David B. Grinberg en Leadership, Publishers & Bloggers, Directors and Executives Strategic Communications Consultant • Independent 30/5/2017 · 3 min de lectura · 2,3K

5 Leadership Lessons from JFK on 100th Birthday

5 Leadership Lessons from JFK on 100th Birthday

Although President John F. Kennedy was assassinated more than a half-century ago, his strong legacy of leadership lives on today. Two critically important areas which exemplified JFK’s leadership were civil rights and space exploration. The 35th President’s risk-taking actions resulted in historic accomplishments which altered the course of American history.

JFK would have turned 100 years old on May 29, 2017. He was the youngest American President ever elected, at age 43, and the youngest to die in office. Yet JFK remains one of the most beloved and popular presidents in American history because of his bold vision and vital leadership during challenging times.

“Kennedy was president for just 1,036 days,” notes the Washington Post in a recent article. “But in a 2013 Gallup poll, 74 percent of Americans ranked his presidency as either ‘outstanding’ or ‘above average,’ the highest of any president since World War II.”

That’s why all generations can learn valuable leadership lessons from JFK 100 years after his birth. Following are five leadership examples which stand out for me:

  • Formulating and effectively communicating a bold vision,

  • Fostering innovative thinking and new technology,

  • Taking risks to advance a cause greater than oneself,

  • Following one’s moral conscience despite public opinion, and

  • Advancing equal opportunity in the workplace and beyond.

    JFK inspired America to thrive in space exploration and move the moral compass of the nation on civil rights

Civil Rights Struggle

President Kennedy occupied the Oval Office during one of the most turbulent times of the post-World War II era. The non-violent civil rights movement led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) was growing across the South and having a deep social impact on the conscience of the country — for blacks and whites alike.

The national mood was tense as police used unnecessary violence to stop peaceful demonstrations. This included beating civil rights marchers bloody with batons, unleashing K-9 attack dogs, and spraying down demonstrators with powerful water cannons. It was a time of intense social upheaval and uncertainty. America faced a crossroads in the fight for equal opportunity for all citizens.

President Kennedy helped to change the hearts and minds of many bigoted white Americans. He effectively communicated the necessity of equal rights and equal opportunity for all citizens, regardless of race or skin color. His persuasive oratory caused many whites to take a long look in the mirror and search their moral conscience, as well as ponder America's fundamental values under the Constitution.

    JFK’s groundbreaking and heroic leadership changed hearts and minds.

    Among his civil rights achievements, JFK fought for and signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and set the stage for the subsequent passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark law fundamentally altered how blacks were treated in nearly all aspects of public life.

    To demonstrate his leadership and command of communication in the TV age, JFK delivered a consequential nationally televised address (watch video) on June 11, 1963, during the height of the civil rights struggle. The young president told a weary nation:

    “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and it is as clear as the American Constitution. This nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all of its citizens are free.” 

    Moon Landing

    In addition to his civil rights record, JFK made a huge social impact on America in his quest to land the first men on the moon. He restored public confidence and pride in the U.S. space program. Moreover, he inspired the nation to dream big and take risks.

    Again, the young president harnessed his unique leadership skills to galvanize America. He persuaded Congress to super-size NASA’s budget to an unprecedented funding level which was necessary for the moon mission to result in a historic success.

    JFK understood the critical importance of America leading the world in space exploration, research and technology. This took place as America’s arch nemesis, the former Soviet Union (USSR), was winning the so-called Space Race by launching the first cosmonaut into low-Earth orbit.

    According to the book, Ten Presidents and NASA: “On May 25, 1961, Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress to announce his decision to go to the moon. He backed up this decision with remarkable financial commitments.”

    Under JFK, NASA’s budget was boosted by 89 percent in one year, and then by another walloping 101 percent the following year, according to the aforementioned book.

    As JFK said during his famous “moon speech” (full text) in September 1962:

    “I regard the decision to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions made during my presidency.”

    In hindsight, JFK helped transform NASA into a crown jewel of public sector innovation and a global role model for groundbreaking space science research and technology in the decades to come.

    Final Thoughts

    We can all take a cue from JFK’s lasting legacy of leadership. He helped change the very fabric of society and bring out the best in Americans.

    President Kennedy transcended the times by leading ordinary citizens to dream of what was once unimaginable and to achieve what was once thought impossible from civil rights to space exploration and other significant issues. He restored pride in America at home and exerted global leadership aboard

    John F. Kennedy remains one of the most popular and beloved American Presidents more than 50 years after his untimely death and 100 years since he was born.

    That’s why JFK’s vital leadership lessons will likely live on for the next century and beyond for future generations to learn from and benefit — and for good reason.

    • What do YOU think about JFK’s impact on the USA and the world?

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I'm an independent writer and strategic communications advisor with over 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors -- including work in the White House, Congress, federal agencies, and national news media. I'm also a Brand Ambassador for beBee Affinity Social Network. In addition to beBee, you can find me buzzing around on Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn.

    NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.


    Excellent post-@David B. Grinberg. I believe he was a great man and had a positive impact on the USA and the world.

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    David B. Grinberg 3/6/2017 · #19

    Many thanks to all below for taking the time to share your important insights, valuable feedback and positive engagement -- all of which are very much appreciated. I would address your comments individually, but that would end up taking up too much spacew within the top of the comment section.
    I would add that it's unfortunate for the USA and the world that we don't have similar strong leadership and bold vision in today's U.S. Congress and the White House to tackle a long list of important domestic and global issues. This is especially troubling during a time when America arguably needs another JFK-type president more than ever, at least compared to recent decades in history. Nevertheless, like the Eternal Flame marking JFK's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery, it is my hope that JFK's life lessons will also remain eternal in history. Again, many thanks to all!

    +1 +1
    Tausif Mundrawala 2/6/2017 · #17

    As if the clock struck every second and he knew he has limited time in his hand to accomplish more. I wish he would have been in today's time then his achievement would have outperformed what he did earlier as our world is more advanced today. He has always been my favorite leader and I can't resist myself reading about him more and more. Am glad for this second most interesting buzz on President John F Kennedy, my friend @David B. Grinberg

    +1 +1
    Aleta Curry 1/6/2017 · #16

    Interesting as always, @David B. Grinberg.

    I have to admit being of two minds with respect to space programs, though. That's an awful lot of money spent!

    +1 +1

    Wonderful post. He had his shortcomings, as we all do. But his attributes and ideals burned brightly.

    +3 +3
    Jeremy Miller 31/5/2017 · #13

    Nice! Thanks for sharing this

    +2 +2
    Aaron 🐝 Skogen 31/5/2017 · #12

    After reading this great tribute and your question, I felt this fitting @David B. Grinberg.

    From Robert F. Kennedy's Capetown Day of Affirmation Speech in 1966, (and engraved on his memorial at Arlington) in which he said:

    "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

    I think the quote speaks as much for his brother, as it did for him.

    +4 +4
    Gert Scholtz 31/5/2017 · #11

    @David B. Grinberg A great tribute to a great man - thanks for a stellar post David. A JFK quote that I particularly like is: "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

    +1 +1