get to the working world."
This sentiment also applies perfectly to far too many workplaces. A study by Mental Health America shows that a whopping 71 percent of workers are unhappy and looking for other opportunities.
So what are some of the key habits that Yale students learn to develop in the class and how can you do the same?
1. Show more gratitude.
Research is clear: Developing the ability to express gratitude is one of the most substantial ways to increase your happiness. Gratitude helps you connect to something larger than yourself, enhances relationships, motivates the recipients, and improves overall well-being.
Say thanks out of context. Pull someone into a conference room and tell them why you appreciate them--just because. Of all the leadership tactics I employed in my corporate time, this was consistently the most remembered and appreciated. It stands out because so few do it.
Catch someone in the act of doing something good. Reward them for it. One of my favorite leaders was always on the lookout for something (worthy) she could complement in the moment; it made you want to run through walls because you knew she would notice.
2. Procrastinate less.
Procrastination is the silent henchman for overwhelm. Studies show we lose 55 productive days a year due to procrastination, 218 minutes a day on average. Avoid these misconceptions:
"I work better under pressure."Research shows the opposite. Stress directly interferes with your brain's ability to learn and translate ideas into meaningful information and causes more errors.
"My willpower will kick in." Unfortunately, studies show our willpower isn't as strong as we think and that it can be depleted surprisingly quickly. More times than I'd like to admit I've promised myself I'd stick to an exercise routine. Then I miss two days in a row and bam! Back to the usual. Instead of exercising I exercise my right not to. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here.
"My self-imposed deadlines will keep me on track." Not likely. Research shows that setting deadlines externally, like with a boss or friends, is a far more effective way to encourage adherence to a deadline. My most productive employees consistently set deadlines with me and asked for help in staying accountable to them.
3. Increase social connections.
Psychologist Maynard Brusman indicates our brains are actually hard-wired to connect with others, so being disconnected is fighting Mother Nature herself. And it's just as important to feel connected to co-workers as studies show we spend more time with our co-workers than our family (true of 80 percent of people who work 30-50 hours a week).
Try these three connectivity tactics at work:
Create purposeful bonding experiences. Like celebrations of team successes/failures or opportunities to work on a tough problem together.
Spread positive gossip. Get caught talking about your co-workers--in an upbeat way. One well-respected leader I interviewed even made it a point to reward anyone she caught talking positively about someone else. It helped create a habit of appreciation,
Invite their gifts in. Nothing enhances a sense of connectedness and belonging like being asked to share what makes you valuable and special. This was a non-negotiable behavior I expected from my leadership team.
Now, not to say that developing all these habits is easy. Dr. Santos calls her course the "hardest class at Yale" because to see real habit-change, students must hold themselves accountable every day.
When you spend the majority of your time working, the brief moments in between that are supposed to give you energy can quickly drain you further.
Turning on the news and reading about mass shootings, wealth inequality, and the prison industrial complex--to name a few--can have a major impact on your mojo. And when you combine that with long winter months, it's normal to have a grim outlook on the future.
In our over-worked and overstimulated culture, most people start overlooking the things that are going well in their lives. But that's where problems start.
When you're not looking at each day with fresh eyes, your mind starts treating life like a robot--measuring accomplishment in terms of productivity rather than seeking timeless moments of connection, transcendence, and awe.
Happy people are able to recognize and appreciate the small things that enrich their lives. When commuting to and from work, for example, they value discovering new things on the same route they've seen one hundred times.
They cherish each breath. The opportunity to say hello to their loved ones. Their ability to function, live, and grow in their personal and professional passions. And they even have the ability to recognize the value in their shortcomings, limitations, and failures.
Some contact me when lacking the confidence of their past selves. Others seek me out when they're feeling anxious about the future and uncertain about their ability to return to their former selves. But taken as a whole, one consistent theme is that these amazing people are--in one way or another--not fully present.
They are avoiding the present moment by clinging to the past or worrying about the future, which prevents them from appreciating the small things occurring in their lives right now.
Through our sacred work together, I'm honored to have the privilege of seeing these motivated and successful individuals persevere. I get to walk with them on their comeback journey and witness their transformations.
And I've noticed a consistent pattern: once individuals are starting their ascent back to confidence--beginning to re-awaken to the happiness they once knew--something amazing happens. They start to experience gratitude.
They really feel it. They connect to and express appreciation for each of the small things in their lives. Even while suffering, they start to make meaning out of it--recognizing the lessons life is teaching them. And all of these factors facilitate an important change in their perception.
