I was an avid reader of history and particularly the lives of great men and women. I found that some were born to greatness, some attained it by accident, and some worked for it."
American President, Author
1884 - 1972
As creative leaders we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. What do you know of the lives and works of these earlier artists, writers, musicians and storytellers? What were the challenges they faced and the difficulties they overcame? What creative ideas did they have that have made our work easier? What knowledge did they have that has now been lost to the dustbins of history? Which painters, writers and musicians are your heroes? Whom do you dislike? Whose shoulders are you standing on?
Do you worship your heroes and put them on a pedestal? Or do you accept the fact that they are human and have flaws just like you? Too often we believe that our heroes are super human and better than those around them. And if we are unfortunate to get too close, we learn the truth and are disappointed. All heroes have clay feet. No human is perfect. In fact, many of the great creative leaders have major flaws and weaknesses in other areas of their lives. They may be terrible husbands, wives, parents or lovers. They may hold serious biases and prejudices. They may not be able to manage money or are penny pinchers. They may drink too much or take drugs.
Most people are not born to greatness. They usually work hard to achieve what they desire, but in the end the fame they find is often by accident. So my advice to every creative leader is to work hard every day and enjoy what you do. Fame is often fleeting and unfulfilling. Fortunes come and go like the weather. How you make the journey is much more important than when and where you arrive. Because in the end we all arrive at the same place — the cemetery. What we leave behind is our legacy. What legacy will you leave behind?
Years ago, a speaker asked his audience: "Who was President when you were born?" Like most people in the audience, I had no idea, but I soon discovered that it was Harry S. Truman. I began reading books about Truman as well as books that he wrote. Harry S. Truman became one of my heroes. I like much of what the man did and said, but I also recognize that he had clay feet. Not everything he did was right. Do you know who was President when you were born?
Harry S. Truman was born in 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He was the oldest child of Martha Ellen Young and John Anderson Truman. His father was a poor farmer and livestock dealer. He graduated from high school in 1901 and worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, held various clerical jobs and was employed by a bank. He returned to farming in 1910 and began courting Bess Wallace who later became his wife. He failed to be admitted to West Point because of his poor eyesight, but he later fought in World War I as an officer.
After the war, Truman opened a haberdashery in downtown Kansas City with his partner, Edward Jacobson, but went bankrupt during the recession of 1921. In the army, Truman met James Pendergast, a fellow Lieutenant, and nephew of Thomas Pendergast, a Kansas City political boss. In 1922, Truman was elected one of three judges of the County Court in the eastern district of Jackson County. The position was administrative in nature, not judicial. He functioned like a county commissioner. His election was supported and helped by the Kansas City Democratic machine led by Tom Pendergast.
|1948 Election: Newspapers predicted Dewey to Win|
After serving as judge for several years, Truman wanted to run for Governor but Pendergast refused to support him. In 1934, Pendergast supported his candidacy for U.S. Senate from Missouri and he won. During his first term as a Senator, he was ignored by Roosevelt. He won re-election in 1940 despite some major obstacles. During World War II, he earned a national reputation through his chairmanship in a subcommittee of the Committee on Military affairs. He attacked waste and profiteering by suppliers to the military. In 1944, Truman was nominated and elected Vice-President of the United States in Roosevelt's fourth term. When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Truman became President. He was re-elected in 1948 and chose not to run in 1952.
Here is one of my favorite stories about Harry S. Truman. I tell it in many of my presentations. Truman was an excellent example of persistence — a trait that all creative leaders need. http://www.slideshare.net/hgking/the-power-of-persistence-12296772