I recently had the privilege of visiting the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Brach, Iowa, and I took the opportunity to learn some leadership lessons from our 31st president.
Herbert Hoover was a man of action. When he saw a need, he took action to meet it; when he saw a wrong, he did his best to rectify it. Hoover didn’t wait to see if someone else would take care of it – he recognized need and took initiative to resolve it. Hoover was responsive.
As Hoover exemplified, those in leadership respond to the needs of people. Many leaders go through years of training in order to enable themselves to meet the needs and improve the wellbeing of others. Though initially other motivations may exist, it is only the sincere desire to help people that can inspire the kind of dedication and perseverance required to be an effective and inspiring leader.
In addition to being responsive, Hoover was also understanding and compassionate. Though later in life he became a millionaire, Hoover was born into poverty and orphaned as a young boy. It was only through hard work and determination that he was able to make a better life for himself. Because of his personal experience with poverty and hardships as a boy, Hoover empathized with the less fortunate. Turning his attention to the woes of the world, Hoover used his wealth and influence to become an international humanitarian; under his charge, millions of starving men, women and children were fed and lives saved.
It is only with a certain degree of understanding and empathy that leaders are able to daily give careful attention to the lives and wellbeing of those they lead. Leadership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. With daily pressures and high-stress, it becomes too easy for leaders to get caught up in what tasks lie before them, and they fail to pay attention to those they should be leading. It is often easier to just “do-it-yourself” than teach and coach others to improve and accomplish what needs to be done. However, understanding, empathy and careful attention are essentials for the sustained effectiveness of a leader. Successful leaders are those who are determined to not let busyness overshadow their understanding and attention to those they are leading.
With great determination and effort, Herbert Hoover rose from the depths of poverty to the heights of wealth, and on to what could be considered the pinnacle of success – attaining the American presidency. Though the circumstances of the Great Depression caused Hoover’s presidency to be grim and short-lived, Hoover didn’t quit. Down but not out, his determination and quiet perseverance enabled him to overcome significant hardships and setbacks and again achieve success during his post-presidency years; Hoover helped his nation and millions more people around the world as he continued his gallant humanitarianism and public service.
In any field, leaders must possess dogged determination and perseverance in order to achieve results. Every day new challenges arise, and leaders must not give up. Though they will likely encounter innumerable hardships, challenges and setbacks, effective leaders show great determination and dedication to teaching, coaching, and leading others.
How about you? As a leader, I hope you, like Hoover, are responsive, understanding, and determined.