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Category Archives: Leadership styles

The types of leadership displayed by different individuals

No quagmires for me! (Or: HR sucks. Part 2 of 4)

to the unsuccessful multitude, am I to go with every one into the reasons for not appointing him? besides that this correspondence would literally engross my whole time, into what controversies would it lead me? sensible of this dilemma, from the moment of coming into office, I laid it down as a rule to leave the applicants to collect their answer from the fact. to entitle myself to the benefit of the rule in any case it must be observed in every one: and I never have departed from it in a single case, not even for my bosom friends.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders learn what works and stick with it, regardless.
In the first post in this series, Jefferson explained he was under no obligation to let Smith know he had been passed over for a government appointment or to tell him the reasons why. Now he explained:
1. To do so for every unsuccessful applicant would take all of his time.
2. It would also open the door to even further “controversies,” debate, argument and conflict, all of which he disliked.

Aware of these pitfalls from the very beginning of his administration, it was his policy that the only notice given would be of the successful applicant. All the losers would get their answer, and their only answer, in the same way.

Since Jefferson benefited from this policy by avoiding # 1 and # 2 above, he was obligated to use it with everyone. He applied it in every case, even when a loser was a close friend.

” … your performance and address held them spellbound.”
Director of Operations, Indiana Telecommunications Association
Let Thomas Jefferson bind a spell on your audience.
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You have your answer. (Or: HR sucks, Part 1 of 4)

Your letter of the 10th. came to hand yesterday evening. it is written with frankness and independance, and will be answered in the same way. you complain that I did not answer your letters applying for office. but if you will reflect a moment you may judge whether this ought to be expected. to the successful applicant for an office the commission is the answer. to the unsuccessful multitude, am I to go with every one into the reasons for not appointing him?
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders do not owe everyone an explanation.
Smith’s letter of November 10 was the third he had written to the President, complaining that he had not been notified of being passed over for a government appointment. Smith thought his service during the war for independence and his political orientation merited his selection. (Founders Archives, my source for Jefferson’s correspondence, does not contain Smith’s first two letters. Either the letters never reached Jefferson or did and were then lost.) Jefferson promised he would now reply in the same vein Smith had used with him.

Did Smith have a right to be notified that the office had gone to another? No. The announcement that someone else was appointed was the only notification anyone would receive. Was Jefferson obligated to explain his reasoning to the many unsuccessful applicants? Again, no. The reasons will be in Part 2.

In a churlish aside to his complaint, Smith said he had just recently married well, and no longer needed or wanted the job. He wouldn’t have pursued it in the first place had he not been in dire financial straits.

“Again, a very heartfelt thank you
for sharing your time, talent and knowledge …”

Conferences and Seminars Manager, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
Mr. Jefferson looks forward to sharing his time, talent and knowledge with your audience.
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Including and valuing the losers will strengthen our team!

… in chusing these characters it has been an object of considerable attention to chuse French who speak the American language, & Americans who speak the French. yet I have not made the want of the two languages an absolute exclusion. but it should be earnestly recommended to all persons concerned in the business of the government, to acquire the other language, & generally to inculcate the advantage of every person’s possessing both, and of regarding both equally as the language of the territory.
To William C.C. Claiborne, August 30, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Winner take all is a dumb strategy for leaders.
The President was planning the government for the southern portion of the recently acquired Louisiana. It would be headquartered in New Orleans where the sizeable majority would be of French descent. The appointed legislative body would have 13 members. Jefferson wanted a seven members to be American, six to be French.

In addition to a representative body, he wanted one that could communicate easily among themselves. While not requiring bi-lingual members, all mono-lingual appointees should be willing to upgrade their status. Going even further, he didn’t specify English as the official language, but that the French tongue should have equal status.

