Leading the next generation: Try greatness, not meanness

Posted On: Tuesday, 01 October 2019
Leading the next generation

Guest blog by Trish Ward, 2018-2019 National Leadership Committee Chairman

When we think of great leaders, many individuals probably come to mind. Famous Americans such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. These men played a critical role in developing the values that define our great country.

But, as detailed in the AARP article, Try Greatness, Not Meanness, in life, these four great men did not like one another. Information was documented that they were bitter rivals who often fought and were antagonistic toward each other.

However, as the article shared, “Look at what they accomplished when they set aside their vanity, ideology, and shortsightedness: a federation of distinct regional and economic interests bound by core principles and liberties upon which a carefully balanced national government could function and thrive.”

Even in the most challenging of situations, people who share a common goal can set aside differences to collaborate and work together to accomplish great things. In 1776, John Adams shared his concern that the Continental Congress’ decisions would be dictated “by noise, not sense; by meanness, not greatness; by ignorance, not learning, by contracted hearts, not large souls.”  He concluded his concerns that “there must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank or we are undone.”

Working through challenging situations, overcoming hurdles, and maximizing the skills of the team are critical elements to driving a leadership philosophy and spirit of collaboration on behalf of those we serve. As members of the American Legion Auxiliary, we share a common desire to support our mission and therefore must work cohesively to highlight and embrace positive energy while minimizing negative distractions.

Leadership plays a critical role in assuring the team can work around barriers and keep the focus on achieving a successful outcome. Lee Iacocca, the visionary automaker who led Ford and Chrysler said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Keeping communication open, encouraging new and creative ideas, and aligning the skills and interests of members will make your team more inclusive and less exclusive. The most successful leaders do these 10 things every day:

  • Promoting the vision
  • Managing priorities
  • Delegating tasks
  • Motivating change
  • Generating urgency
  • Communicating clearly
  • Listening actively
  • Managing risk
  • Acting decisively
  • Empowering others
  • Leading from within

As Jim Toedtman, editor of AARP concluded, “we are surrounded by noise, meanness, and ignorance. The measure for our leaders must be their ability to rediscover that proven formula of sense, greatness, and learning.”

Make good sense, a meeting environment that is open and inviting to all, and a culture where greatness and learning can thrive and be part of your team’s culture. Leadership is an action, not a position. Putting good leadership concepts to work will assure that your team is on the right path to achieving greatness in all aspects of the volunteer experience.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.