JFK clearly understood what it takes to be a great leader

Eugene Adams

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Photo Credit: Cecil Stoughton, White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States. Many people consider him to be one of the best presidents in history.

A 2021 Gallup poll rated him #1 out of all presidents. 70% of respondents rated him as above average or excellent. Meanwhile, only 3% of respondents rated him as below average or poor.

That kind of approval rating is unheard of in today's hyper-polarized political climate. I am sure that living in a less polarized time boosted his popularity somewhat, but that probably isn’t the main reason he remains so popular. His inspiring leadership skills have much more to do with his popularity.

Here are three quotes that show his exceptional understanding of leadership.

Great Leaders Take None of the Credit but All the Blame

“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”-John F. Kennedy

When things go well, everyone wants to take credit. When things go poorly, nobody wants to take the blame. Great leaders understand this and don’t fight it.

Giving others credit when things go well is a great motivational tactic. First of all, it will make people like you, which will make them work harder for you. Second of all, people will be motivated to work harder and get the good feeling of success again.

Taking the blame is great because it gives the people you lead permission to fail. Nobody does their best work when they fear failing. Knowing that you have their back gives them the freedom to take creative risks when appropriate.

It Is Far More Important to Get It Right Than to Be Right

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”-John F. Kennedy

Every leader knows that no matter how well you plan, something will go wrong at some point. When things go wrong, the natural human instinct is to pinpoint who is to blame.

Assigning blame is only helpful to the extent that it can teach someone something. Past that, the blame is counterproductive. The goal is never to make someone feel bad, and the goal is always to solve the problem.

Whether in politics or everyday business, leaders tend to want to be right. They always want to be the person who comes up with the solution to every problem. Leaders must put their egos to the side and search for the best solutions, no matter where they come from.

It’s Never About You

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”-John F. Kennedy

From the moment we are born, we naturally think of ourselves as the center of our universe because we are. But once you accept the responsibility of a leadership role, big or small, your personal goals are no longer important. The only important thing is what you can do to improve your organization.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter what kind of leadership position you are in. Leadership is complex, and there is no one right way to lead, but there is a wrong way.

Leading with your ego is always the wrong strategy.

When you look at the three lessons from this article, you will notice they all have one thing in common.

  • Take the blame, not the credit.
  • Find the right solution, even if it’s not yours.
  • It’s never about you.

All three of these lessons have to do with putting your ego aside. The goals of the group you are leading have to be more important than your ego. JFK understood this concept well, which is why people remember him as one of our best presidents.

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Certified Personal Trainer | Certified ESL Teacher |I mostly write about all things Southern California, but I also cover national topics.

Los Angeles, CA
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