Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Leadership Genius of Harry Truman

I can’t help but be fascinated by Harry Truman. He is, without a doubt, one of America’s great presidents. But we have had several great presidents, and none of them attracts my attention and piques my interest quite like Mr. Truman. I suppose it is mostly because he came out of nowhere, became president, and then attempted to return to his normal life. In short, he was just a regular guy, or, as he would put it: Mr. Citizen.

President Truman believed in studying the lives of great men and women, and then applying that knowledge to current situations and challenges. He was a real student of history, and he used the knowledge attained over a lifetime of reading biographies and history texts to solve some of the most complex and critical problems of our time.

I have studied Harry S. Truman extensively over the last several years, and I have concluded that he is worthy of imitation if one wants to achieve great success and become an outstanding leader. The things that Truman did were simple; but Harry Truman was simple, and that’s why I like him so much.

Today’s post is the first installment in a series of articles about the traits that made Harry Truman such a great president. I invite you to check back each Saturday for the next several weeks as we explore the tremendous attributes of this fascinating man.

Part I: Be an Early Riser

Harry Truman liked to think, and he thought best in the early morning. Mr. Truman was up and out of bed by 5:30 each morning. He took time to bathe and dress before devouring multiple newspapers from across the country. Then he would head out the door for his famous “daily constitutional.”

Truman was famous for this daily walk – a two-mile affair clipped off at about 120 steps per minute. He would bundle up if it was cold, and he always carried a walking stick, even though he did not appear to need it.

The point of the walk was two fold: Get much needed exercise, and think, think, think before tackling the day. There is no telling what decisions were settled upon during some of these walks. At the very least, the President felt energized when he entered the Oval Office each morning.

The basic idea behind getting up early is that of maximizing every minute of the day. In his landmark book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill suggested that, when planning those golden 24 hours we all have at our disposal each day, one should devote 8 hours to work, 8 hours to family time and recreation, and 8 hours to sleep. Now we all know that this is much easier said than done. But it is the idea of planning the time that is so important.

Truman knew that in order to be an effective leader, he had to be informed, and he had to have time to clear his head and think. He utilized the early morning for this purpose because he was rested, his mind was clear, and his world was free of distractions for those few precious minutes. And, he was smart enough to get in some good exercise at the same time!

Action Point: Try to get into the habit of rising early each day. It may be tough at first, but you will find that you feel better, have more energy, and may even find the answer to a nagging question or two in the process. Maximize your time!


  1. You make a really good point here and I only wish I could follow it better. Getting up early does seem to give a person an edge, and it esepcially helps when waking up to go to school. You've gone a little bit above and beyond the other students who are exhausted during their first class of the day. As they say, the early bird gets the worm!

  2. I look forward to reading your articles on President Truman. He is indeed my most admired individual - a truly amazing leader!