My family and I lived in Richmond Virginia for several years. Richmond is centrally located between many of America’s founding cities. We were just a few hours to the east of Williamsburg, a few hours south of Washington DC, and a few hours west of Monticello. Weekends and summer vacations were spent seeing history first hand while we learned more about the people of these great generations.
There was something for the entire family to enjoy on each trip. My children were in grade school and we could all see the pages of their history books come alive. My daughter became interested in the American Girls Collection of dolls, books and movies. One doll in particular, Felicity, was set in Williamsburg during the Revolution. The books we read and movies we watched were very realistic. For me, I couldn’t get enough information on the leaders who formed of our country.
General George Washington; known to his soldiers as His Excellency, was an imposing figure on top of his horse. He commanded the respect of his ragtag band of pioneers that we know as the Continental Army, and they followed him tirelessly. Why? He never accepted defeat as the end; just a step to on the path to victory.
Thomas Jefferson was a lifelong learner and educator. He sold his collection of more than six thousand books to the Library of Congress in 1814 when a fire destroyed the Government’s collection. Jefferson spoke five languages and studied many disciplines including science and architecture. His interest in education led him to found the University of Virginia. One of the tour guides at his home in Monticello remarked that Jefferson didn’t welcome visitors unless they came to teach him something or learn something from him.
Ben Franklin influenced many leaders through his willingness to share his knowledge. He left his mark in print as the publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette and the author of Poor Richard’s Almanac among many other writings. He also spread his wisdom through mentoring as he gave advice to Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence and visited George Washington on the battle field of the Revolution.
Gilbert Lafayette, better known as The Marquis de Lafayette, was a selfless protector of freedom who sailed from France at his own expense to join Washington on the battlefield of the American Revolution. He commanded three regimens and was instrumental in the final battle that resulted in Cornwallis’ surrender.
These are only a few of the many people who inspiration and action helped form the United States of America. With my study of each leader I had one more example of success to follow. Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow said “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you are likely to perceive every problem as a nail.”
As leaders, we need to fill our tool belt of leadership with as many tools as you can hold. I have found that no matter how many examples of great leadership I add to my tool belt, there always seems to be room for more. I challenge myself to find one new tool each day and test it out before the day is over. You may be surprised to find that if you would take this challenge yourself, the leadership tools seem to appear everywhere, and the opportunities to put them in practice are endless.