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Revolutionary Leaders:

Revolutionary Leaders: America's Founding Fathers

Leadership Lessons from the Legends of Change Leadership:

"Men make history...not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."

—Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President (1945–1953)

In a chaotic world of rapid, revolutionary change, learning to adapt, manage and lead the change process is essential to survival. History is spilling over with the bones and unmarked tombstones of leaders who failed to anticipate and adapt to change. And, yet, the rate and magnitude of change that the world is being hurled through today is unlike anything humankind has ever before experienced. Wisdom, agility, and expertise in the area of change leadership are as essential to leaders today as a reliable map and navigational tools are to the sailor. All leaders must learn to navigate change, but all of the truly great leaders today are masters of leading change, revolutionary change. Whether international, institutional or organizational change, a mass movement, a world-wide protest, or a nonviolent revolution; learning to lead and organize people and resources around a constructive, creative, and dynamic shared vision of change is indispensable to success.

By drawing on the legends of change leadership, the world's great revolutionary change leaders, we can begin to identify the principles and patterns that all significant change, all movements and revolutions, share in common. By drawing out the stories of these masters of change and revolution, by tapping into their experience and insights, we can uncover the wisdom and discover the secrets to helping a rich variety of leaders—from entrepreneurs who are seeking to build momentum around a new product or innovation to protestors seeking to alter society's rules of the game to political leaders seeking elected office or even a chance at winning the White House.

With the ultimate hope and determination to build a better life and a better world, the lessons we can learn from the legends of revolutionary change leadership are indispensable to our success. As Niccolò Machiavelli said: "Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results."

Please have a look around, read through some of the lessons learned from the famous revolutionary leaders listed below and—if you're serious about leading change—join our email list, get involved in our community, follow us on Twitter, and learn more about our new book (Coming soon!) on revolutionary leadership.

Moses the Great Leader of the Jewish People in Egypt

Moses: Leadership Lessons from the Lawgiver

Moses (13th/12 cent. B.C.)—launched a revolt against the Egyptian Pharaoh, leading his people out of Egypt.

  6 Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Moses:  (Click Here)
  1. Discover your purpose and find the courage to see it through: More than anything else, it was God's purpose for Moses' life that made him a great leader. And when he found the courage to face the Pharaoh and lead his people out of Egypt, the historians began to write his name in the books.
  2. Deal with the Issues: Moses had many shortcomings and because he was slow to deal with them he created problems for himself and his people that he might have easily averted. He also missed out on some great opportunities (e.g. seeing the Promised Land) because of his impatience.
  3. When you fail, learn from your mistakes and move on: One of the things that stands out from a study of many successful leaders, including Moses, is how many times they screwed up. In some cases, the critical blunders and serious errors in judgment that famous leaders have made is simply unbelievable . Yet, because they were intent to recover, they almost always did. Think of how President Clinton actually gained seats in Congress after the Lewinsky affair or think of the fiasco that President Kennedy created with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Look into the past of any of the legends of leadership and you will almost always find more than a handful of so-called "career killers"—things that we might think would destroy their ability to lead. It is often said that the skeletons in our closet, along with the increasingly intense and intrusive scrutiny of the media, keeps good people from running for office, but perhaps it is more of a lack of courage and resilience.
  4. Accept people as they are, but work to bring out the best in them: Moses had to deal with a great many bitter, unhappy people; but rather than focusing on the complaints, Moses focused on developing and delegating to the talented few with the right attitude to help him lead the nation.
  5. Find the courage to confront your enemies: When God told Moses that he had to confront the Pharaoh, Moses balked. He was afraid and he quickly started coming up with excuses. And Moses had good reason to be afraid too. The renowned early 19th English preacher and Biblical scholar, Arthur Walkington Pink, writes: "His temper toward their race was well known, his heartless cruelty had been frequently displayed; it was, therefore, no small trial of their faith and courage to beard the lion in his den. The character of the message they were to deliver to him was not calculated to pacify." Despite the apparent absurdity of God's request, Moses and Aaron followed through and as a result of their courage a new nation was born.
  6. Never attempt to do it alone; build a reliable team: Not only did Moses have Aaron to help him lead and share in the responsibilities, but Moses also learned—thanks to his father-in-law, Jethro—of the importance of sharing and delegating the work to a team.

Change Leadership Lessons from Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great: Leadership Lessons from the King of Persia

Cyrus the Great (c. 600-530 B.C.)—founder of the Achaemenid Empire; a great conqueror, but most often remembered for uniting different tribes (the Medes and the Persians), his legacy in human rights, and for his religious tolerance, magnanimity and generosity toward those he conquered.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Cyrus the Great:   (Click Here)
  1. Respect the Customs and Cultures of Others: In stark contrast to the dogmatic, fundamentalist leaders often found in the region today, Cyrus the Great was renowned not just for his tolerance of other peoples and their beliefs, but for his respect and magnanimity toward others, including the people of the Jewish faith, who referred to Cyrus as "the anointed of the Lord."

Leadership Lessons from the Buddha
[Photo: Purshi]

Siddhartha Gautama: Leadership Lessons from Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama "Buddha"(563-483 B.C.)—founder of Buddhism

  8 Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from the Buddha:   (Click Here)
  1. Get your thinking right first: "All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become."
  2. Be willing to make big sacrifices: The Buddha was a wealthy prince, Siddhartha Gautama, who gave up everything to seek wisdom and understanding.
  3. Take action: "An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea."
  4. Persevere: Striving toward "impossible" goals (e.g. enlightenment) takes time and persistence.
  5. Live the example you want your people to emulate:
  6. Delegate:
  7. Live true to your principles: The Buddha taught ten principles that leaders should live by: integrity, selflessness, self-restraint, patience, tranquility, virtue, non-violence, affability, balance, and resolve.
  8. Leaders develop leaders: The Buddha worked to teach his followers the lessons and principles they needed to learn and flourish.

Leadership Lessons from Hannibal
[Photo: Loicwood]

Hannibal: Leadership Lessons from the Military Genius of Carthage

Hannibal Barca(247-183 B.C.)—One of the most revolutionary military minds of ancient history, Hannibal of Carthage, rejecting the punitive terms of the First Punic War and the hegemony of the Roman Republic, led a vast army (beginning with nearly 90,000 men), including cavalry and war elephants, in what was believed to be an impossible feat of crossing the Alps to invade the Italian peninsula by land and bring an end to the imperial ambitions of Rome.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Hannibal:   (Click Here)
  1. Aim for Ambitious Goals and Determine to Achieve Them: Even today, Hannibal is considered one of the greatest military minds of history. But he is most often remembered for the single achievement of bringing an army across the Alps to invade Italy. The Romans considered such an endeavor to be impossible and were, thus, unprepared when it happened. In fact, the Romans were not the only ones to think that an invasion through the Alps was impossible. When Hannibal's own generals said that it could not be done, Hannibal responded: "I will find a way, or make one."

