Visions of Greatness (Part 3)

What makes a leader great?

George Washington c. 1772. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia

A great leader has the vision and drive to want to take their organization to a new level, and the skills and charisma to inspire followers who can make that happen. America has been blessed by many great leaders over the years: Washington, Lincoln, FDR. They established and fundamentally transformed our country. Washington was truly an American Cincinnatus. He accepted the role of a military commander-in-chief when the new nation needed an army to challenge England, but then – against all expectations – he resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon after the Revolution succeeded.

Washington’s greatest success, however, wasn’t military. It was his example of personal integrity and disinterest that encouraged his followers to accomplish great things. Leadership is a team sport: no one can do it alone! Early in the war, Henry Knox transported 60 tons of cannon over 300 miles of wilderness to force the British out of Boston. After the war, Washington encouraged both Hamilton and Jefferson to articulate and develop their competing commercial and agrarian visions for America, both of which he saw were essential for the fledgling nation to mature. And after he willingly stepped down from power – for the second time – the US didn’t split into military factions and devolve into civil war.

Henry Knox sledging his cannon. Public Domain. Source: National Archives

Because the greatest measure of any leader is their legacy: not whether they can hand-pick a successor. Any autocrat can exert authority and do that! It’s whether they established the institutions and mores for the organization during their tenure that can carry their vision forward – assuming it’s the right vision, and going forward means moving in the right direction.

Charles de Gaulle supposedly said that the cemeteries are filled with indispensable leaders. That’s of course true. But what he didn’t say is that succession is actually an indispensable part of leadership. Only after they pass on can the world truly take the measure of their greatness – or its lack.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Charter Trust Company

“The Best Trust Company in New England”

By |2018-05-02T09:32:52+00:00May 2nd, 2018|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. - Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all! - And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

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