• Helen Burt Iain McCormick

Become a Statesman-Like Leader


A statesman is a respected leader in a given field. Perhaps more importantly they are often politicians who are unencumbered promoters of the public good. They think more about providing benefits to the public rather than their own egos or re-election chances. For a leader in an organisation the ‘public good’ may be represented by ideas such as the best for our customers, best for our staff, best for the programme or project.

For many leaders the notion of becoming more statesman-like is a great idea but how do you start on this journey – what in a practical sense does it mean?

The place to start is not with a simple idea but with a rich understanding of the reality of the lives of a series of well recognised statesmen. A great way to gain this understating is to read the book Leadership: Lessons from the Presidents for Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Penguin, 2018). The book is very well written and thoroughly entertaining. It traces the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson from their childhoods to their deaths. It shows how they each, in their own way, achieved a degree of statesmanship. The book outlines the lives of these four presidents in three sections 1. Ambition and the recognition of leadership, 2. Adversity and growth and 3. The leader and the times: How they lead. The last section contains a wide range of great leadership insights – such as: make a dramatic start, be visible, cultivate support among those most directed affected by the crisis, address systemic problems and launch lasting reforms.

My suggestion is that you start by reading the book from cover to cover to get a broad understanding of the reality of great leadership in turbulent times. Then focus on section 3 and review each of those chapters such as crisis management, turnaround leadership, asking the question Is this material relevant to me at this time in my leadership journey?

Make some careful notes about the best insights from the book. Then ask the following questions:

1. Why is this leadership insight important?

2. How does it relate to where I am currently at in my leadership journey?

3. How do I to apply this insight?

4. What specific situations is it most relevant in?

5. What specific behaviours do I need to change?

6. Who will I work with to give me perspective and feedback on my journey into statesman-like leadership?

Developing statesman-like leadership will take many months and will require self-discipline to focus on the long-term benefit for your customers, staff or projects.

Iain McCormick, Partner, Executive Coaching Centre – iain@eccltd.co.nz 021 575449

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