Harry S. Truman served as the 33rd President of the United States. As the newly-elected vice president in Franklin Roosevelt’s fourth term Truman assumed office upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945. David McCullough won the Pulitzer Prize in literature for his seminal work on Truman’s biography. This 900+ page book tells the story of a typical mid-western American man whose life spanned from 1884 to 1972 and was an eyewitness to some of the most amazing societal changes in national and international history (and the architect of some of those changes, too).
By all accounts, Truman was a simple man who let his actions speak for him. He was a hard-working individual who was devoted to family, community, and working-class values. Growing up near Independence , Missouri Truman was serious about keeping his commitments and pursuing his modest dreams. of….. He appears to have been reluctant to step into leadership roles but did exceedingly well when he did.
The experience that changed him most was serving as a captain in the Army in WWI where he lead with distinction. Several of the men in his company became life-long friends. Upon returning from the war he married his long-time sweetheart, Bess. Truman was 35. He opened a men’s clothing store with an army friend only to have the store fail a few years later. At 38 Truman was elected a county judge (commissioner) for Jackson County and managed the county operating with budget surpluses while expanding the paved road system and constructing a new court house. His leadership style could be described as ‘no-nonsense’. A friend, Ted marks, is quoted as saying, “I think no matter what job he held he put all he had into it. He enjoyed it and did the best he knew how…”
A significant leadership leasson that can be learned from the ‘early’ years of Truman’s career is the importance of showing up ready to give one’s best! His military stint was difficult. The men in his command rejected his leadership at first but later became intensely loyal to him. He lost re-election as Eastern Court Judge only to come back two years later to win Presiding Judge! Truman showed up, gave it his best, and kept his word.
As a second chair leader you might find yourself in positions that don’t highlight your amazing talents and skills. You might find it difficult to take direction from your key leader. Regardless of your situation it is important that you show up ready to give it your best in every situation. “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (See Matthew 25.21)
Next: More leadership lessons from the “Accidental President!”