[December 8, 2015] Largely unknown to the American public is that Theodore Roosevelt – once a U.S. president, war hero, and educated man – was also a creative writer. He wrote on a variety of topics but especially on military history, politics, and how personal effort will turn to success. No book he produced was on the topic of leadership but it’s conceptually woven throughout the fabric of everything he wrote.
There are more than 35 books, as well as numerous essays and speeches, and countless letters, making him one of the most prolific presidents in U.S. history.1 He was known to give guidance, especially to his family, and believed in the principle to lead by example. Leadership was the foundation of anything of importance.
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was defined by his character and that meant that anyone willing to consistently work hard, be dedicated to his family, be quietly religious, and willing to help others was a man of greatness. Physical activity, tenacity, drive, determination, friendship, compassion, mutual respect are just a few of those things he admired in others and were fundamental to great leadership.
“Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Action is more important than words. Critically for any leader is to possess an unlimited supply of infectious optimism and the ability to get things done. Roosevelt believed the best leaders were well educated academically but well-grounded in relevant experience. Those leaders without a studied background and who had not seen the “fight from the trenches” were not seeing the entire picture and doomed to miss opportunity and fall to mediocrity.
How this came together can be illustrated by his views on U.S. foreign policy. Politically, Roosevelt believed that it was crucial as a nation to act with diplomacy while maintaining a powerful military and possessing the will to use it. Often called “speak softly and carry a big stick” foreign policy, Roosevelt was a practical man if nothing else.
His secret however was that a great leader must have the underlying will of his fellow men to get things done. This is what helped make Teddy Roosevelt’s mark on history … he got things done.
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