Lessons on Leadership from Ulysses S. Grant by Stewart Mednick

by 12 Apr 2010

Ulysses Simpson Grant (April 27, 1822 to July 23, 1885) was the commanding general of the Union Army at the conclusion of the American Civil War, and the 18th President of the United States. First elected in 1868, Grant served two terms from 1869 to 1877. Grant graduated from West Point in 1843. He ranked twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine students. He might not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to academics, but as history unfolded, he is certainly revered today as one of the greatest strategist and leaders in American history. Grant was proof that you need not be of scholarly intelligence to be a great leader, you simply need belief in yourself and in the people who surround you.

I want to explore a bit of leadership logic and application from a great American that can be used not only in the mortgage and real estate business, but in any situation in life where decisions and actions need to be pointed and swift. Grant demonstrated that to be a leader, one needs to know who you are, what you believe, and where you want to take people. He understood that leadership is the liberation of talent. Grant fully empowered his subordinate commanders and placed a high degree of trust in them. He understood that if people believe they are not trusted, they will never function at full capacity.
A large part of Grant’s success was that he was sharply focused and value-based. He always asked two simple questions: What is our purpose? What is our strategy to accomplish that purpose? Grant’s thinking took the form of a trilogy: Is it simple? Does it make sense? Will it work? The bottom line and the lines above and below the bottom line were, Will what we do help us to win? Grant always seemed to know what were the issues and problems. He had, as most great leaders do, a keen ability to deal with reality. Grant was unaffected by opinion. He dealt with the facts. He was undismayed by disaster and faced his work with great courage and hope. These were perhaps his greatest leadership characteristics, because all other distinguishing traits depend on them.
When you get under the skin of a true leader, you find true grit. Grant had strength of purpose, integrity, and the ability to make tough decisions and that he could live with the consequences. He made mistakes, but he admitted them. He refused to be intimidated, realizing that an intimidated chief can never be a great leader because one needs an independent mind to make the right decisions. Not everyone agreed with Grant, but self-confidence is a part of leadership at every level.
Grant developed and utilized a very logical but potent approach to solving problems and making decisions. First, he would determine what the problem is. Believe it or not, fifty percent of solving a problem is determining the problem. Many times, we focus on the symptoms and not the root cause. Once the problem is determined, the resolution options need to be figured out. A list of possible directions for how to cure the issue should be drawn. Many times, the options will be varied depending on what outcome is required. So based on the desired outcome, a plan of action is then developed to execute the selected option for problem resolution. The final step is to act on the selected plan.

Grant was a great man. He was an average man as well. He enjoyed his cigars, whiskey, and strategy sessions. If I were asked to summarize the attributes of Grant as a leader, I would simply say, authentic.
Take a lesson from the life of Ulysses S Grant, and implement something in your everyday life that may make your decision-making prowess a bit more successful and effective.

Stewart Mednick is a seasoned mortgage banker and published author. His writing focuses on relationship development, personal empowerment, customer satisfaction, marketing and sales techniques. Stewart is available for marketing consulting, personal coaching and training sessions. If you have a comment or a question for Stewart, contact him at 651-895-5122 or smednick1@netzero.net


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