[U.S. Independence Day] What Made the Founders So Special?

It’s easy in troubled times – the Great Depression and World War II in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the late 1960’s and today’s times all come to mind – to wax nostalgic for the "good old days" and the presumed leadership that guided a nation’s people through those times.

Great leadership, whether it’s community or corporate, are leaders who effectively take a community or company from Point A to Point B: Moses, for example, or A. G. Lafley .

While we won’t have any sense of today’s U.S> leadership until much later, it’s pretty clear that most historians regard the leadership in the United States of the late 1960’s – a time of Woodstock, Moon Walk, and Stonewall, as  flawed ("Nixon’s the One"), and extoll the brilliance and effective leadership of people such Franklin Roosevelt and his cabinet , Winston Churchill, and Charles DeGaulle in earlier ’30’s and ’40’s.

One of the things that made the founders of the United States unusual is their background . While – no surprise for those days – they were all male and "Caucasian"- many had a advanced education either through study, church, or applied vocation. And many were active and informed by the towns and cities in which they lived: they were participants, not spectators of the society. And while they were a group that was geographically separated, and without easy or even timely communication, they formed a team of sorts to advance what later became the United States of America.

Communities – whether civic, social, or corporate – form best when their are shared experiences, shared values, or shared goals / aspirations. Part of what made those founders work well together is they had many of all three of those ingredients and the ability to find what was common amongst them, rather than find the differences that divided them.

In "Road Map," an exercise I use with both developed and forming teams, participants workshop four critical elements to their common success: destination, milestones/deliverables, roles and responsibilities, and rules of engagement (group behaviors). The framework provides a way to build community by defining common purpose, clarify values by outlining behaviors, identify objectives to driver performance, and develop or confirm shared experience by common participation.

Great leadership – whether Moses, FDR, or the US Founders – does the same thing: communicating a vision of a destination, defining milestones, engaging in clarity of roles and responsibilities, and outlining the behaviors that are expected of all of us.