Quintessential Leader Lessons from July 4th in America

Posted: July 4, 2016 in Quintessential Leader Insights
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Independence is more than just nice words and ideas - it is the underpinning of our quintessential leader livesJuly 4th is referred to as Independence Day in the United States. Designated as a national holiday in America, July 4th has devolved into little more than the national embarrassingly-cheesy Boston, MA and Washington, DC song-and-dance performances followed by admittedly-beautiful fireworks displays, as well as an excuse for individuals to have a weekend to play with fireworks.

However, as America pauses in 2016 for its fun and games weekend (most of us don’t even really have an accurate grasp of our history as a nation nor do we seem to care, having been fed and believing the lies our sanitized and appallingly-inaccurate history books in school have sold us), there are several lessons that we, as leaders who are striving to be quintessential, can and should learn from the events surrounding July 4, 1776.

The first lesson is that simply saying, writing, or even knowing words doesn’t equal taking the action to fulfill them.

While July 4th is also known as Independence Day, that designation is actually a misnomer. The 4th of July is actually the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from English rule by the 13 colonies in America. The fight for that independence had actually begun a year earlier and would not be achieved until seven years later in 1783.

The second lesson is that achieving a goal requires an all-in investment and commitment to prevail to success, understanding that setbacks, failures, and disasters are inevitable along the way.

The Continental Army of the colonies was, from the outset, incredibly outmatched by the larger, stronger, well-trained, well-armed, and deep English military.

Most of the colony conscripts were farmers and laborers, untrained and unprepared for the kind of battles that would characterize the Revolutionary War.

Additionally, the colonies had no established military facilities, very little money to maintain a military, and inadequate resources to sustain a prolonged military conflict.

Soldiers in the Continental Army faced death on many fronts – starvation, hypothermia, and disease – beyond the British weapons they faced.

Setbacks, failures, and disasters threaded through the eight-year-long conflict, many of which were so severe that had there not been an all-in investment in the goal of achieving independence from British rule that quitting would have seemed the only viable and best option.

A third lesson is that the first war in achieving our goal, however big and daunting it seems, will not be the last, and those that come after are often even more challenging, because they test whether our actions and the veracity of the words we’ve spoken or written consistently match.

The words of the Declaration of Independence are lofty and well-written. They are “self-evident truths,” according to the first few words of the document.

However, the veracity – the self-evident truths – of those words, taken at face value, and the subsequent actions of America, in light of those words, has shown a significant dissonance.

All people are not created equal. There are exceptions to this statement written by Thomas Jefferson, based on race, class, and wealth. According to historians and apologists, these exceptions were implied and understood not to be included in “all people.”

It’s a “you had to be there” defense that holds no water.

The greater irony is that Britain had the same exclusions in its system of government, and although the Constitutional Congress gave lip service to a completely different system, it instead adopted the same system.

Over the course of 240 years, this nation has perfected it until we now live in a country where the rich 1% of the population, on the backs and through severe oppression of the other 99% of the population – where the middle class has been decimated and the poor have increased and suffer even greater poverty – are the only class of people who have the benefits imagined by Jefferson’s words.

Race is the other area where people are not created equal. The enslavement, torture, abuse, death, and discrimination history in this nation should be our greatest shame, because it turns out that only a certain group of people – white and western European, at it’s best – are presumably created equal.

You cannot say “all people” and then put restrictions and limitations on who “all people” includes. All people means all people; anything else is a lie.

A final lesson is that independence isn’t a destination, but instead a journey out of all the things that would enslave us on the road of life

We often think of independence as an event that, once achieved, just is. However, it is often the case that we declare independence from one thing only to find ourselves enslaved to something that imprisons us equally or more.

We simply trade one form of tyranny for another and erroneously call it freedom. Humans are notoriously capable of self-deception and blindness when it comes to what we choose to chain and tie ourselves to all the while declaring that we are free from bondage.

The absence of freedom isn’t just from despotic systems and people. Our own ideas, thoughts, words and actions, if they lead to our destruction and/or the destruction of other people, create a complete absence of freedom in our lives.

Fighting for freedom from and independence of all tyranny, whether external or internal, or both, is our lives’ work. It is not only the overarching quest of quintessential leaders, but it should be the overarching quest of all humanity. Without it, all our lofty words – said, written, known – and all our greatest hopes and dreams are nothing but vanity and chasing the wind.

How are we doing?








  1. Martha Peeples says:

    Interesting, important, and thought-provoking essay!


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