Any leader aspiring to greatness must do two things, and he must do them not just at supreme moments or occasionally but all the time. Of course, there are many other things a leader must do, but these are the two that matter most: to listen and to tell the truth (Paul Johnson, Forbes Magazine).
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it! Yet, as renowned historian Paul Johnson highlights in his Forbes Magazine column, these are rare individual traits, and even rarer in combination. He does go on to tell some entertaining (and challenging) stories about past Presidents, that Pastors could do well to learn from. Here are my three favorites:
George Washington listened all his life because he loved to learn and because he had no overwhelming desire to speak, unlike most of those in public life. One passion a leader should forgo, if possible, is a love affair with his own voice…Washington, happily, liked the sound of his own silence…When I was writing my book George Washington, I failed to come across any occasion when he had deliberately concealed the truth from anyone who had a right to know it.
Calvin Coolidge…was aptly called “Silent Cal.” He listened courteously to all his visitors but would not be drawn out. He said: “Nine-tenths of a President’s callers at the White House want something they ought not to have. If you keep dead still they will run down in three or four minutes.” So Coolidge would remain mute. Slight twitches of his facial muscles spoke for him. He was described as “an eloquent listener.” When he did speak, however, it was the truth.
Considering all he had to do and say, Abraham Lincoln spoke amazingly little. As he put it, “I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.” His Gettysburg Address is a classic instance–there is none better in history–of using as few words as possible (261, to be precise) while conveying a powerful message….Lincoln always endeavored to tell the truth and to ensure that all heard it by clothing it in arresting language.
Read the whole article here.