Lessons in Leadership from America's Independence

I love holidays. Hello free time and family. Perhaps my favorite holiday is the 4th of July. What can I say, I like to see things explode.

As America celebrated its independence day this year, I got to thinking. There have been many revolutions over the course of history. America’s revolution is considered the most successful. 

Why is that? What was so different about the American Revolution that led to the type of freedom and power America has experienced for centuries?

After research and stewing, I came up with this list.

THE AMERICA LIST

1) George Washington didn’t get power hungry. He had the chance to stay on as president after his second term, but he ceded to John Adams. He also was considered for the position of King at one point, but refused.

If either of those things had happened, America could be a vastly different place. Instead, he set an example that stuck. We can thank George Washington for term limits and his influence on limiting the president’s power.

2) America is a republic. This gets forgotten a lot because in the modern day we are much more focused on our democracy. For clarification, democracy is what gives individual people a voice. Republicanism is the power we give to our representatives to represent our voice. 

In this age of absolute independent freedom, we forget the republic part of America, which guards us against mob rule and internal uprisings every other month. 

Also, we can thank our republicanism for allowing us to entrust qualified individuals to be able to take on some of our civic needs so we can still eat, sleep, and get the kids to school on time instead of reading and sitting at poll booths all day.

When we elect our representatives, we (hopefully) research which candidate will best represent our values and interests so that when the time comes for them to vote on important issues, they will be casting a vote that reflect our needs and wants.

3) America as a culture is insistent on freedom, which is by far one of the largest shared values. Not only is the government of America geared to support individual freedom, but as a people, Americans demand it. 

Because of this, we see a lot of change. Whether good or bad, your side of the aisle or not, this insistence on freedom allows people the ability to define, redefine, organize, develop, gather, teach, and create in so many different ways.

As my list implies, this is just a short list of the many reasons why America’s revolution, and its course of history, has been so largely successful. Now, America isn’t perfect, but I think I’d like to be as good a leader as America in its founding as a nation, and as a world superpower.

Now we turn the tables on 18th century America. We don’t have to put on wigs or call our pants trousers, but how can we apply these four principles to our leadership?

1) Don’t get power hungry. As a leader, especially if you are at the head of your operation, it can be difficult not to stray into dictator territory. You’d like the last say in a decision, you want to take more ground and get more recognition, you want to be chief. 

And you probably are chief. But being chief, as we’ve said many times here at Trailblazer, is not about doing it all by yourself or seeing yourself rise above those around you. Yes, knock the competition out of the park. However, within your team, it’s important to remember the supporting bones that hold your organization up, the only reason there is still a chief position you can fill.

And remember our talk about raising up leaders? Make sure you’re raising up a new chief to take your place. Your time at the top may be long, but some day it will come to an end. At the end of your term, have you helped someone become eligible to take it over? Or have you been too wrapped up in being president that you’ve overlooked another great person for the job?

2) DELEGATE. I put this in caps because it’s so important. And maybe because I’m not the best at this… 

We simply cannot do it all. We try, but we can’t be in 17 places at one time. When we fail to delegate, things fail to get done. 

It’s hard sometimes to let others take on responsibilities that we are capable and excited to do. You may even be the one with the best skills for the job, but if you do not have time for it, you are not the best person for it. 

We busy people do a disservice to our work when we let our zeal spread us too thin. And don’t kid yourself, you may get everything done, but you don’t get it done as well as you should.

Chances are, if you have a team, there’s a reason for each of the people there. They’re probably qualified, hard-working, and loyal to your organization. Sometimes it’s hard to hand over the reins, but you have to trust that you’ve picked a team that matches your dream and can represent the needs of the whole as they work on the project.

3) Freedom. Just as America thrives in its individual freedom, so do organizations, projects and businesses. Especially for leaders with specific vision, it can be difficult to let other team members have their own ideas and run with them.

But again, you should trust you have picked a good team, and allow them to have and develop their creative ideas. There might come things that don’t work, but things will come that will advance your vision in a whole new, better way. 

When team members are given the opportunity to be creative, they often find newer, faster, more productive ways of doing things that benefit the team as a whole. 

So as some of us reflect on America this week, what are some ways can we incorporate these American ideals into our leadership roles? How can you raise up leaders, delegate responsibility, and allow creative freedom this week?

By: Victoria Rinear