A few weeks ago, I went home to Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the reasons why my trip back home was so important this time around was that I went to see a mentor of mine, one of my favorite teachers from McCallie High School, Dr. Michael Woodward, who is retiring after 25+ years of service. He was my American History and AP Government teacher, and his classes meant so much to me growing up. He was, and still is, a huge influence in my life.

As we sat down for a final time together, eating lunch at the Urban Stack, I wanted to interview him about who he thought, through his decades of reading and learning and teaching, was the best example of what being a leader is, one whose life and actions could especially help first-time managers.

He picked Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States. Watch the video to learn why.

Here is a recap of  some of the reasons why he picked FDR:

  • Understanding others – FDR’s ambition came from a desire to understand people, including the poor, downtrodden and those in poverty, which is ironic being that FDR came from tremendous wealth.
  • Empathizing with others – FDR could empathize with people who were down on their luck. The polio he contracted may have actually helped FDR in making those connections.
  • Communication – Polio may also have helped FDR in communication, particularly his nonverbal communication (like head movements and body gestures).
  • Asking the right questions – FDR may not have known the right answers, but he knew the right questions.

Dr. Woodward also pointed out that FDR was not perfect; he had the reputation for being dishonest, and at times it was frustrating working with him. But he was great at connecting with others. The people of the United States thought that FDR was a person that understood them. It’s a good example of the “It’s not me, it’s you” approach.

FDR was an interesting pick, I thought. But as I listened, it brought back so many memories, and I was taking in every word, realizing Dr. Woodward was giving me a last history lecture that I will never forget. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

Now it’s your turn.  Who would you pick if I asked you the same question: who in history do you think is the best example of a leader?  Remember, everyone who comments on all of my Tuesday blog posts in April will be entered to win an autographed copy of my guidebook, Developing Political Savvy!

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