Leadership Lessons from Spartacus
[Photo: Denis Foyatier]

Spartacus: Leadership Lessons from the Slave Gladiator

Spartacus (109-71 B.C.)—Formerly a militia leader who later fought in the Roman army, Spartacus was imprisoned and sold into slavery where he became a gladiator. Spartacus and a group of other slaves soon escaped and eventually led a major revolt against Rome in the Third Servile War.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Spartacus:   (Click Here)
  1. Spend Time and Effort Earning Respect: When Spartacus realized that Rome was choosing enemies primarily out of greed and pride and its hunger for perpetual war, he deserted. Unfortunately, this was against the laws of Rome and because Spartacus was so highly respected amongst the men, the Roman leaders felt compelled to hunt him down and make an example of him, lest other soldiers might follow his lead. This same respect, however, would later serve him during the uprising, helping him to keep the men together, helping him to build up an army, and helping his story to gain currency with the citizens of Rome. If Spartacus had not gained the respect of so many, his story would not have been possible, nor would it have traveled so far.
  2. Study the Weakness of Opponents: When Spartacus served with the Roman legions he was unimpressed. The pay and employment security was good, but he quickly realized and reflected on the many weaknesses of the army and its leadership. In time, his understanding of their weaknesses, including their rigid rules of engagement and their voracious appetite for war, would be a critical weapon that he would use against them.
  3. Use Strategy to Build Strength: Facing the Roman legions who were sent out to contain the uprising, Spartacus and his original army of former slaves (less than 2,000 men) were outnumbered by more than twenty to one. But by using guerilla tactics and carefully planned strategies, Spartacus was able to use small groups of men, often as few as 100, to destroy as many as 3,000 Romans in a single skirmish. Spartacus understood that a smart strategy can trump superior size.
  4. Learn to Build an Army: When Spartacus and the other slaves first escaped and set up camp outside the walls of Rome, their numbers totaled 70. In less than two years, Spartacus grew the small uprising into a full-fledged fighting force, a revolutionary army of over 100,000 soldiers. With this, the story of a small slave uprising transformed into a national movement, threatening the security of Rome.

Leadership Lessons from Julius Caesar
[Photo: JoJan]

Julius Caesar: Leadership Lessons from the "Dictator for Life"

Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.)—primarily responsible for transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire

  8 Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Julius Caesar:   (Click Here)
  1. Demonstrate Results Repeatedly: Winning once is cool. Winning frequently attracts willing followers. This is a lesson for President Obama. He achieved a well-deserved victory in 2008. Like all leaders, however, he needs to continue to produce results to maintain his leadership.
  2. Learn from Experience: Julius Caesar had years of experience fighting with the legionnaires. He didn't learn to be a great military leader from a philosopher or a book, but from hard experience. And he didn't merely live the experience without learning the lessons and taking stock. Many people go through long years of powerful experiences and walk away none the wiser. Take time to reflect, journal and learn from your experience. In the words of Shakespeare's Caesar, "Experience is the teacher of all things."
  3. Expect the Best and Respond in Kind: Julius Caesar had the highest expectations of himself and his people. And he treated his people with respect and great generosity. He wanted their all and when they met his expectations he rewarded them beyond measure.
  4. Be Decisive: It is important to make decisions and stick with them. Julius Caesar did this well. However, this is also an area where he failed. He made many bad decisions because his focus was too narrow (on his own individual interests—back to the out-of-control ambition) and he failed to understand the reality of the big picture.

COUNTERPUNCH: Leadership Lessons from Julius Caesar's Mistakes and Failures—
  1. Leadership, Not Control: Rather than leading people, he sought to control them and he was assassinated as a result. When he led the army as a hero, he did well. When he tried to rule the Senate with an iron fist he paid the ultimate price of failure: death.
  2. Control Your Ambition: Julius Caesar refused to settle for second best. His ambition was a strength and a weaknesses. We admire his strength and will to rise to the top, but his methods crossed the line and for that he paid the ultimate price. Ambition can be good, unbridled ambition is a grenade without the pin.
  3. Listen to the People: Troubling signs were all around him, yet Caesar lacked the humility to listen and learn from those around him—even those, like his own wife (who, in Shakespeare's telling, dreamed that Caesar's statue gushed with blood "like a fountain with an hundred spouts…[while] many lusty Romans came smiling and did bathe their hands in it." Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar (Act 2, Scene II).
  4. Share Power: Concerned only with his own selfish ambition, Julius Caesar cared nothing for the Roman Republic. Had he been a truly great leader, he would of understood the need to share power and he would of worked to build a legacy not just for himself, but for Rome.

Leadership Lessons from Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ: Leadership Lessons from the Prince of Peace

Jesus Christ (0-33)—The most influential and transformational leader that ever lived; the impact Christ has had on the world is difficult to comprehend. His most revolutionary impact is in the lives of His followers.

  3 Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Jesus:   (Click Here)
  1. Develop a Servant's Heart (Servant Leadership): Above all Jesus focused on serving others. The indelible metaphor is when Jesus washed the apostles feet. Robert Greenleaf wrote an excellent book on this topic: Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.
  2. Be a Leader of Leaders (Transformational Leadership): For all his greatness, Jesus' central focus was on developing his followers into leaders. He was constantly pouring into them and preparing them to lead.
  3. Adopt a Transcendent Vision: One of the greatest lessons from Christ's leadership is the importance of a grand, compelling, visionary purpose. Jesus did not think small or short-term. Too many leaders today focus on shallow goals and quarterly targets and these men and women are quickly forgotten. The great leaders—even when they are focused on short-term goals or immediate crises—always possess a profound and inspiring vision of the distant future, a vision that reaches beyond their own individual concerns and selfish interests "to the broader concerns of all humanity." (MLK)

Leadership Lessons from the Revolutionary Leadership of Constantine the Great

Constantine: Leadership Lessons from Saint Constantine the Great

Constantine the Great (280-337)—Roman emperor who converted to Christianity and led a movement for religious tolerance.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Constantine the Great:   (Click Here)
  1. Seek Truth and Tolerance: Most people today mistakenly believe that "tolerance" means keeping quiet about any of our spiritual or religious beliefs. And though it would be far better if we could all share openly and respectfully (the former Dean of Harvard Divinity School has written an excellent book on this topic: Religion in Public Life: A Dilemma for Democracy.), perhaps the most important thing is that leaders continue to be true to themselves and guided by the sacred wisdom and time-tested principles of their faith. In this respect, Constantine sets a powerful example. He followed his faith and demonstrated tolerance for the faith of others. In fact, Constantine went so far to sign the Edict of Milan, a proclamation that declared religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire.

