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  • Writer's pictureKristen Theisen

Leading with Presidential Wisdom: Our Top 3 Leadership Tips from Past Presidents

Chalkboard diagram of leadership traits

With Presidents Day not that far behind us, I began thinking about the leadership of our forefathers. I doubt George Washington or Abraham Lincoln had training on how to lead others effectively. So how did they get the most prominent job in the country?

In my opinion, most people get leadership roles as a result of experience, opportunity, and maybe certain personal characteristics. However, the experience isn't necessarily in leadership - it's in the technical knowledge of the job. While a person may have the skills to do the job, do they truly understand how to motivate a team or nurture an individual's strengths?

If you are a leader yourself, did you have specific training on how to support, encourage, and challenge those who report to you? Most likely the answer is no - you just figured it out along the way. Even if you're crushing it as a leader, there's always room for improvement. In honor of Presidents Day, I'm sharing my Top 3 Leadership Tips from Washington's and Lincoln's presidencies. Read on for tools you can use to achieve more in 2024!

1. Establish Trust. Top 3 Leadership Tips from Past Presidents

Hand shake

George Washington couldn't call or email his soldiers when he led them in the Continental War - he had to trust them to do their jobs and follow his plan. How did he establish trust? An article on LinkedIn shares "He spent time with his troops, listening to their concerns and addressing them promptly."

Show your team that you trust them. Second-guessing their decisions or stepping in for no real reason will make them feel ineffective and discouraged.

2. Show Empathy. Top 3 Leadership Tips from Past Presidents

Sincere discussion around conference table

Abraham Lincoln worked to understand the people around him, putting himself in their shoes to learn their needs, wants, and motivations.

Do you recognize the individuality of your staff members? An article by The Harvard Business Review stated "When you take the time to know the people you lead, you can personalize your management approach and, in doing so, show your team members that you value them — both as a group and as individuals." One size does not fit all.

3. Be Authentic. Top 3 Leadership Tips from Past Presidents

Casual conversation among co-workers

Washington didn't pretend he had all the answers; he often asked for advice before making decisions. Lincoln remained true to his beliefs, but connected with others through his love of storytelling and humor.

"The core of outstanding leadership is authenticity," a article stated. A leader who shares personal stories, experiences, and even failures, creates a sense of connection and relatability among team members.

Final Thoughts...

In the realm of leadership, trust, empathy, and authenticity are the cornerstones of success. By fostering genuine connections, actively listening, and demonstrating vulnerability, leaders can create an environment where teams thrive. Remember: Trust is the currency of collaboration, empathy fuels understanding, and authenticity inspires loyalty.

If you'd like to learn how you can combine all three to become a more effective leader, contact us at to discuss a customized workshop or training program for you and/or your leadership team.

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