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What can we learn from great leaders from the past?

Winston Churchill once emphasised, “Study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft.” From military generals to industrial magnates, history showcases exemplary leadership skills. Interestingly, most online searches for ‘historical leaders’ highlight male figures. While recognising this gender bias is essential, our focus today is to unpack the traits of some renowned leaders.


Henry Ford: An Ambiguous Icon

Despite his controversial beliefs, Henry Ford epitomised entrepreneurial spirit. Treating employees as partners and empowering them, he displayed exceptional emotional intelligence. He believed in living in the present, but his leadership lessons are timeless.


Charisma and Substance

Leaders need charisma, but it’s effective only when combined with ethical integrity. As St. Vincent remarked about Admiral Nelson’s influence, charisma alone doesn’t make a great leader. A concoction of diverse traits defines leadership.


Essential Leadership Qualities:

  • Inspiring Persistence: As Edison’s journey with the lightbulb teaches, persistence is about learning from failures and adjusting our approaches.
  • Political Awareness: Understanding global perspectives aids decision-making. As F. Scott Fitzgerald pointed out, great intelligence can hold two opposing views simultaneously.
  • Empathy: Leaders benefit from understanding diverse experiences, as demonstrated by the reverse mentoring approach of Virgin Atlantic’s ex-CEO, Craig Kreeger.
  • Timed Unreasonableness: Knowing when to challenge the status quo, as George Bernard Shaw suggests, can spark progress.
  • Energy: Leaders like Churchill and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria exhibit the importance of presence, determination, and leading by example.
  • A Strong Memory: Effective leadership entails remembering details that matter to others.
  • Luck: While luck seems intangible, it might be more about an optimistic outlook, as Teddy Roosevelt’s survival story hints.
  • Steady Nerves: Rosa Parks exemplified calmness during adversity, influencing monumental change.
  • Strategic Planning: As Churchill and Eisenhower stated, the process of planning is more crucial than the plan itself.

Adding to these qualities, self-belief stands out as a pivotal trait, inspiring and motivating those we lead.

History isn’t “bunk” as Ford claimed. Reflecting on past leaders shapes our understanding of present-day leadership and influences our legacy.

Will future generations recognize you as a historical leader?

Ready to Lead Like the Greats?

History has given us a blueprint for outstanding leadership. Why not take that knowledge and apply it to your own leadership journey? Join us for our transformative training programs, where you’ll gain the tools and insights to shape the next generation of great leaders. Book your spot now and step into your leadership potential.

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