Leadership Lessons from DC: House of Leadership Perspectives

“I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American People and that I have been given their trust.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

As I strolled through the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. with my family this summer, I came across this quote chiseled into a beautiful granite wall. FDR lived in the White House longer than any other U.S. President: 4,422 days. He led the American people through the aftermath of the Great Depression, then up to, and into World War II before he died three months into his fourth term. This quote highlights three important leadership perspectives.

Given by Others

“I live in a house owned by all the American people…” True leadership is bestowed upon a person by others. One may have the title, position, or responsibilities to influence others. This does not make a person a leader. Leadership is in the “eye of the follower.” In this quote, the literal place (the White House) where Roosevelt lived was owned by the American tax payers. Figuratively, FDR’s “house” or opportunity to lead was given by the American people. He was chosen. Your scope of influence is only given to the extent to which it is granted by others.

Trust is Expected

“I have been given their trust.” When leadership is granted, trust is expected. Trust is a foundation of leadership. There are three pillars to trust: connection, competency, and character.

Connection is the ongoing process of building a relationship with another person.

Character is the combined features and traits that form the individual nature of a person.

Competency is having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, and experience for some purpose.

The strongest form of trust has all three pillars firmly established. When one or more pillar is lacking, trust erodes.   It is critical to intentionally build all three pillars of trust to lead well.


Finally, it is important to remember that any position of leadership is temporary. Even though FDR’s term was longer than any other President, it did end. Your term of influence, whether it is as a co-worker, manager, executive, parent, coach, or board member, will end. The day-by-day leadership challenge is to leave your area of influence better than when you started.