Leadership Lessons from the Revolutionary Leadership of Charlemagne, Charles the Great

Charlemagne: Leadership Lessons from Charles the Great

Charlemagne (742-814)—conquered and consolidated much of Western and Central Europe.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Charlemagne:   (Click Here)
  1. Seek Progress Through Unity: Charlemagne was born during the Dark Ages, a few centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. Europe was in a state of chaos with scores of barbarian tribes battling one another, raping and pillaging peaceful peoples, and striving for supremacy. Charlemagne had a bigger vision. His purpose was not to dominate other kingdoms merely for his own selfish interests, but to also bring people together for progress. Today, the intellectual and cultural revival that happened as a result of his leadership is known as the Carolingian Renaissance.
  2. Make Learning a Cornerstone: Charlemagne placed great emphasis on learning and education. He not only attracted leading scholars to his court, but he focused on the creation of schools and educational standards throughout the empire. Charlemagne even took time to study himself and was known for being open to learning from others. [Source: Sullivan, Richard E. Charlemagne. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from
  3. Partner with Other Powerful People: As a devout Christian, Charlemagne certainly had spiritual motivations for respecting the authority of the church. However, he was also a pragmatic leader and did not hesitate to work together with the clergy and build alliances with the papacy to further strengthen his own authority in the eyes of the many believers in his kingdom. In 800 A.D., Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III as the Roman Emperor. This is a familiar strategy of ambitious leaders. In the beginning of his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger would often seek to associate himself with other powerful people as a way increasing his own "star power." Schwarzenegger would even try to stand near other more illustrious celebrities when the press was around so that he would be seen in pictures with other stars. We've all seen those people with pictures of themselves with celebrities and politicians all around their office. It's shameless self-promotion, but it works because (assuming its legitimate) it does add a hint of credibility.
  4. Aggressively Pursue Goals: Courage and aggressiveness will always play an important role in effective leadership and Charlemagne was no exception. In his rise to the top, Charlemagne marched without hesitation to build alliances where he could and declare war when he thought he must. Though the way we think about courage and aggression in a civil society may be significantly more refined, leaders' ability to hustle is still a critical success factor.

COUNTERPUNCH: Leadership Lessons from Charlemagne's Mistakes and Failures—
  1. Project Strength and Magnanimity: Charlemagne was often stern and occasionally cruel toward his enemies. In one instance, after years attempting to subdue and convert his enemy, Charlemagne had an army of Saxon prisoners (4,500 men) beheaded in a single day. Charlemagne projected strength and instilled fear in his enemies, but it was a double-edged sword. Rather than silencing the Saxons, the Massacre of Verden scraped the scabs of age-old wounds, reviving a river of bloody warfare.

Change Leadership Lessons from Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan: Leadership Lessons from the Supreme Khan of the Mongols

Genghis Khan (1162-1227)—founder and emperor of the Mongol Empire, the largest land empire in the history of the world.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Genghis Khan:   (Click Here)
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Leadership Lessons from the Revolutionary Leadership of William Wallace

William Wallace: Leadership Lessons from the Guardian of Scotland

Sir William Wallace (c. 1270-1305)—led a rebellion against King Edward of England which culminated in the Wars of Scottish Independence.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Sir William Wallace:   (Click Here)
  1. Courage: Courage is a common characteristic of the great legends of leadership. Unfortunately, because of this, leaders often overlook this dimension of their own development, hoping to find some "new" or "secret" discovery or insight into effective leadership. Those leaders who spend time facing and overcoming their fears, however, are always glad they did. Sir William Wallace stands out as an exemplary model of courageous leadership. Accompanied by a poorly trained rabble of men, William Wallace challenged a great empire and, for a time, had their forces on the run. His bravery soon inspired a nation and would eventually lead to Scotland's independence. In Mel Gibson's Braveheart, William Wallace says to Robert the Bruce, "Now tell me, what does that mean to be Noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country. But men don't follow titles. They follow courage." It's a powerful moment in the film. Wallace continues, "Now our people know you. Noble and common, they respect you. And if you would just…lead them…to freedom…" He pauses, and widens his eyes, "…they'd follow you…and so would I."
  2. Earn Respect: William Wallace had a clear vision of what he wanted: freedom. And he had the courage to go after it. But that wasn't enough to lead. It was the respect that the people of Scotland had for him that enabled him to emerge as a leader. People respected his character and his competence and, therefore, he earned their respect and trust.
  3. Clear Vision: There was no question about what William Wallace was after. He wanted Scotland to be free and independent from English domination. Too often leaders have cloudy vision and vague plans and goals. But people don't follow men and women who cannot communicate clearly or who seem hesitant and uncertain about the direction to go. Some people admire the ability of a leader who can see subtle distinctions and nuance and others may appreciate a leader who can learn and grow and adapt as needed. But rarely will people follow the uncertain leader who appears to lack conviction and follow through.

Joan of Arc Revolutionary Leadership

Joan of Arc: Leadership Lessons from the Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc (1412-1431)—helped France regain freedom from English domination.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Joan of Arc:   (Click Here)
  1. Trust Your Intuition: Many believe and Saint Joan herself said that she heard the Voice of God and angels. And as bold and perhaps fantastical as the directives of these voices may have been, Saint Joan listened. And the nation of France is glad she did.
    "I was in my thirteenth year when I heard a voice from God to help me govern my conduct. And the first time I was very much afraid."-Joan of Arc
  2. Ignore the Naysayers: Not surprisingly, as a young, illiterate, peasant girl claiming divine guidance in 15th century France, Joan met with a great deal of resistance from French commanders. But she never let that slow her down. Instead, she went directly to the people and Charles VII.
  3. Live a Virtuous Life : Joan would never have been given a chance if she had been found to have a corrupt character. When Charles ordered the theologians at Poitier to investigate her background it was only when the commission had "declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity" that she was given the chance to prove herself worthy to lead. [Source: Vale, Malcolm Graham Allan (1974). Charles VII. Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pg. 55.
  4. Demonstrate Leadership Through Results: Although Joan's courage and persistence were immediately apparent, it was not until she was able to lift the Siege of Orleans that Joan became a national hero.

