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How Alexander Hamilton’s Legacy Can Make You a Better Leader

By Liza Hummel

Liza Hummel

Are you as obsessed as I am with Hamilton, the new Broadway show by multiple-award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda? Even if you haven’t seen the saga of defining the new U.S. Constitution or don’t prefer to see characters spontaneously break out into song, stick with me a moment. This is bigger than New York Harbor and Midtown Manhattan.

Alexander HamiltonLike any of the finer arts, Hamilton makes me think about my own moral character. Maybe for you it was Les Misérables or Tuesdays with Morrie. If you insert yourself into the narrative (in my case, a young woman during the American Revolution), ask whose side would you choose? What would have been at stake? How far would you go?

Last week, as I answered those questions and listened to the soundtrack for the hundredth time, I pondered a new thought. What if Alexander Hamilton was alive right now? I don’t mean from a political standpoint and who he would vote for, but how would he have been regarded in business?

Hamilton’s steadfastness and his confrontational style garnered him some friends; however, it also earned him enemies. Today’s business culture has seen a shift from autocratic and hierarchical leadership. Having empathy, being an informal leader, and involving others are essential in being successful. A recent Time article shared that empathy is one of the hottest trends in leadership, which speaks directly to this shift. Informal leadership roles—where you head up projects but have no authority over the people doing them—are increasingly common. Also, involving others is much more valuable (and desirable) than someone who simply barks orders. In 1783 these interpersonal skills were not required. Today, however, leaders no longer have the luxury of being kings.

7 lyrics from Hamilton that can make you a better leader:

  1. Look around, look around.
    Research shows a key indicator of high performers is having situational awareness and seeing how different parts fit together. Also understanding the impact your role and responsibilities have on others is essential to being an effective leader.
  2. Talk less, smile more.
    According to the International Listening Association, we only spend 45 percent of a typical workday listening, yet 85 percent of what we know we have learned through listening. A leader who actively listens is able to provide better feedback and support than one who doesn’t, which can save your bottom line.
  3. I am not throwing away my shot.
    You never know when your defining moment will come, or what it will be, so don’t waste any opportunity. Our High-Resolution Leadership Study found that ambition is the top enabling personality trend for moving up in an organization.
  4. Just you wait…
    Sometimes it takes a bit of patience for your work to pay off. Hamilton was only 34 years old when he took the office of Secretary of the Treasury for the United States, but now the average age for this post is 60! The time it takes to achieve expert level for every leadership skill may vary, but there are some skills—like coaching and selling the vision—that take longer to master than others.
  5. I’m looking for a mind at work.
    Angelica Schuyler, a quick-witted socialite and Hamilton’s sister-in-law isn’t the only one who appreciates someone who can (and does) think. According to Harvard Business Review, strategic thinkers are continuously found to be among the most highly effective leaders.
  6. Winning was easy, young man. Governing's harder.
    Solving one major challenge doesn’t signify the end—it’s often just the beginning. A strong focus on results was present in 82 percent of CEO finalists when we looked at the characteristics of those who survived at the top. Organizations need leaders who can concentrate on long-term goals and get the whole job done.
  7. Include women in the sequel.
    Better yet, include women the first time around. Undisputed research shows the more women in an organization, the higher the financial performance. The top 20 percent of financially-performing companies have twice as many women as the bottom 20 percent. The Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 shows there are no significant skill gaps between men and women, so what’s your excuse? It’s time to #LeadLikeaGirl.

Over your career, these tips will help you navigate various environments and nurture relationships, which will ultimately drive higher productivity and ROI in your organization. Just think, not only will you mold your legacy, but the next time you walk into a room, maybe you’ll enter to cheers of “Here comes the general!”

Liza Hummel is a consulting associate in leadership development at DDI. She is a roller coaster enthusiast and has ridden numerous record-breaking coasters. None compare to the ride that is being a people leader.

Posted: 12 Aug, 2016,
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