One of the characteristics of a truly great leader is that (s)he has the ability to put the interests of the group or association ahead of his or her own needs.
Case in point – The 1912 US Presidential election. Theodore Roosevelt (one of the most popular and successful Presidents in history) served as President from 1903 until 1908. In 1908, TR decided not to run for re-election. Instead, he desired to go Big Game hunting in Africa. Being so popular, Roosevelt was virtually able to hand the presidency over to his good friend and designated successor, William H. Taft. After Taft’s four years of office, TR felt the urge to return to the White House and assert his “claim” to the presidency and asked Taft to step aside for the election of 1912.
Unfortunately, Taft was not ready to leave office after one term. He did not want to be viewed by historians as the man who kept the office warm for TR for four years. As a result, the two became embattled rivals for the Republican nomination in 1912. As the story goes, largely due to the fact that he was President, Taft successfully gained the nomination. However, Roosevelt and his supporters refused to accept the Party’s choice and went off to form a rival Republican faction to be known as the Bull Moose Party. Each man campaigned vigorously, TR a favorite amongst the people and Taft a favorite of those in power.
The winner of the election of 1912?… Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic nominee. Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican ticket, opening the door for Wilson’s victory. While each claimed to be a leader of the Republicans, each man, concerned with his own needs rather than the group, led to their Party’s defeat.
Do you have the ability to recognize whether or not your actions suit your needs or the needs of your organization?
A Great Error by a Great Leader: Theodore Roosevelt's Leadership Mistake