Leadership Lessons from the Leader of the Reformation
[Photo: Norbert Aepli]

Martin Luther: Leadership Lessons from the Revolutionary Monk

Martin Luther (1483-1546)—led the Protestant Reformation, challenging the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther:   (Click Here)
  1. Hold Fast to Your Word: Caught in a terrible lightning storm, Martin Luther prayed that he would see his way home safely. In exchange, he promised to devote his life to God. Martin made it home safe. And he kept his promise. Perhaps an equally valuable lesson would be: Think carefully before you give your word. Seek to under-promise and over-deliver.
  2. Embrace Your Inner Spartan: Martin Luther was exceptionally disciplined. He was continuously fasting and praying and meditating, subjecting himself to a harsh ascetic lifestyle. On one occasion, he went to sleep out in the snow—without a blanket—to the point that had his brothers not dragged him back inside he might of died. Luther later said, "If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I." Though Luther may have taken these practices to the extreme, he developed a powerful self-discipline that would serve him for the rest of his life. This would also become a practice that Arnold Schwarzenegger embraced.
  3. Refine Your Personal Vision: Luther cared deeply about discerning God's will and he never wavered from that ultimate purpose. He did, however, work hard to deepen and broaden his understanding of God and what it meant to do God's will. On one occasion, determined to learn more about the Holy Catholic Church, of which he was a part, Luther journeyed to Rome, walking for two whole months just to get there. Arriving in Rome, Luther was at first overwhelmed by the bustling city life and activities in and around the church. It was not long, however, before Luther's powerful commitment to Christ led to his powerful disillusionment with the money-and-power driven church and the utter lack of Christianity as he knew it. Luther refined his personal vision and, as a result, he changed the world as we know it today.
  4. Have the Courage of Your Convictions: Luther had strong beliefs, but he also possessed the much more rare courage necessary to stand up for his beliefs. Luther's words and writings were so radical and disruptive, threatening the power of the mighty Roman Catholic church, that his life during this period was in constant danger.
  5. Be Willing to Endure Criticism: Martin Luther was not prepared for the onslaught that accompanied his Ninety-Five Theses. He wrote: "I never thought that such a story would rise from Rome over one little scrap of paper!" Nonetheless, he stood his ground and remained stalwart in his ability to handle the heat. "I rejoice," he said, "to suffer in so noble a course."
  6. Maintain a High Idealism: Luther was an idealist; perhaps even a romantic idealist. He was committed, above all, to his quest for the truth and he was completely unconcerned with the consequences of that pursuit.
  7. Be Resolute in Your Purpose: Martin Luther was resolved in his pursuit, even refusing the Pope. And when he was asked to recant his writings, he remained defiant. Exhausting his life in pursuit of God, he was prepared to suffer whatever he must at the hands of man. Luther wrote: "I demand that they show absolutely, not respectively, distinctly and not confusedly, certainly and not probably, clearly and not obscurely, point by point and not in a lump, just what is heretical. Let them show where I am a heretic, or dry up their spittle." "I decided to believe freely and to slave to the authority of no one , whether council, university or pope. I was bound not only to assert the truth but to defend it with my blood and death."
  8. Find Your Source of Power and Support: In the ensuing battle with the Pope, Luther took to the pen. He wrote a pamphlet that mocked the pomp and circumstance of the Pope, the excessive overindulgences that came at a high cost to the purse of the German people. With this, he won many to his cause.
  9. Take Your Cause To the Top: Martin Luther did not endure just the first few rounds of his case. Rather he refused to relent and his case eventually went to the high court. And Luther himself eventually became one of the great emancipators of human history.
  10. Connect with the People: Martin Luther understood the importance of connecting with the people. He used humor and metaphor in his writing, earthy language to which people could understand and relate.
  11. Build a New Paradigm: Luther's criticisms of the papacy were at times fierce (particularly in On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church) but they were also well-considered and detailed, having the effect of instigating the Protestant Reformation.
  12. Stand On Principle: Luther was devoted to principle above everything else. At his trial, asked to recant, he said: "Here I stand. I can do no other."

Leadership Lessons from Oliver Cromwell
Photo: Eluveitie

Oliver Cromwell: Leadership Lessons from Old Ironsides

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)—overthrew the English monarchy, establishing a republican government in England. According to many Britons, Cromwell was a hero of liberty. A recent BBC poll listed Cromwell as one of the top ten greatest Britons of all time. To many others, however, Cromwell was a ruthless dictator, guilty of regicide (deliberate killing of a monarch).

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Oliver Cromwell:   (Click Here)
  1. Take Decisive Action: If there is one thing we can say about Cromwell it is that he was a man of action. He knew what he wanted and he had ideas about how to go about getting it. He made numerous mistakes along the way, but he rarely hesitated to move forward with decisive action.
  2. Begin with a Bold Mission: For the first four decades of his life, Cromwell remained in relative obscurity. Once he had a clear sense of his purpose, however, he began to move and shake the world. Cromwell believed he was on a mission from God to bring freedom and liberty to his homeland.
  3. Stay Grounded in the Will of the People: One of the things that sets Cromwell apart was his deep grounding in the will of the people. Along with the many mistakes he made and the terrible carnage he caused, it is difficult to argue that he did not have his people first in his mind. According to Theodore Roosevelt, Oliver Cromwell was "one of the greatest of all Englishmen, and by far the greatest ruler of England itself, …a man who, in times that tried men's souls, dealt with vast questions and solved tremendous problems; a man who erred…but who strove mightily towards the Light as it was given him to see the Light; a man who had the welfare of his countrymen and the greatness of his country very close to his heart, and who sought to make the great laws of righteousness living forces in the government of the world."

COUNTERPUNCH: Leadership Lessons from Oliver Cromwell's Mistakes and Failures—
  1. Strategic Patience: Cromwell was often accused of being unreasonably impatient. He was known for losing his temper, tipping over tables and throwing people out of rooms. Leaders often must act quickly. And often those asking for patience are merely eager to serve their own ends. But there are just as often times when leaders act based on anger or fear and mistakes are made, some from which may prove difficult to recover. When Cromwell used military force to disband Parliament it was a point of no return. His irritation with the corruption and sloth was understandable, but this did more to establish his reputation as ruthless dictator than to promote the cause for freedom and liberty which he claimed to be supporting.
  2. Plan a Legacy: Two years after Cromwell died his government fell apart. The monarchy was restored and Cromwell was dug up from his grave, hung in chains and beheaded. Leaders are so often absorbed with themselves and their own interests that they fail to plan for the future of the movement or cause itself. The cause and their own legacies suffer as a result.

