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Fight like these leaders … and win

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Great leaders generally view fighting as a last resort. But most of them will fight, and fight furiously, once an adversary has pushed them to a point of no return.

How do great leaders handle fighting, and how should you? Find some clues in the battle styles of these great presidents:
  • The reformed killer. Before becoming president, Andrew Jackson was a hothead who challenged his enemies to duels and shot many of them. When he entered the White House, Jackson made a show of controlling that hot temper, but the message was always clear: Don’t push this guy too far.

  • The aristocrat who goes ballistic. When John F. Kennedy took office, he forged an agreement with the big U.S. steel companies not to raise prices. Soon after, all the companies raised their prices at the same time.

    Dropping his gentility, Kennedy responded: “My father always told me those people were sons of bitches,” and he refused to take back his words when reporters asked. He then sent government agents on Gestapo-style pre-dawn raids to the steel companies’ offices to search for evidence of collusion.

    JFK’s display of raw power forced his enemies to back down.

  • The divider/conqueror. Theodore Roosevelt saw that doing battle with all the big trusts was impossible. So, he characterized some of them as “bad” and some of them as “good.” He then annihilated the bad, which brought the rest of them into line.
— Adapted from Presidential Greatness, Thomas. A. Bailey, Appleton-Century.

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