“Thank you for hanging on to and presenting the great truths
this great nation was founded on.”
Program Chair, North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association
Invite Thomas Jefferson to remind your audience, too.
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Forgiven! Friends again? Part 4 of 4

if my respect for him did not permit me to ascribe the whole blame to the influence of others, it left something for friendship to forgive, and after brooding over it for some little time, and not always resisting the expression of it, I forgave it cordially, and returned to the same state of esteem & respect for him which had so long subsisted … I have thus, my dear Madam, opened myself to you without reserve, which I have long wished an opportunity of doing; and, without knowing how it will be recieved, I feel relief from being unbosomed … that you may both be favored with health, tranquility and long life, is the prayer of one who tenders you the assurances of his highest consideration and esteem.
To Abigail Smith Adams, June 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Choosing to forgive is an empowering leadership trait.
In previous posts from this letter, Jefferson thanked Adams for the condolence for his deceased daughter, reaffirmed his esteem for her, and then described the only act of her husband, former President John Adams, that he considered personally unkind. He continued that thread in this post.

Most, but not all, of John Adams’ actions Jefferson could attribute to political foes. Yet, Adams himself was responsible in some smaller measure. Jefferson admitted brooding over Adams’ offenses, even speaking of those offenses with others. And then, “I forgave it cordially,” he wrote and resumed his long-held esteem for Mr. Adams.

Jefferson had the desire to preserve friendship despite political differences. He was able to forgive most offenses and knew the futility of holding a grudge. He was far more inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt and move on.

Abigail Adams would have none of it. Her reply contained a full-throated justification of her husband’s actions, the ones Jefferson found personally unkind. She condemned Jefferson’s involvement with the scandal-monger journalist, James Callendar. She also bore a personal offense for his denying her son John Quincy Adams, a federal position.

As a meeting planner, it was a pleasure to work with you…
I look forward to working with you in the future.”
Legislative Services Manager, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives
Enjoy the pleasure of working with Thomas Jefferson.
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Should leaders keep their good deeds secret?

We have just heard of the calamitous event of Norfolk … [I] take the liberty of inclosing two hundred dollars to you, & of asking the favor of you to have it applied in the way you think best, for the relief of such description of sufferers as you shall think best. I pray not to be named in newspapers on this occasion.
To Thomas Newton, March 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Tragedy should not be a publicity opportunity for leaders.
A fire in Norfolk, Virginia on February 22 injured or killed many and destroyed more than 250 buildings. The President sent $200 for the relief fund, in care of a Virginia Congressman. Jefferson did not want his donation publicized in the newspapers.

The year before, Jefferson made another disaster-related donation to Portsmouth, NH. He insisted on anonymity then, too.

How many leaders today, do you suppose, deliberately keep their charitable efforts out of the public eye?

“Mr. Lee was engaged to represent both William Clark and Thomas Jefferson.
His portrayal of both men was outstanding …”
Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board
Want an outstanding presentation for your audience?
Invite Thomas Jefferson (or Lewis & Clark’s William Clark) to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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This is what I think. Now, you make the decision.

… I submit all this to your discretion …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

… will you be so good as to consider this, and to do finally what you think best?
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let trusted subordinates make the decisions.
These excerpts are Jefferson’s concluding thoughts to his War Secretary on two entirely unrelated matters. One dealt with a family’s petition for the early release of a soldier. The other pertained to opening negotiations with the Creek Indians for a road to New Orleans through their lands in Georgia and Alabama. In each case, the President expressed an opinion and the reasons for it.Then he left the decision in the hands of his lieutenant.

Jefferson feared most of all the consolidation of all powers into the hands of a very few in the federal government, far removed from the lives of those affected by their decisions. Thus, he was a devoted delegator of decision making. He had no qualms about making the call when he had to, but if a matter could be resolved by someone under his authority, he eagerly left the matter in their hands.

In his retirement, Jefferson wrote to Destutt de Tracy in 1811,“… I have never been so well pleased as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others …”

“I would like to express my thanks to you for your outstanding presentation …
Your opening keynote presentation … had the audience spellbound …”

Program Co-Chair, MO Organization for Clinical Laboratory Science, St. Louis Chapter
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your conference.
Call 573-657-2739
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This is what I think. Now, you make the decision.

… I submit all this to your discretion …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

… will you be so good as to consider this, and to do finally what you think best?
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let trusted subordinates make the decisions.
These excerpts are Jefferson’s concluding thoughts to his War Secretary on two entirely unrelated matters. One dealt with a family’s petition for the early release of a soldier. The other pertained to opening negotiations with the Creek Indians for a road to New Orleans through their lands in Georgia and Alabama. In each case, the President expressed an opinion and the reasons for it. Then he left the decision in the hands of his lieutenant.