Change Leadership Lessons from Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin: Leadership Lessons from the First American

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)—author, scientist, inventor, political theorist, diplomat, musician, activist, revolutionary leader during the American Revolution and 6th President of Pennsylvania.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Benjamin Franklin:   (Click Here)
  1. Focus First on Self Improvement: Of his manifold talents, there was one quality which set him apart from the many great men and women of his day. Benjamin Franklin possessed an insatiable desire to improve himself. According to one writer, "Franklin's entire life reflected his belief in self-improvement, and from adolescence until his death at eighty-four, he worked constantly to improve his mind, his body, and his behavior."1
  2. Strive to Develop Virtue and Sever Vice: When it came to developing and practicing the "art of virtue,"2 as he called it, Benjamin Franklin, rather than looking to point out the weaknesses in others, he focused on finding and fixing his own faults. In his wildly popular Poor Richard's Almanac, he wrote: "A good example is the best sermon."3 In fact, Ben Franklin was notably averse to casting judgment on others and went to some lengths to avoid it. In his "Plan of Conduct" he wrote: "I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody."4 Benjamin Franklin, furthermore, was a leading advocate of tolerance and civility toward people of other faiths, a practice which he, in part, attributes to his remarkable influence.5

  3. Sources:
    1. Heath, David (2002). "Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life, An Electric Mind." Saint Paul, Minnesota: Twin Cities Public Television, Inc.
    2. Franklin, Benjamin ([1771], 1986). Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings (Penguin Classics). Silverman, Kenneth (ed.). New York: Penguin Books. Pg. 100.
    3. Franklin, Benjamin (1902). The Life of Benjamin Franklin. Bigelow, John (ed.). Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company. Pg. 600.
    4. Franklin, Benjamin (1850). The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Sparks, Jared (ed.) London: Henry G. Bohn. Pg. 75.
    5. NOTE: In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin writes: "I never was without some religious Principles; I never doubted, for instance, the Existence of the Deity, that he made the World, & govern'd it by his Providence; that the most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man; that our Souls are immortal; and that all Crime will be punished & Virtue rewarded either here or hereafter; these I esteem'd the Essentials of every Religion, and being to be found in all the Religions we had in our Country I respected them all, tho' with different degrees of Respect as I found them more or less mix'd with other Articles which without any Tendency to inspire, promote or confirm Morality, serv'd principally to divide us & make us unfriendly to one another." Source: Franklin, Benjamin ([1771], 1986). Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings (Penguin Classics). Silverman, Kenneth (ed.). New York: Penguin Books. Pg. 89, 102.

Sam Adams Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from the Father of the American Revolution

Sam Adams: Leadership Lessons from the Father of the American Revolution

Samuel Adams (1722-1803)—one of the prominent leaders of the American Revolution; Samuel Adams was born for revolutionary leadership. Even as far back as graduate school, Adams wrote in his master's thesis about the right to resist the supreme magistrate in order to preserve the commonwealth. Adams later helped to organize resistance against the Stamp Act of 1765. Adams also played a vital role in organizing the Boston Tea Party.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Samuel Adams:   (Click Here)
  1. Seize Opportunities: Samuel Adams saw the coming confrontation with England long before most and, to some extent, he was prepared to push the situation forward if necessary. It was this readiness that enabled Adams to jump on opportunities the moment they arose. When, for example, the tension and pressure of the British troops boiled over in Boston, leading to the Boston Massacre, Samuel Adams jumped immediately into action. In fact, launching a propaganda battle based on a somewhat biased and exaggerated interpretation of events, Adams used the Boston Massacre to begin to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of independence.
  2. Understand the Role of Emotion: Adams understood that building the case for independence would have to go well beyond a collection of facts and a marshalling of reason. He knew he would have to make a compelling emotional case if he were to help persuade the colonists that the time for independence was ripe. "Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason," Adams said. And, thus, when a turn of events turned in his favor, Adams was ready to help interpret the event in a way that reached beyond the facts and into the heart and gut of the people. Adams knew he did not need to convince everyone. He only needed a large enough group of people who were completely fired up. "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."

Leadership Lessons from the Father of His Country

George Washington: Leadership Lessons from the Father of His Country

George Washington (1732-1799)—American revolutionary leader, first American president.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from George Washington:   (Click Here)
  1. Lead with Character: There was nothing more important to George Washington than character. And this was the foundation of his leadership. His reputation for honesty and absolute trustworthiness made him a natural leader. Washington once said: "I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."
  2. Develop Courage: Winston Churchill once said: "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others." Washington is a premier example of this principle in action. His virtue was, above all, grounded in his courage—the courage to do what was right even under the most trying of circumstances.
  3. Lead by Example: Washington never put himself above his men or asked them to do anything that he would not do himself. Washington even stayed with his men at Valley Forge under the harsh conditions of a furious winter when, as an officer, he could easily of stayed elsewhere.
  4. Persevere: Washington was not always victorious. But he never gave up. In fact, there were times when victory over the British—who had advantages in training, equipment, supplies and sheer numbers—seemed hopeless. Washington, however, was determined and even when the situation looked bleak he kept listening and searching for ways to gain the upper hand.
  5. Maintain Discipline: Another key part of Washington's leadership was self-discipline and discipline of the troops. Washington once said: "Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all." Washington was not afraid of the British, in part, because he knew there were other advantages that could help them to defeat the enemy. Discipline was one such weapon. In his words: "Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another."

Leadership Lessons from the Colossus of Independence

John Adams: Leadership Lessons from the Colossus of Independence

John Adams (1735-1826)—American revolutionary leader, second American president.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from John Adams:   (Click Here)
  1. Build Broad Momentum for the Movement: John Adams understood the importance of involving a broad range of citizens and perspectives in the movement for independence. He knew that their efforts could get bogged down if there was too much disagreement and division and not enough collaboration from disparate groups (both in terms of political perspective and geographical location). It was Adams, for example, that pushed Thomas Jefferson to take the leading role in writing the Declaration of Independence, not just because he was an eloquent writer, but also because he was a Virginian. They needed greater support from people outside of Massachusetts and Jefferson was the perfect center of support. In the words of Alan Axelrod, author of Revolutionary Management: John Adams on Leadership (2008), "Adams was the far more prolific writer. But he understood that Jefferson was a Virginian, and the Revolution was becoming too identified with Massachusetts radicalism. He knew this would alienate the other colonies. If a Virginian wrote the declaration, the colonies would be more inclined to unite."
  2. Be a Student of Human Nature: Great leaders have a wise and perceptive understanding of human nature. Moreover, they never stop learning about people and what makes them tick. Adams understood the power of ambition and he used this understanding to both involve and motivate people toward shared goals and to build a government that would keep ambition in check.
  3. Be an Inclusive, Team Player: By far, one of the most remarkable things about John Adams was his wife Abigail Adams—a powerful influential leader in her own right. In an age long before women took their rightful place among men as equals, John Adams was clearly ahead of the game. Not only did he treat his wife as an equal, but he was fully aware that Abigail Adams was an indispensible part of his own leadership wisdom and success. Of course, Abigail Adams probably deserves more credit here than John Adams does. She, after all, certainly knew how to keep her man in line. In one letter she wrote to him: "If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."

