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Which Presidential Leadership Style Are You?

Whether You're George Washington or FDR, Learning Your Leadership Style is Key

With the U.S. presidential contest in full swing, I’ve been thinking about our American presidents. Four in particular, whom most people would agree were effective leaders: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each led from a distinct strength, and I believe that was the key to their effectiveness.

Envision the future: This was Thomas Jefferson’s strength. Jefferson was a visionary who could picture a very different United States with the addition of the Louisiana Purchase. People with this strength lead by seeking promising opportunities, taking risks, and demanding action.

Engage others: This was FDR’s strength. He was able to unite the country in challenging times. Leaders with this strength have a talent to inspire and motivate others. They connect to others and are able to generate excitement and rally the troops to achieve a common goal.

Encourage others: This was Abraham Lincoln’s strength. Leaders with this strength are excellent listeners, great team builders, and are particularly good at developing their staff. Lincoln was known for adding the best and the brightest to his staff and pulling together a team uniquely suited for dealing with the crisis of the Civil War.

Execute results: This was George Washington’s strength. Washington was known for his organizational skills, and his determination and persistence to achieve what he set out to do. Leaders with this strength are detail-oriented and use informed, objective decision-making to bring about the highest standards of performance.

Each leadership strength correlates to one of the four styles in the HRDQ Personality Style Model.

Envision the future = Direct personality style.

Engage others = Spirited personality style.

Encourage others = Considerate personality style.

Execute results = Systematic personality style.

To lead more like Thomas Jefferson, exercise your Direct style. Spend time identifying your organization’s or department’s purpose. Answer the question, “Who do we want to be?” and be able to articulate this answer to employees and customers alike. Consider what untapped potential exists in your area that you could turn into a new opportunity.

To lead more like Franklin Roosevelt, bring out your Spirited style. Most people would agree that the ability to motivate others is a vital aspect of leadership. Effective motivation involves taking the time to recognize an individual employee’s personality style and the particular circumstances that encourage and inspire him or her. One person may thrive on public praise (typically the Spirited style) while another would like nothing more than to be handed a brand-new project and told to “run with it” (typically the Direct style).

To lead more like Abe Lincoln, draw on your Considerate style. Focus on supporting and developing your employees. This is most often accomplished by acting as a coach. Remember that effective coaching is built on a foundation of trust and rapport, so start there, working on building trust and increasing rapport with your staff. Then, offer feedback that is specific, relevant, and balanced—that is, be sure to offer at least as much positive feedback as negative, if not more.

To lead more like George Washington, engage your Systematic style. Vision, motivation, and coaching are pointless if the organization doesn’t achieve its desired results. A key to help you accomplish your desired results is to establish performance standards. Performance standards help ensure that everyone shares a common understanding of exactly what is to be accomplished by when. Ideally, performance standards should be written and should describe measurable behaviors and actions required to complete the work, along with timelines for each action.

Put it all together by completing this activity: Write down one behavior or activity from each style that you will commit to doing or improving in order to boost your leadership skills.