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Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt LeadershipTheodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership


Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt (1858-1919)


American president (pictured right) whose greatest legacy was his strong support for conservation, years before the dangers of climate change were known.

Related to Franklin and Eleonor Roosevelt and famous for teddy bears, named after him following his refusal to kill a bear on a hunting trip.


Why was he a great leader?


1. Purpose

Morality (see point 2) and conservation were his main aims as president, creating six new national parks including the Grand Canyon, despite fierce opposition from mining companies.

“United action in the wise use of our natural resources” was a national duty, he said, and, if America didn’t have the foresight to do it, “dark will be the future”.

He was also a great patriot saying that people should be 100% American and not a hyphenated American (e.g. Irish-American).


2. Moral courage

He believed that morality (from unselfishness, honesty, courage and decency) is the most important thing for a leader to encourage because good people make a good country.Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership

“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society”, he said.

He was resolute in his defence of ordinary people.

He was the first president to invite a black man, Booker T. Washington (pictured right), to the White House. But Roosevelt's attitude towards blacks hardened later.

He consistently attacked the power of big business and “ruthless efficiency” that put profit before people.

“No man is above the law”, he said.


3. Determination

With the help of his loving parents, he battled through suffocating asthma as a child.

He also had to cope with the devastating blows of his dear father’s death, when he was 19, and the death of his first wife in 1884 and an assassination attempt in 1903.

 Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership

4. Fearless ambition and self-confidence

Perhaps reminded of life’s value from his father’s (pictured right) early death, he pushed himself physically and mentally.

For example, he ordered the building of the Panama Canal after supporting a revolution in Colombia to make it happen!



5. Reflection before action

He mixed bold action (see point 4) with caution and quiet consideration of the available options. Then he acted quickly and decisively.

“In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing”, he said.


6. Charm and charisma

Roosevelt was:Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership

  • a great speaker with a forceful but friendly personality to inspire people.

  • witty and modest (despite his vanity)

  • described by the writer Mark Twain (pictured right) as one of the most likeable men he knew.


7. Peace from strength

He helped to end the war between Russia and Japan in 1905 (winning the Nobel Peace Prize), and the coal strike in 1902 by acting as a mediator between the miners’ union and management.

He also sought peace abroad with soft-spoken diplomacy, backed up by moral resolve and military might.

So he greatly expanded the Navy, and his motto became “speak softly and carry a big stick”.

 Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership

8. Luck

As vice president he became president at the young age of 42 after the assassination of president William McKinley (pictured right).


9. Physical health

His childhood asthma taught him the importance of physical fitness and the “strenuous life” of regular exercise and sport.


10. Learning and information

Roosevelt:Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership

  • was naturally curious and very intelligent (he went to Harvard University).
  • loved books (with Thomas Jefferson, pictured right, the best read American president ever).
  • had a constant hunger of the information needed to make good decisions.

For example, on his first day as president, he told the heads of Washington’s three press agencies to keep him well informed of home and foreign events.

His father’s unselfish courage had a huge influence on him, and he never made a decision without first thinking what he would have done.

 Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Leadership

11. Energy and passion

He was extremely energetic and enthusiastic, doing his job of president so quickly that he could spend the afternoon off and spend time with his family (pictured right in 1903)!


12. Good people

He picked good people and then gave them the power and autonomy to carry out his decisions.

He believed that getting along with people was vital to great leadership.


Key quote on objectives

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win the glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in that great twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.


Key quotes on success

Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.


Key quote on management

Do not hit at all, if it can be avoided, but never hit softly.


Key quote on decision making

There is only one quality worse than hardness of heart and that is softness of head.


Key quote on leadership

Effective leadership is a combination of idealism and practical efficiency.


Key quote on family and children

The only thing I want to leave my children is an honourable name.


Key quote on education

To educate a man in mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society


Key quote on motivation and happiness

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.


Key quote on ethics

We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.

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