Leadership Lessons from the Voice of the Revolution

Patrick Henry: Leadership Lessons from the Voice of the Revolution

Patrick Henry (1736-1799)—famous orator who helped lead the movement for America's independence.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Patrick Henry:   (Click Here)
  1. Be Willing to Make Sacrifices: Patrick Henry possessed a deep sense of duty. He believed in the American cause for freedom. And he was willing to make, if necessary, the ultimate sacrifice. At a critical juncture early in the American revolution, Henry gave a speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, wherein he made it clear just how deep his convictions ran: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." Few leaders will be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for their vision or values, but the life and revolutionary leadership of Patrick Henry reminds us just how important the willingness to serve and sacrifice is in leading others toward a revolutionary vision of change.

Leadership Lessons from the Father of American Democracy

Thomas Paine: Leadership Lessons from the Father of the American Revolution

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)—author of Common Sense, revolutionary leader during America's war for independence.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Thomas Paine:   (Click Here)
  1. Coming Soon:

Leadership Lessons from the Pen of the Revolution

Thomas Jefferson: Leadership Lessons from the Pen of the Revolution

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)—prominent American revolutionary leader and author of the Declaration of Independence, third American president.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Thomas Jefferson:   (Click Here)
  1. Coming Soon:

Leadership Lessons from Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams: Leadership Lessons from Her Majesty

Abigail Adams (1744-1818)—leading American revolutionary, 1st Second Lady of the United States, 2nd First Lady of the United States.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Abigail Adams:   (Click Here)
  1. Embrace the Challenges: In a 1790 letter to Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams wrote: "These are the hard times in which a genius would wish to live. Great necessities call forth great leaders."1

  2. Sources:
    1. Bennis, Warren and Nanus, Burt (2007). Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge. Pg. 1.

Leadership Lessons from Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre: Leadership Lessons from the Incorruptible

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)—famous figure in the French Revolution, dominant leader in the Reign of Terror.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Maximilien Robespierre:   (Click Here)
  1. Coming Soon:

Leadership Lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte: Leadership Lessons from "the Little Corporal"

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)—military and political leader during the French Revolution, first Emperor of France.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte:   (Click Here)
  1. Embrace the Inevitable Difficulty: If there was a difficult task that needed to be done, Napoleon would not only take up the task, but he would embrace it with enthusiasm.
  2. Reach Beyond Your Grasp: Napoleon Bonaparte was not afraid to reach for the impossible. He was intensely ambitious and his achievements were remarkable. He did not achieve everything that he hoped to achieve. In fact, he faced a few tragic and humiliating defeats. Nevertheless, he never could of achieved so much if he had not attempted to reach beyond what others believed was even possible. Napoleon had an entirely different mindset than most men. "To do all that one is able to do," he said, "is to be a man; to do all that one would like to do, is to be a god." Napoleon wanted to be much more than a mere mortal man.

Leadership Lessons from Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth: Leadership Lessons from the Spirit of Freedom

Sojourner Truth (1797 -1883)—abolitionist leader and activist for women's rights.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Sojourner Truth:   (Click Here)
  1. Take Bold, Decisive Action: Sojourner Truth was a fearless, revolutionary leader who fought long and hard for the rights of women and blacks. After escaping from slavery with one of her two children, she later successfully sued in court to reclaim her son becoming the first black woman in U.S. history to win a case against a white man. She would go on to became a bold and tireless advocate for women. What situates Sojourner Truth firmly in the camp of revolutionary leaders was not just her faith that no race nor sex was superior to another, but her courage and ability to conduct herself as such and the way she inspired others to follow in her footsteps. She delivered her most famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman?" in 1851 at a women's rights convention in Ohio. "If women want any rights more than they's got," she once said, "why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it."

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln: Leadership Lessons from the Great Emancipator

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)—led America through the Civil War; abolished slavery.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln:   (Click Here)
  1. Maintain a Steady Purpose: Another powerful lesson we can take away from Lincoln is his steadiness of purpose. Lincoln wanted to preserve the union and end slavery and he never once lost sight of those dual ambitions. His focus was so intent, his purpose was so resolved that it was—much like a fish in the water—as if his purpose was a lens through which he looked out at the world. This is not to say, however, that he was inflexible in his approach—quite the opposite. Lincoln was flexible with his strategy and tactics, but uncompromising on principles and purpose.
  2. Develop a Strong Moral Character: Character is a powerful means of influence and an indispensable ingredient in the greatness of leaders. "Character is power," said Booker T. Washington. And Heraclitus said that "character is destiny." The legendary British Field Marshal, Bernard Montgomery, held that "Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence." Lincoln possessed a strong character and he was trusted by everyone who knew him. After visiting Lincoln at the White House, Frederick Douglas said: "In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color." When President Eisenhower visited Lincoln's birthplace in 1954, he told his audience: "Abraham Lincoln has always seemed to me to represent all that is best in America, in terms of its opportunity and the readiness of Americans always to raise up and exalt those people who live by truth, whose lives are examples of integrity and dedication to our country."
  3. Cultivate the Habit of Hard Work: The only secret to success is that the quicker you realize there are no shortcuts, the faster you'll make it to the top. Lincoln was a hard worker and he knew how to hustle—two keys to successful leadership in any field. Lincoln said, "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle." Lincoln was ambitious and he wanted to be great, but he was also happy, even eager, to pay the price and win the esteem of the people.
  4. Determination, Persistence, Resilience: Lincoln faced an incredible number of obstacles and setbacks, yet he persevered. He bounced back over and over again. He lost elections. He failed in business. He was unlucky in love. Yet, through determination, he was able to triumph. In his own words: "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."
  5. Master Team Leadership: Much has been written about Lincoln as a team leader—most notably by the great presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her award winning book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's ability as a team leader comes down to a few key characteristics. (a.) He possessed the humility and inner security to recruit men of greater talent (in some areas) and certainly greater fame and renown than himself. This allowed him to choose a team of balanced strengths and weaknesses. (b.) He possessed a great capacity to tolerate dissent. Lincoln did not argue for the sake of arguing. Nor did he avoid disagreement with the hopes of maintaining some harmonious consensus. He wanted to serve the country and thus he want to wrestle with problems and ideas strictly for the purpose of making wise decisions. (c.) Lincoln was also able to take full responsibility for his cabinet whenever they or one of his generals screwed up. (d.) Finally, Lincoln's mastery and humility allowed him to share the credit and glory when they were victorious. One notable example is when Lincoln celebrated the victories of General Ulysses Grant. Lincoln gave him a hero's welcome, even placing Grant in the place of honor at the White House.
  6. The Magic of Emotional Intelligence: If there was a magic to Lincoln's leadership it was in his high EQ. Here we can point to four specific elements to his leadership: (a.) He had a high degree, rather a remarkable degree of self-control. This allowed him to hold his tongue and keep his anger in check. (b.) Lincoln was self-aware. This allowed him to recognize his mistakes and weaknesses and, therefore, learn and improve wherever he could. (c.) He was deeply empathic. This allowed him to see things from the perspective of others and to feel what they were feeling—a powerful tool for leaders in any day. He once said, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better." Who says that?? I mean, seriously, who do you know that thinks like that today? Doris Kearns Goodwin gives another example of Lincoln's empathy. Once when he was young, he saw a pig stuck in the mud. He continued walking for some distance, until his conscience got the best of him and he walked back to rescue the pig. He wanted to take the pain he felt for the pig out of his mind.
  7. Communicate to Connect: Lincoln also understood that communication was not about him or his ideas. It was about the human connection. Because of this Lincoln was, like Reagan and Roosevelt, a great communicator. There are at least four secrets that we can learn from Lincoln as a communicator: (a.) Use self-deprecating humor. Lincoln often would connect with people and with his audience by making fun of himself, his looks and his eccentricities. (b.) Lincoln loved telling stories. And he was good at it. He got so much enjoyment out of telling stories that his audience enjoyed listening to him tell them even if they'd heard it before. (c.) Lincoln used lots of plain language and compelling metaphors. He wanted people to understand him, so he looked for examples and illustrations that he knew his audience could relate to. (d.) Finally, Lincoln was a good listener. He was always paying attention to people and their stories and their experience. So, when he was talking to people or when he was on stage giving a speech, he never seemed out of touch.

