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Give young leaders the tools they need

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Leadership begins early. Present its building blocks to those who show promise, and you’ll see whether their inclinations and abilities develop.

Dwight D. Eisenhower showed hints of greatness as a young boy. Once, during a family reunion, the child faced an ornery goose that kept charging him.

Eisenhower’s Uncle Luther gave him a broom handle and showed him how to use it, whereupon the child returned to the barnyard, stared down the fowl and then gave it a few smacks, sending it into retreat.

“This all turned out to be a rather good lesson for me,” he later wrote, “because I quickly learned never to negotiate with an adversary except from a position of strength.”

Eisenhower and his brothers loved to re-enact battles, and they eventually wound up defending the family’s honor against insults from more well-heeled classmates in high school.

In fact, Eisenhower became renowned as a schoolboy scrapper after taking care of the class bully. Once on the playground, the bully started swinging a rope with a metal bolt at the end, daring anyone to try to stop him. Eisenhower immediately jumped out of the crowd, tackled him and chased him away.

“From that time on,” said a classmate, “whenever there was any kind of trouble on the school grounds, [the students] always wailed, ‘Ike, Ike, Ike.’”

Lesson: Watch for young leaders and cultivate them.

—Adapted from Eisenhower: A Biography, John Wukovits, Palgrave Macmillan.

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