If you are searching for examples of what high performing leaders do, you need go any future than President John F. Kennedy’s (POTUS 35) first actions after taking office. One of his first actions was to formally request the U.S. Congress reinstate former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s (POTUS 34) Commission as The General of the Army. This request allowed Eisenhower to become JFK’s most senior military advisor. The new president knew how to hire top talent. In todays world, do you think it is possible for a former President to accept a job offer from his replacement? Especially if they were from different parties.
This hiring decision certainly created great conversation among both the Democrat and Republican parties, but most of all it confused those that reported to Eisenhower. There was great internal debate as to how the former 5-Star General / President should be addressed. Finally, the bravest member of the staff said to Eisenhower – we don’t know what to call you. Should we addressed you as Mr. President or as General?
Eisenhower simply replied “if you must assign me a title, then refer to me as General. We have a president, and we only need one of those at a time.”
Excluding George Washington, Eisenhower is the only military member to serve as President of the United States and return to military service following his presidency. There is a saying about Eisenhower, "the job always found him."
This historic event contains two inspiring examples of leadership; first we saw a new president committed to hiring the best team of advisors, regardless of politics. The second was from arguably the most accomplished living leader of the twenty century that humbled himself by returning to the ranks and working for the new president.
Kennedy could have easily dismissed Eisenhower as someone whose time had passed. And, Eisenhower could have simply said that he had given enough. Fortunately for us it did not happen that way.
These actions not only speak to the humility of each man, but their patriotism, intelligence, and leadership abilities. This is certainly a shining example of leadership at its best - how two presidents came together and put the interest of our country before themselves.
Finally, for those of us that continue to ask where are the great leaders of today, and tomorrow? Those that will put duty and country before self. Hopefully, they are reading this article right now.