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from the Pioneer of Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau: Leadership Lessons from the Pioneer of Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)—author of Civil Disobedience, lifelong abolitionist, jailed for refusing to pay the poll tax.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Henry David Thoreau:   (Click Here)
  1. Listen to Understand: One of the most important and central skills of leadership is listening. Before a leader can even begin to think about leading change or becoming a revolutionary leader, they have to listen closely to the people, to understand the history and the broader context of what is happening, and how it is affecting the people involved. Thoreau's acts of civil disobedience did not come out of a sense of personal injustice. They came from his understanding of the impact certain laws and cultural norms and practices had on the lives of others. He knew this because of the time he spent listening, and reflecting on what he witnessed and heard. Thoreau said: "The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."
  2. Live Your Dreams: Thoreau was a dreamer. He envisioned a life for himself and then he turned his mind to the task of bringing that vision into reality. "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams," he said. "Live the life you have imagined."
  3. Be Your Authentic Self: Leaders too often fail because they try to be something they're not. Too often they fail because they try to do what pleases others. The great legends of change leadership have never been the ones who tried to be anything other than their own best selves. The world's greatest revolutionary leaders have almost always learned from other leaders, they have even frequently been known to study the life and leadership of other great leaders. But leaders never get to be great by ignoring their own inner voices. In Thoreau's words: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Karl Marx
Photo: Yves Tennevin

Karl Marx: Leadership Lessons from the Father of Communism

Karl Marx (1818-1883)—leading political revolutionary and socialist, author (with Friedrich Engels) of The Communist Manifesto.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Karl Marx:   (Click Here)
  1. Excite and Unite: No doubt, Karl Marx was a provocateur. He knew how to light the smoldering flames within society. Marx was himself clearly fired up about what he saw as the economic injustices of the broader society and he easily translated his passion and sennse of injustice through his writings. But Marx also understood the need to bring people together to begin leading change. In one of his most famous statements, Marx said: "Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains."

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Harriet Tubman
Photo: D.Burdette

Harriet Tubman: Leadership Lessons from Moses

Harriet Tubman (c.1820-1913)—abolitionist, Union spy, leader of the Underground Railroad (movement to rescue slaves).

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Harriet Tubman:   (Click Here)
  1. Dream Impossible Dreams: One of the things that stood out about Harriet Tubman was her courage to dream what many thought were impossible dreams and the even greater courage to follow through on her dreams. When Harriet Tubman decided she had to escape from slavery, her husband did not want to go with her. She ran away without him. Tubman once said: "Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)—prominent activist and leader of women's rights, helped bring about women's suffrage (right to vote)

Leadership Lessons from the Revolutionary Father of India
Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi (1869–1948)—led India to independence.

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)—Russian revolutionary and political leader, led the October Revolution.

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953)—prominent leader of the Bolshevik revolutionaries, Russian dictator.

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Panch Villa

Pancho Villa: Leadership Lessons from the Revolutionary General

José Doroteo Arango Arámbula "Pancho Villa" (1878-1923)—was a prominent revolutionary general during the Mexican Revolution.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Pancho Villa:   (Click Here)
  1. Charisma: Pancho Villa was a famously charismatic general and he used his charisma as a tool to draw people into the cause. His charisma was also a way to attract the attention of the press and gain resources for his army. "Mexican historian Enrique Krauze tells how Hollywood scouts found Pancho Villa so charismatic that they supplied him with uniforms and food in exchange for filming his battles. Actor (later director) Raoul Walsh, who played Villa in the fictional footage, recalled that the scouts asked Villa to schedule big shootups at sunrise so that the cameramen had optimal lighting." - America Ascendant: From Theodore Roosevelt to FDR in the Century of American Power, 1901-1945,Pg. 139.

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Huey Long

Emiliano Zapata: Leadership Lessons from the Mexican Revolutionary

Emiliano Zapata Salazar (1879-1919)—was a revolutionary leader fighting for land reforms during the Mexican Revolution. He also served as the commander of the revolutionary force, the Liberation Army of the South, often referred to as the Zapatistas.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Emiliano Zapata:   (Click Here)
  1. Courage: Emiliano Zapata could no longer stand for what he believed was an oppressive and corrupt government. Rather than cowering away, trying to make the most of a bad situation, Zapata decided to act. And courage and commitment inspired many thousands of others to join his cause. "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) —Russian revolutionary, first leader of the Red Army.

Leadership Lessons from the Champion of Freedom
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)—elected U.S. President 4 times, led the New Deal revolution (which cut unemployment in half), helped Churchill defeat Hitler.

Leadership Lessons from the First Lady of the World
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)—women's and civil rights advocate, leader of the New Deal coalition, prominent in working to establish the United Nations.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)—dissolved the German government becoming totalitarian leader of the Nazis; attempted to establish a New World Order through genocide.

Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969)—Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader.

