John F. Kennedy on Leadership, Opportunity, and Action

John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States and served from 1961 – 1963.  He was a war hero and was the youngest US president ever, when elected.  Kennedy was a terrific speaker and is considered a great leader.  Today, we look at these four noteworthy quotes from Kennedy as we see how they relate to our efforts in our personal and professional lives:

  1. When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” – We frequently face significant challenges in our lives, whether they result from decisions we have made for ourselves, decisions others have made, or a combination of the two.  When these challenges occur, we have two choices: face the challenge with courage or run in fear.  Kennedy here is trying to make the point that these challenges often provide us with an opportunity to shine.  Kennedy himself may never have become President had he not faced serious challenges in war that resulted in his hero status.  So, instead of looking at your challenges in discouragement and defeat, look at them as an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities, skills, professionalism, and demeanor under pressure.
  2. Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – Purpose and direction determine whether our activities will add value or not.  These define success or failure.  Without direction, our best efforts are often inadequate or forgotten.  Before acting, it is always a good idea to ask yourself, “How will the company (or my life or the life of someone else or our patients) be better as a result of this effort?  How will success be defined?  What value am I adding?”  If you cannot provide a clear answer on these questions, you might question whether the activities is worthwhile.
  3. The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. – Anticipation, preparation, prevention… We always wish we had fixed the roof before the storm.
  4. There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. – Kennedy had a bias toward action.  Some tend to watch and wait before acting.  Kennedy contends that the risks of the latter are greater than the risk of occasionally making a mistake.  It is so comfortable to leave well enough alone, but we often need to venture into out of our comfort zone to make individual or corporate progress.

Leadership, opportunity, and action… As we begin a new year, these are attributes that we should all strive to exhibit and provide.  Have a super, happy, and productive day!

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