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Happy Birthday Millard Fillmore: “The Accidental President”

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Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

~ Calvin Coolidge

Jefferson: Some Final Thoughts.

Like any leader, Jefferson had to pick his battles. As a young man he boldly chose to join the political assault on slavery. He assumed leadership and was the very person who might have had the convictions and political skills to wage a formidable attack on slavery in America. But he was compromised by his own prejudices and fears. He abdicated that leadership and retreated.

Many of his contemporaries and numerous Americans since have condemned Jefferson for that move. Many others have concluded that he did all he could do given the times in which he lived. But despite the debate over his legacy, there will always be much to learn from Thomas Jefferson—whether he is impressing us with his brilliance or disappointing us with his failures.

  • Be willing to sacrifice. Leadership doesn’t come freely or easily.
  • Assuming a leadership role means that you will be judged; you will be tested. Your courage will be measured. Meet that challenge.
  • Refuse to abdicate your leadership.
  • Leaders are often required to stand on their principles—so protect them. Do not compromise your integrity for ease or comfort.
  • What criteria do you use to pick your battles as a leader? Do you pick the fights you think you can win or the ones that should be fought regardless of the chances of victory?
  • Walk the walk—it’s that simple. You weaken your position as a leader when your actions don’t match your words.
  • Be wary of rationalizations that mask the abuse of power. They can discredit your leadership and damage your legacy.

~ Coy Barefoot, Thomas Jefferson on Leadership

Jefferson the Warrior: Some Final Thoughts.

We have seen him (Thomas Jefferson) endure humiliating public defeat, failure, and intense personal sorrow. We have watched him tumble into the pit of despair and bitterness. But as Jefferson’s life would show, defeat is never an end for great leaders but merely the prologue to an as yet unwritten chapter of victory.

  • People need to be reminded that they are important and that their contributions really do matter. It’s the duty of a leader to make sure their actions are appreciated and their sacrifices make sense.
  • When the going gets tough and you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, ask yourself, What do I do best? What are my talents? Am I putting them to work to win this victory? Figure out how your talents can contribute to realizing the goals of your team, and put that plan into action without delay.
  • Information is the greatest resource. Good leaders make every effort to ensure that they have access to the most timely and reliable information possible.
  • Even in times of profound struggle leaders do not forget the big picture. No matter how many battles have been lost, the war can still be won.
  • Leadership can be terribly lonely and intensely frustrating. You may get criticism for failing when you were expecting praise for trying.
  • Responsibility is not always convenient, nor is it easy. At times, being a leader will demand everything you’ve got, and then some. It will push you physically and emotionally, and force you to discover a fortitude you may not have known you possessed.
  • Just because you have enjoyed past successes does not mean you are invincible. Unforeseen circumstances can appear to overwhelm you with incredible odds. How you respond at these times will determine what kind of a leader you really are. Adversity is the ultimate test of real leadership.
  • Where is your Monticello? All leaders need a safe haven to which they can go to nourish their spirits and rest.
  • In the face of defeat, throw yourself into work that you are good at and truly enjoy. This will renew your confidence and strength.

~ Coy Barefoot, Thomas Jefferson on Leadership


A leader relies on the regular flow of intelligence. It’s an absolute must. Without up-to-date information from reliable sources, leaders are stripped of their abilities to make quality decisions. They are relegated to guesswork and playing catch-up—a game that cannot be won.

~ Coy Barefoot, Thomas Jefferson on Leadership

People need to be reminded that they are important and that their contributions really do matter. They also need to be reminded on a regular basis what they’re fighting for—especially when times are hard. And every effort that they make, no matter how small, needs to be met with grateful appreciation. It’s the duty of a leader to make sure all these things are done.

~ Coy Barefoot, Thomas Jefferson on Leadership

The Founding Fathers on Leadership – Turn a Negative into a Positive                                 

  • When the competition thinks you’re down for the count, you have an opportunity to achieve a major victory.
  • March while the competition is sleeping.
  • Ride to the front and motion for the troops to follow.
  • Rest when necessary, but stay close to the competition so as to keep a watchful eye on their actions.
  • There is a three-to-one advantage in favor of the proactive party.
  • Constantly communicate your situation to those who may render support.
  • Stick around when others flee. Stay near the action.
  • Keep a sense of humor, even during the worst moments of crisis.
  • Share the hardships of the people you lead.
  • Fight for your honor when it is attacked.
  • Pull together as a team and take responsibility for your own situation.
  • Combine an optimistic attitude with a grounded reality in what the situation is—and what must be done to rectify it.
  • Never give up hope.

~ Donald T. Phillips, The Founding Fathers on Leadership

The Founding Fathers on Leadership – Travel With Troops                                          

  • Hold regular, informal gatherings that provide enjoyable opportunities for immediate and continuous personal communications
  • Remember that two-way communication has a tendency to create and strengthen emotional bonds.
  • To form a just idea, you must be on the spot.
  • Keep people out of trouble by keeping them busy.
  • Link your mission to a greater cause. Provide people with a broader understanding of what they are really fighting for.
  • Lead by example.
  • When in a desperate situation, head down to the river and personally supervise the entire operation.
  • Retreat when you must. Live to fight another day.
  • During periods of relative inactivity, harass.
  • Ride to the sounds of guns.
  • The more frequent the human contact, the more progress will be achieved.
  • When outnumbered, keep at a distance. Neither fight nor totally run away.

~ Donald T. Phillips, The Founding Fathers on Leadership

The Founding Fathers on Leadership – First Listen, Then Communicate               

  • Communicate your message with simplicity, consistently, and clarity.
  • Communicate in total, without filters or editing. Provide a forum where people can hear the message together and discuss it together.
  • Bring people together from distant regions helps to bridge gaps in communication.
  • A primary element in your overall strategy should involve disseminating and receiving timely information.
  • Be a frequent reader of the controversial literature of the day.
  • You do not need to speak for more than ten minutes at a time, nor to any but the main point.
  • Do not act without asking, Take time to verify key information.
  • Listen, then speak; follow, then lead.
  • When things look darkest, stay optimistic and positive; plan on offensive.
  • Create “flying camps” in your organization.
  • Work by day, think by night.
  • Remember that one inspiring communication can turn the tide.

~ Donald T. Phillips, The Founding Fathers on Leadership

Manageable, short-term goals focus our attention and efforts. Leaders appreciate and make clear the link between these goals and the long-term rewards that will results.

~ Coy Barefoot, Thomas Jefferson on Leadership (2002)