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Huey Long

Michael Collins: Leadership Lessons from The Big Fellow

Michael Collins (1890-1922)—an Irish revolutionary leader, Commander-in-chief of the National Army and Chairman of the Provisional Government.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Michael Collins:   (Click Here)
  1. Courage:
  2. Purpose:
  3. Perspective:

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Huey Long

Huey Long: Leadership Lessons from the Caesar of the Bayous

Huey Long (1893-1935)—radical American populist, leader of the Share Our Wealth program that proposed policies to limit the extremes of capitalism through wealth redistribution.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Huey Long:   (Click Here)
  1. Be Your Bold Self: Huey Long was one of the most colorful characters that this country has ever seen. He was roundly ridiculed by many and adored by others. But he didn't care what anyone thought of him—not one bit. He was himself and he loved every minute of it. Long focused far more on helping the common man then meeting the approval of those in power—or anyone else.
  2. Call Out Your Enemies: Long made a tremendous number of powerful enemies, but the way that he saw it there was no other way. Those who support the status quo will typically (almost always) work and fight against those who wish to bring change. Huey Long hated how the rich had more money than they could possibly ever use while the poor were literally starving to death. Long wanted to bring roads and bridges and education to the poor and he knew that he would have to create a great number of enemies to make it happen. Rather than being fearful and playing it cool, Long faced that facts and called his enemies out on their greed and corruption. The advantage was that he was immediately identified as a leader and he quickly inspired hope and gained massive support for his proposals.
  3. Balance the Attacks with Vision: Huey Long was bold and courageous in his attacks on the plutocrats and the Standard Oil Company, but he was far more than just a rabble rouser, stirring up trouble and attacking his opponents. Long also set out a bold vision ("Every Man a King, But No One Wears a Crown.") and clear goals. In the words of former civil rights activist, Si Kahn, author of, Creative Community Organizing: A Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists, and Quiet Lovers of Justice: "It is generally useful, as a part of any creative community organizing campaign, to advocate for a positive as well as to oppose a negative."
  4. Develop Your Ability to Speak to a Crowd: Huey Long was an exceptionally entertaining speaker. He was not necessarily eloquent and he certainly was not dignified. But he knew had to get the attention of his audience. First, he was unusually passionate. He had a vision and he was fired up and his passion oozed out of every pore of his being. Second, he used common language that people could understand. He was not trying to impress them with his big words (well, at first, he actually was—but he lost that race and learned better). He was trying to communicate and connect. So he learned to keep it simple. Third, he used lots of metaphors and colorful language. There was nothing boring about Huey's explanation of the corrupt fat cats in the capital. Finally, he understood his audience and their struggles well enough to focus his message on the issue that mattered most: roads and bridges and education.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976)—Chinese communist leader, led the Chinese Revolution, founder of the People's Republic of China, led the disastrous Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

Nikita Khrushchev(1894-1971)—Soviet Premier who led the de-Stalinization of Russia, led a less oppressive era known as the Khrushchev Thaw.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)—40th U.S. President; led the Reagan Revolution which glorified capitalism, free markets and plutocracy while leading to dangerous deregulation and the emergence of class warfare.

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)—American civil rights activist, fought against segregation in the south, named by the U.S. Congress as the "mother of the freedom movement."

Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from the Champiion of Freedom and Democracy
Nelson Mandela (1918- )—anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary leader, helped lead South Africa to its first multi-racial democracy, first South African president to be elected in a legitimate, fully representative democracy.

Fidel Castro (1926- )—leader of the Cuban Revolution; Prime Minister, President and leader of the Communist Party of Cuba for fifty years.

Leadership Lessons from Che

Ernesto Guevara: Leadership Lessons from Che

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967)—iconic Argentine Marxist revolutionary, prominent figure in the Cuban Revolution. In addition to being a revolutionary leader, Che Guevara was a physician and military theorist.

  Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Che Guevara:   (Click Here)
  1. Serve Others: Whatever we may think of Che's strategy and tactics (which have been described as brutal and murderous), his intent was to serve the people. Che only became a revolutionary leader after witnessing the experiences of the poor and oppressed in his home country (Argentina) and around the world, most famously in his motorcycle journey with his friend, Alberto Granado, which ended in their volunteer work in a leper colony in Peru.
  2. Take Action: Che had lots of ideas about bringing change, revolutionary change. In fact, he wrote a book, Guerrilla Warfare, on the topic. However, it was action that he valued most. Che was not one to sit around talking about revolution without making a plan and taking steps to make it happen.

Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Jr.: Leadership Lessons from the Reverend, Dr. King

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)—the most prominent leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, famous for his courageous philosophy of non-violent resistance and his inspiring oratory.

  8 Revolutionary Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King:   (Click Here)
  1. Speak Truth to Power: Martin Luther King was the leading civil rights voice for truth, reason and justice. He refused to back away from seeing reality as it was and speaking his mind about what he saw.
  2. Be an Inspiration: King understood that people are rarely swayed by facts and logic alone. He knew how to engage the mind and heart to bring truly revolutionary change.
  3. Tell Stories and Use Vivid Imagery: King used memorable stories and compelling metaphors to help his listeners remember his message and share it with others. His use of stories not only helped people to understand, but to spread the message far into the future. .
  4. Cast a Compelling Vision: over and over again, we see that great leaders are repeatedly associated with great visions—MLK was no exception. In fact, King's vision of a future America, a country where people are judged by the "content of their character" continues to lead and inspire us to this day. [I recently saw a great example of this: Zach Wahls.]
  5. Live for Something Bigger Than Yourself: Martin Luther King was a bright, articulate, well-educated and powerfully connected young man. He could have easily stayed in the North after his Ph.D. and lived a relatively comfortable and successful life. But instead he choose to focus on helping others less fortunate them himself. He choose to give his life to a cause that was more important than his individual life. This is the price of greatness. It is the leaders that focus on the needs and interests of others that leave a lasting impact.
  6. Persevere: Never give up. We hear this message all the time: you have to stay in the game. When you fall, you have to pick yourself up. When life delivers a nasty blow, do whatever you can to turn the situation around. This was the message of King, too. He said, "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."
  7. Think and Act Inclusively: Martin Luther King understood the value and power of including a broad and diverse group of people in his coalition. He understood the hate that many whites had toward blacks (including himself), but he also recognized that many whites were simply afraid and many others wanted what he wanted and were willing to do whatever they could to help (including sacrificing their own lives). Thus, King cultivated a broad, diverse coalition that included a number of leading politicians (JFK, RFK, LBJ, etc.). As a result of King's inclusiveness, many whites were less afraid and more open and ready to do the right thing.
  8. Adopt a Servant's Mindset: Martin Luther King's desire to serve was perhaps his greatest quality as a leader, and the factor by which he is most remembered. What's more, King understood the central role of service in creating a legacy. King said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- )—Russian revolutionary leader who helped end the political supremacy of Russia's communist party, which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Lech Walesa (1943- )—Polish trade-union organizer and human rights activist; first president of Poland, helped oversee Poland's transition to a post-communist state.

Aung San Suu Kyi (1945- )—Burmese political leader, democracy activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)—Pakistani socialist-democratic leader, 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan, first woman elected to lead a Muslim state.

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