Franklin D. Roosevelt on Leadership

Franklin D. Roosevelt


Franklin D Roosevelt followed in the footsteps of greatness, his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. He modeled his career after the twenty-sixth president: State Assemblyman, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York State, vice-presidential candidate, and final president. At the same time, he remained an original.

Lesson No. 1: Don't Listen to Nay-sayers

One winter day, Franklin D Roosevelt's parents visited their friend, Grover Cleveland, the President of the United States. In the White House, Cleveland looked at little five-year-old Franklin in the eye. The weary president declared, "My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is my wish you never be the president of the United States." Roosevelt grew up to become the only president who served four terms.

Lesson No. 2: Be Flexible

In a newspaper interviewed, he was asked: "'Mr. President, are you a Communist?''No."
'Are you a capitalist?'
'Are you a Socialist?'
'No!' he said, with a look of surprise, as if he wondered about what he was being cross-examined.
The young man said, 'Well, what is your philosophy, then?'
'Philosophy? asked the president, puzzled. 'Philosophy? I am a Christian and a Democrat. That's all.'
Instead of becoming a prisoner of ideology, Roosevelt was a flexible pragmatist who was willing to experiment.

Lesson No. 3: Share a Vision

Franklin D Roosevelt inspired the nation when he gave his first inaugural address in the midst of the Great Depression. American people were afraid. One out of four Americans was out of work. People had lost their life savings and their homes.

They did not know when they would eat next. Franklin D. Roosevelt confidently told the American people, "This great nation shall endure... We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Unreasoning fear ended as he promised action and renewed America's faith in itself.

Lesson No. 4: Be Persistent

If we don't believe in ourselves, who will believe in us? Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin's wife, helped him regain control of his life after he was struck down by polio in 1921. Since politics was FDR's life, she encouraged him to return to public life in 1924. Just three years earlier, this agile man had vaulted over a row of chairs to reach the speaker's platform. He now inched painfully forward on crutches. His half-hour speech nominating Al Smith for President at the Democratic Convention was full of enthusiasm. The audience cheered him for one hour and thirteen minutes. Eight years later, Roosevelt became the president of the United States. In one of the few remarks he made to anyone about his illness, he said, "If you had spent two years in bed trying to wiggle your big toe after that anything else would seem easy."

Lesson No. 5: Bypass the Bureaucracy

As an administrator, Roosevelt frequently bypassed his cabinet, relying on informal advisors who held minor posts in government. While he enlarged the role of government through his New Deal, he usually created emergency agencies to implement new programs for fear they would be stifled by the bureaucracy.

Lesson No. 6: Be a Great Communicator

Roosevelt was a master at communicating with the public. Since Roosevelt was afraid he might fall, he invented the radio "fireside chat." He would sit at his desk to speak into the radio microphone. People felt the president was sitting in the same room with them. This was something new in people's relationship with their president. Roosevelt would speak on the radio about once a month because if he spoke more often, his radio chats would cease to be regarded as special by the American people. Roosevelt sitting in the same room with your style gave a shock of intimacy, something new in people's relationship with their president. While speaking from the White House, he attempted to "see" the people to whom he was speaking. He began his speeches "My Friends" and used the word "we"-making his listeners feel like they were part of the government and the president's friends.

Lesson No. 7: Inspire Confidence

FDR loved being president. Perhaps only TR had as much fun with the presidency. Perhaps Roosevelt's most striking trait as president was his confidence. Even during two of the greatest crises in American history, the Great Depression and World War II, Roosevelt never seemed afraid--and he was able to communicate this lack of fear to the American people. Whatever the problem, Roosevelt always believed that solutions could be found and that he could help find them.

Lesson No. 8: Be a Decision maker

Franklin D Roosevelt had an enormously curious and imaginative mind that worked swiftly. He was always open to new ideas. He had a superb memory. Roosevelt was well educated and well-traveled. He had a working knowledge of three foreign languages--French, Spanish, and German. He read rapidly and widely. American history particularly interested him. He also learned well by listening--a trait that would be of great assistance in the presidency. In the long run, Roosevelt often followed his gut instincts rather than his beliefs or the particular policies he favored.

Lesson No. 9: Show Sensitivity or Compassion

FDR did not want people to know he was different. Only two pictures of him in a wheelchair, taken by a cousin, survive. In his time, people with disabilities were hidden away or struggled with almost superhuman effort to become productive members of society. The President made superhuman efforts to live a normal life at a time when few of the disabled were mainstreamed.

Roosevelt organized a foundation to help polio-stricken children fight their handicaps at Warm Springs, Georgia. In 1924 FDR discovered warm Springs, Georgia. Franklin D Roosevelt felt the warm water helped his legs. He purchased the resort in 1926 and spent $200,000 almost two-thirds of his private wealth in rehabilitating the spa and making it permanently available to his own use and for others in similar need. Roosevelt donated his birthday to the March of Dimes to raise money to fight polio.

Summary and Conclusion

When Franklin D. Roosevelt reached within himself, he was able to inspire a nation. By overcoming personal obstacles, he was able to overcome the obstacles that faced the nation when he was president. No wonder he was elected president four times.

Sidebar Area