Byron's Babbles

President’s Day Rushmorean Leadership

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 18, 2013


All of us have either seen or at least seen pictures of the famous sculpture done between October 4, 1927, and October 31, 1941 by Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers. They sculpted the colossal 60 foot (18 m) high carvings of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.

Although faced with different challenges and employing different styles, they all had certain values that they never compromised or lost sight of-such as integrity, trust and respect for followers. They exemplify values-based leadership.

Here’s why I believe they were great choices:

George Washington

Washington was a skillful visionary leader. This type of leader is an expert in designing and creating an organizational culture which will make possible the attainment of the leader’s vision and ideas.

As a visionary leader Washington had a vision into the far future, could develop an effective organization and attracted others to strive for the attainment of his vision so that it became a shared vision and they all worked together in an organization that sustained the vision, its beliefs and its values.

Thomas Jefferson

I believe Jefferson was chosen for his role in authoring the Declaration of Independence, which today some might call an “action statement:” In that declaration Jefferson set out the long-term aspirations of a new nation, and in asserting a natural right to happiness Jefferson meant that all individuals are entitled to make all they can of their lives.

Additionally, with his vision for public education, he understood that all individuals need to learn about democracy. As the father of public education, he set up the avenue by which all young people can become all they can be! As an educational leader I believe it is crucial to be a steward of what Jefferson started!

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is recognized as a transformational leader. He defined numerous aspects of leadership that we now take for granted in the presidency as well as in private life. His inspirational vision about the economy, industry, environmental protection, and the National Parks system is still influencing our great country to this day. He had a remarkable ability to communicate his vision, not only through his well-crafted words, but even more through his indelible example. Roosevelt’s well-publicized, courageous exploits in Cuba in the brief but deadly Spanish-American War of 1898—the fateful days he viewed as the linchpin of his life—are perhaps the most apt symbol of his leadership. Roosevelt, mounted on horseback in front of his troops, showed the way—asking others to “come” rather than saying “go” in the words of his friend Henry Cabot Lodge—putting himself at risk, making himself accountable, giving more of himself than he would ask of others. I have always said that we must walk arm in arm with others, even pulling them along at times, instead of pushing!

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln created a true learning organization where those in his administration were free to disagree without fear of retaliation. At the same time, he knew when to stop the discussion and after listening to the various opinions, make a final decision.

When there was success, Lincoln shared the credit with all of those involved. Conversely, when there was failure, Lincoln took all the blame. Lincoln did not fear failure and created an environment where those around could take risks and make decisions without risk or worry of failure.

Finally, the most important thing we can learn from these Presidents is: you don’t have to become someone else or become like someone else to be a leader, you have to just become yourself. Go be the leader you are!

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  1. […] comes one of my favorite activities that I call Rushmorean Leadership which was then followed up by an activity called Extending the Influence. The activity calls for […]


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