Jefferson feared most of all the consolidation of all powers into the hands of a very few in the federal government, far removed from the lives of those affected by their decisions. Thus, he was a devoted delegator of decision making. He had no qualms about making the call when he had to, but if a matter could be resolved by someone under his authority, he eagerly left the matter in their hands.

In his retirement, Jefferson wrote to Destutt de Tracy in 1811, “… I have never been so well pleased as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others …”

“I would like to express my thanks to you for your outstanding presentation …
Your opening keynote presentation … had the audience spellbound …”
Program Co-Chair, MO Organization for Clinical Laboratory Science, St. Louis Chapter
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your conference.
Call 573-657-2739
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For those less fortunate than myself …

I pray you to recieve & apply the within sum of one hundred dollars to the use of those among you afflicted with the present sickness, who may be in need of it. I further request that no acknolegement may be made of it in the public papers, nor otherwise in any manner. I offer my best wishes for the reestablishment of the health of Alexandria, & to yourself my respectful salutations.
To Samuel Snowden, September 29, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders CAN keep their thoughtful acts private.
Jefferson always fled the coast, the area he called the tidewater, for Monticello in August and September to escape the deadly yellow fever. Its cause was unknown but was believed to result from bad air that circulated in low-lying areas that time of year. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia killed 5,000, more than 10% of the city’s population. It would be almost a century later, in 1900, before doctors determined that mosquitoes spread the deadly disease.

The President knew that not everyone could escape the tidewater and yellow fever. Thus, he made a $100 contribution to a newspaper publisher in tidewater-surrounded Alexandria, VA, for the relief of those ravaged by the disease, requesting his donation be kept anonymous.

“Patrick Lee was our first guest speaker and he set the bar very high
with his remarkable portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.”
Board of Directors, Sedalia Heritage Foundation
Mr. Jefferson will set the bar equally high at your conference.
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Why piss people off when it can be avoided?

on seeing an account of Gibaut’s death in the Salem paper I immediately ordered a commission for Kittridge. I gave notice of it to Crownenshield by the same post. I am glad it was done. for after a good candidate is known, delay only gives time to intrigue, to interest a greater number of persons & consequently to make more malcontents by disappointment.
To Albert Gallatin, August 30, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Decisive leaders nip potential problems in the bud.
Without going into detail about the individuals or position, death created a vacancy in a federally appointed office. As soon as the President learned of it in the newspaper, he immediately appointed another and made a public announcement. Why act so quickly?
1. He had a qualified candidate, so there was no need to wait.
2. Delay created space for political intrigue to develop.
3. Delay gave time for other candidates to express interest.
4. The result would create “malcontents” among those not chosen.

“We appreciated your willingness to take questions from the audience,
handling all questions with thoughtfulness and agility.”
Western Coal Transportation Association, Denver, CO
Thomas Jefferson delights to answer questions from his audience, no holds barred!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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You are barking up the wrong tree.

Th: Jefferson … acknoleges … [your letters] proposing that persons should be employed by the general government to explore mines of metal & coal, to assay ores … designate canals, roads &c but observes to him that these objects not being among the powers transferred by the States to the General government, nor among the purposes for which the latter is authorized to levy money on the people, the State governments alone are competent to the pursuits proposed.
To Benjamin Henfrey, January 5, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Constitutional leaders understand the limits of their authority.
The British scientist and businessman had written Jefferson at length recommending the hiring of a geologist/engineer to study mineral ores and design roads and canals in the various states. He also introduced a teaser, volunteering the demonstrate for the President a process of his own, capturing gas vapor from coal and using it to provide lamp lighting.

Henfrey then offered his own services for hire, to do what he proposed.

Jefferson the scientist would have loved the new information Henfrey’s proposal might provide. No doubt he was intrigued by gas lighting. Still, he shut Henfrey down cold. Why?
1. Such exploration was not a power given by the states to the national government.
2. Nor was it one of the purposes for which the government could tax its citizens.
The Constitution clearly left that authority and expense to the individual states.

“It was impressive to notice the entire banquet hall silent with everyone,
including the hotel banquet staff, paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
Forestry Conservation Communications Association
Mr. Jefferson will hold your audience in rapt attention, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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