Four Key Points on Thomas Jefferson and Leadership

Here are the four key points I used yesterday in my session on Jefferson and leadership. As you know, this was my first offering of the session. So, these were the immediate four points that jumped out at me in designing the material. I think you’ll see their immediate relevance to you.

First, Jefferson had extraordinary vision. Your leadership begins with and revolves around a single key trait or feature. For Jefferson, it was vision. He was blessed to be able to see–and want to see–into the future. His experience with vision as a leader showed that you need both a distant point to strive for and a path of pursuit for getting there.

Second, Jefferson had an amazing range of interests. This, like vision, is part of the foundation of his leadership. He was not narrow or restricted in the things where he spent his time and energy. Architecture to archaeology, and darn near everything in between, Jefferson relished doing and acting on many, many things. He’s a great counterweight to our era’s obsession with specialization. His range of interest both enriched the quality of his work for other people and gave him different sources of personal energy.

Third, Jefferson was immersed in big issues, or what I called the tides of life. He studied and reflected on human improvement, the link between the individual and society, and the comparisons with and contrasts between the New and Old Worlds. He wrote about them, developed action for them, and contemplated where they were headed next.

Finally, Jefferson showed the very human failing of a gap between his words and actions. In key areas he didn’t, as we say, walk the talk. He loved liberty but kept slaves. He was gracious and welcoming but held grudges. He liked to see government kept in strict limits but ignored those limits when it suited him. And so on. These gaps did for Jefferson what they do for you and me–they open us up to charges of hypocrisy and cowardice while exposing the people we care about to paying the price for our behavior.

Thomas Jefferson-four points-for now.