Better Through the Support of Others!Nov 08, 2023
I sure can relate with James Madison on a few things, although his academic success and ability to achieve collaboration with even his fiercest opponents aren’t among them… I feel like I can get a good bit accomplished on any given day, but like Madison, the work I do is always much better (and more pleasing to general audiences) when my bride is involved! Just like Cindy does so much to smooth out my rough edges and help ensure the details I rarely give much thought to are at least some part of the equation, Dolly filled some significant gaps for James! The folks at Montpelier shared this to emphasize how important she was in even his political success:
Guided by Dolley Madison’s hand, the Executive Mansion achieved a happy medium between the too-stiff protocols of Washington and Adams and the overly-casual and male-dominated gatherings of Jefferson. Visitors to the White House felt warmly welcomed in what would become synonymous with the American way—a not-too-formal environment built on respect for each individual guest.
And as I mentioned before, his effectiveness in small groups and ability to influence his peers through all that he learned from his intense studies helped overcome what could quite possibly hinder many men still today; Madison was only 5’ 4” tall… This is how the Miller Center article compared him to a few of the other Founding Fathers:
Studious, keenly political, and a perceptive judge of men and issues, Madison could shape constitutions and influence legislation with few peers, but he was too cautious for the kinds of presidential leadership that left clear marks upon the political landscape. Moreover, unlike the tall, statuesque Washington and Jefferson, Madison's shorter-than-average body seldom dominated the scene. Even the very short John Adams, with his rocklike character, had exuded authority, yet among his contemporaries, Madison had trouble outshining anyone else in the room.
Even with his outstanding negotiation skills, Madison still didn’t get his way every single time; who does? Like Jefferson, he was very opposed to many of the ideas Hamilton pushed on George Washington but James had what seems to have been a more even heeled approach. Even the folks at the (first) university Jefferson founded shared this about Madison:
His executive sense of priorities, in other words, always considered first and foremost the immediate demands of crisis and the national needs of the moment. In some ways—because he was on the winning side of every important issue facing the young nation from 1776 to 1816—Madison was the most successful and possibly the most influential of all the Founding Fathers.
I’ll share once more for clarity, my goal here has not been to provide an extensive list of the strengths and weaknesses of these three Founding Fathers but to call attention to a few of the traits that you and I just might benefit from applying as we lead our own teams. As we wrap this up (next time), we’ll connect a few of the dots…