To give a concrete example, I'll tell you about one client. Some details are changed to protect confidentiality.
This client was a successful individual in the tech industry living in a foreign country. She decided to move and take a job in the US despite not knowing a single person. Understandably, she struggled with occasional feelings of decreased confidence and worrying about individuals back home.
She was adjusting to a new environment, new culture, new foods, and was building an entire network from the ground up--something far more challenging for most individuals to comprehend.
Our work reached a turning point once she was able to recognize the courage and bravery it took her to leave everything she knew to pursue her passion. This epiphany opened up the possibility for her to appreciate and make meaning of her suffering.
She realized that going through such a difficult experience was going to give her unshakable confidence in her career. It was showing her that she can take risks and trust herself to land on her feet. And dealing with such an overwhelming decision was also teaching her not to sweat the small things.
A few short weeks after this pivotal moment and she was on the top of her game--but she was different than before.
She was re-ignited with passion. Consumed with purpose. And deeply connected to feelings of gratitude for the present moment--including all of its flaws.
And this is just one example of many. Most people start making meaningful improvements in their lives following a change in how they perceive it.
That's the best part--there are things you can do to start changing your perception. And few are more significant than practicing gratitude.
No matter who you are or what you're going through, you can benefit from re-connecting with gratitude. Taking the time to dive heart first into your suffering. And trusting that you will emerge stronger than before.
Yes, it's easy to become pessimistic. But that's why focusing on appreciation, gratitude, and turning towards pain makes your life even more meaningful. Even more fulfilling. And much, much happier.
February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness day. It's tempting to think of this as a greeting card fabrication. But I know that generosity is actually a great growth strategy. As a growth strategist, my worldview is fundamentally about focus and making purposeful choices. Random would appear to be at odds with the very idea of strategy, which is about how to allocate scarce resources for companies to use wisely to to hire great people and win great customers.
It turns out that there is a lot of science that suggests random kindness pays a lot of dividends for both your well-being as well as your work. Specifically, there are at least a few reasons why random acts of kindness may be one of the best things you can do for your startup.
Kindness renews your health, soul and energy as an entrepreneur.
Most people think of kindness as something you do for someone else versus something you do for yourself. For example when I'm driving and someone is desperately trying to merge into my lane at the last minute, it would be kind of me to let that person in (which I rarely do).
But science says there are health benefits for yourself when being kind to others. Dr. Christine Carter, PhD, a professor of sociology from UC Berkeley, conducted a study where participants helped others and afterwards felt stronger, more energetic, calmer, less depressed and had higher self-worth. Dr. David R. Hamilton notes that kindness releases oxytocin hormone, which dilates the blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and is good for your heart.
These are all things that are critical to replenish as an entrepreneur who is pouring their all into their startup and is constantly fighting a fear of failure. Every entrepreneur I know faces adversity and recognizes that kindness is like a cool drink of water for a parched throat. There are times as an entrepreneur that all you have left is your health, soul and energy, so regularly replenishing your reserves is key to success.
Kindness is contagious and is how marketing works best today.
One imagines that the recipient of kindness is impacted by kindness. But science suggests that third party observers are also highly impacted.
Dr. Jonathan D. Haidt, a professor of psychology at NYU, wrote about the idea of elevation, which is the 'warm uplifting feeling that people experience when they see unexpected acts of human goodness, kindness, courage or compassion." He noted elevation was contagious and inspired third party observers to be similarly good, kind, courageous and compassionate.
So kindness is viral. And in a world where consumers have an abundance of brands and businesses they can choose from, kindness can be the difference maker. This is especially true when McKinsey says that word of mouth accounts for 50 percent of a companies sales.
One executive of a billion dollar business described their customer service strategy as, "kill them with kindness". If the product had a defect, they shipped them a new one next day air with no questions asked. There was no business case to prove the math worked, but they believed in it. And the word spread and the business quadrupled in five years.
Randomness is the secret to sustainable and surprising kindness.
So there are perhaps scientific benefits to kindness. And perhaps kindness is contagious, which can be great with customers and for growth. But what is the benefit of kindness being random? Shouldn't we just be kind to everyone?
My personal reflection is that there are two reasons why there is wisdom to random kindness. The first reason is it paces yourself. It's far less taxing to strive for one random act of kindness per day versus being constantly kind and being at risk of burning out.
Secondly random kindness startles us and has a bigger impact on us. It breaks the conventional wisdom of merit, that kind people deserve kindness and mean people do not. Random bad things happen all the time, as anyone dealing with cancer knows. Perhaps a bit more of random kindness can help even things out. Plus random kindness implies that every person has inherent worth and is worthy for kindness, regardless if they've earned it or not.
