John F. Kennedy's Transformational Leadership

Welcome back!
For those of you wondering where my blog has been in recent months, in my off-hours (which are always at a premium) I have been incredibly busy. Besides doing our media and communications seminars in Jamaica, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Toronto, Winnipeg, and many other places, Laura and I have been busy starting a brand new venture on leadership development. We are partnering with Al Albania, John Westbrook and their team at Acart Communications (www.acart.ca)  to form a new company, www.TransformLeaders.ca

With this partnership, we provide a series of leadership seminars, combined with online tools and follow-up coaching. We will be continuing our McLoughlin Media company, of course!  This new company builds on our two companies' combined decades of experience in communications training, leadership counsel, strategic branding, advertising and social media marketing.

Of course, we will be continuing our McLoughlin Media company along with the media training seminars and communications counselling services that we offer. (www.mcloughlinmedia.com)

So why start a new company?
The world is rapidly changing and increasingly challenging. Every industry sector is affected by the global marketplace. Consumers are not only incredibly demanding, but, more importantly, can purchase their products and services wherever and whenever they want. Regulatory regimes, international trade agreements, taxpayers' demands and clients' expectations are transforming governments everywhere. What it takes to be a leader today is markedly different from years gone by - when one's position was enough to command respect. Change is transformational - and is everywhere, is disrupting entire industries as well as the way in which people work. What people want in their leaders has undergone a revolution.

Laura and I - along with our team - realized that more and more of our work involved developing and delivering what are the essential building blocks of today's leadership requirements.

At a time of intense focus on the need by organizations to develop leaders, we, in turn, laid the groundwork for this new venture during the past several years, taking courses at the Harvard Business School in 'Teaching the Case Study Method'; as Adjunct Professors at Carleton University, and working with political, corporate, union, government and Association leaders throughout North America and elsewhere.

In our Transformational Leadership Program we have developed the curriculum based on our own experience, the best practices of clients and thought leaders around the world.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Where have all the leaders gone?
Fifty two years ago last week, President John F. Kennedy delivered two speeches on back-to-back days which changed the course of history. On June 10th, 1963 his American University commencement address sent a very different message to the Soviet Union leadership that it was time to explore avenues to peace - which ultimately led to the Test Ban Treaties over nuclear arms. The next evening, June 11th,  Kennedy's speech to the nation about the vow by Alabama Governor George Wallace's to block the entry of two African-American students to enrol in the University of Alabama.
Just a few weeks ago, I attended a book club gathering, in which the guest speaker, Andrew Cohen, author of Two Days in June, spoke about John F. Kennedy's leadership on those two important speeches of his presidency. Kennedy went on national television with only a few hours notice and spoke to the American people  about why such racism was completely unacceptable in American society.
His speech set the table for the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act by Lyndon Johnson. As Cohen so brilliantly captures on an hour-by-hour reenactment over those 48 hours, Kennedy not only inspired a nation, he changed the world.
Of course, we don't have to be Presidents in order to become a leader that has the ability to transform a company, government agency or even our work units. We can all play a leadership role in our organizations, our communities and in our daily lives. Developing the skills sets, strengthening one's knowledge and understanding of others are critical to achieving our leadership capacity.
The world today is looking for transformational leadership. 
Everywhere we turn today, people are experiencing  transformational change - at work, in society, and in their communities. With change comes anxiety. With anxiety comes division. With division comes conflict. With conflict comes the need for leadership. Leadership that will not just tell them what to do, but engage them in the quest for solutions.
Leadership Qualities of John F. Kennedy
What were the leadership qualities that JFK exhibited on those two days?
JFK Civil Rights Speech 06/11/1963
1. He took risks.
Interestingly enough, John F. Kennedy received lots of diplomatic - as well as political - advice not to proceed on the paths he had chosen. Yet he took a risk - less than 18 months before the 1964 election.
2. He took the long view.
The challenge for political leaders is similar in one sense to CEOs of publicly traded companies. With the need to meet the market's quarterly expectations, taking the long view is rarely rewarded if those quarterly earnings aren't what analysts expected. Yet leadership is taking the long view. Short term wins at the expense of long-term thinking is a prescription for disaster.
3. He focused on people.
JFK American U. Speech 06/10/1963
In his American University speech, he reached out to both the American and Soviet people. He sought to humanize them, and that was rarely done at the height of the cold war.
"And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."
4. He communicated a clear vision. 
Leaders can't blame the voters. CEOs can't blame analysts, shareholders or consumers. So, it isn't about blame. It's about the ability to see the big picture (vision), to be guided by values, listening, having a sense of priorities, and communicating effectively.
As described in this New York Times op-ed by Prof. Peniel E. Joseph:
"...for the first time, [he] called [racism] a “moral issue.” It seems obvious today that civil rights should be spoken of in universal terms, but at the time many white Americans still saw it as a regional, largely political question. And yet here was the leader of the country, asking “every American, regardless of where he lives,” to “stop and examine his conscience.”

In both those speeches - at American University on June 10th, 1963 and in his televised speech to the nation (the last few minutes of which were ad-libbed) on June 11th, Kennedy spoke to the higher aspirations, and deeply held moral views of the American people.

Although he was assassinated less than six months later (and we learned he was far from a perfect man); nevertheless, Kennedy's legacy of leadership lives on today.

Barry J. McLoughlin, Senior Partner and Co-founder
TransformLeaders.ca Build Your Brand from the Inside Out
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1 comment:

  1. Its very informative and i am sure it will help many other people like the way it helps me. Thanks for the information.
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