We spend a lot of effort and energy attempting to define leadership and the characteristics of a good leader. I have always felt that history is one of the best teachers. More than 40 years ago, President Kennedy spoke about his vision of what makes a true leader by asking 4 basic questions. I have had this quote posted or around my desk for the better part of my career and have always done my best to live up to the ideals so clearly identified in his vision. It is plainly evident to me that when we see leaders who are not successful or who are facing difficulty in creating the environments they want, whether at work or elsewhere, we can look to these questions and almost invariably find the flaws in their behavior.
“When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state,
our success or failure in whatever office we may hold will be measured by the answers to four questions:
– First, were we truly people of courage – with the courage to stand up to our enemies and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to our own associates?
– Secondly, were we truly people of judgment of the future as well as the past – of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others – with enough wisdom to know what we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?
– Third, were we truly people of integrity – who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the people who believed in them?
– Finally, were we truly people of dedication, devoted solely to servicing the public good?
Courage – judgment – integrity – dedication.
These are the historic qualities of the leader.”
~ President John F. Kennedy
When you are called upon to lead, how will you answer the questions? Will you stand strong with courage, judgment, integrity, and dedication, or will your efforts fall short? Seek every day to reach your highest potential, for yourself and those you work with and you will find that your organizations and your efforts will be more successful, healthy, and built on foundations that can withstand the inevitable changes we all face throughout our careers. Even more importantly, by modeling these qualities, those around you will be inspired to behave in the same way; and isn’t that the sort of place you really want to work?
Contact Touchstone Career Coaching and let our expert coaches help you on your path to mature leadership.