Kindness appears to function very similarly to forgiveness, which is also miscast as a benefit to 'the other' versus for yourself. It turns out a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, Karen Swartz, notes that forgiving others actually relieves your own stress and lowers your blood pressure. As the late Maya Angelou said, "It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everyone."
So entrepreneurs, be bold. Be randomly kind. Let the late lane changer in your lane. And you'll be healthy and happy enough to give your best to your startup.
According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, when we have a "fixed mindset," we assume our intelligence, creative abilities, and character are static givens, and that we are unable change ourselves in meaningful ways. Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, asserts that this mindset can affect much of our professional and personal behavior, as well how much or how often we feel happy.
Here are some signs that you have a fixed mindset:
When you come across success, you consider it to be an affirmation of intelligence that is inherent
You give up easily
You avoid failure at all costs, while striving for success
You view failure as an indication of how unintelligent you are, not as an opportunity for growth
You strongly resist any sort of challenge
You often ignore useful negative feedback
You view the success of others as a threat instead of as a source of inspiration or lessons to be learned
As Dweck says, the view you adopt for yourself "profoundly affects the way you lead your life." It can determine whether you "become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value." If the view you have for yourself is fixed, you are at risk of achieving less than your full potential.
Strive to cultivate a growth mindset.
Understand that you can always learn, improve, and get better at anything you set your mind to.
Be open to new ideas and pursue change -- don't stay fixed in the "safety" of the status quo.
Experiment and take chances. Start small, and build on your success.
Don't be discouraged by failure. Pick yourself up and try again. In fact, when you operate under a growth mindset, you may not actually ever see yourself as failing -- you'll see yourself as learning instead.
Every day is a new day, filled with infinite possibilities. Let go of your past successes -- and failures -- to grow and succeed in the future. You can do it.
We all have to work with difficult people. That's a fact of life -- and work. And one person's difficult person isn't necessarily another's. You might experience Analytical Amy as challenging to work with because she slows every single process down in order to make sure every detail is correct, but your boss is eternally grateful for her laser focus and problem spotting.
Or you might bristle when partnering with Driven Dave, who is so committed to fast action that his work is peppered with mistakes, but your sales manager loves how quickly Dave gets new customers on board. Chances are, you have colleagues whose pace, approach and style makes your job easier -- and others whose way of working makes you cringe.
But no matter what anyone's particular working style preferences are, nobody likes working with a bully. People who yell, interrupt, explode, or otherwise overstep their boundaries in hostile ways aren't just bad for your mood and morale -- they're bad for your mind.
Bullying behavior causes strong negative emotions, which, according to research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, cause massive stress in the brain. When our brains are stressed, we made poor decisions, including reacting immediately rather than responding thoughtfully. This can make a bad situation worse, by responding with anger (which escalates the problem) or deference (which gives the bully tacit permission to continue).
A bully doesn't have to threaten you for you to feel threatened. A bully doesn't have to mock you personally for it to feel personal. A bully doesn't have to violate HR policies for you to feel violated. So how you can respond to someone who regularly ignores your needs in pursuit of his own? Calmly, cleanly and consistently.
Here are seven approaches to try:
Use the broken record technique. Try repeatedly saying "You're interrupting me...You're interrupting me... You're interrupting me" until you break the flow of his tirade.
Notice and name what she is doing using morally neutral language. "You have been speaking for five minutes" is less accusatory and judgmental than "You haven't shut up once in five minutes" or "You're not letting me talk!"
Try "fogging" to buy some time and distance. "You might be right" or "You've given me something to think about" or "I hadn't considered that" are all probably true, but don't make him right or make you wrong.
Express the impact she is having on you. Say, "You're raising your voice, and that makes me feel unsafe/uncomfortable/angry. What was your intention?"
Make a direct request. "Stop interrupting me."
Separate the tone from the content. Get curious to see if there's any merit in the content that you can address positively, like, "I agree with several of your points, and I'd like to tell you what really resonates with me. In order for me to do that, I need to be able to speak uninterrupted. Would you be willing to do that?"
Go get some advice. Check in with someone who doesn't experience this person the same way you do. This shouldn't become a gripe session, but a conversation where you can learn some new approaches and strategies you may not have considered.
As actor and activist Michael J. Fox remarked, "One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered." When dealing with a bully, you don't want to lose the battle -- or your dignity.