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Twyman Leadership Report 1

Ashley V Twyman Leadership Report: Benjamin Franklin

Presented for partial fulfillment of Practical Problem Solving LEAD 580 Dr. Sheryl Riney October 2009


Twyman Leadership Report 2 Introduction When embarking on my quest to choose a leader to research for this project, I knew there were a few requirements I wanted to meet. I wanted to choose a leader whom most everyone knew for their accomplishments, but one whose personal life may not be common knowledge. I wanted a leader who has written their own autobiography, not a biography written about them by another person, because I wanted the first hand account. Lately, I wanted to be able to examine the question of Are leaders born or made? I finally settled on the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, because it began with an account of childhood and appeared to be fairly detailed about life events as far back as he could remember. He is undoubtedly known for his contributions to the field of electricity (the famous Philadelphia kite story) and as one of the founding members of this country through his action of signing the declaration of independence. But what is known about the man; the person? Such things as his childhood and upbringing and experiences in his young life were of much interest to me in addressing how a leader is molded. Ben Franklin and Kouzes & Posner Challenging The Process If Benjamin Franklin wasn’t the founder of challenging the process I’m not sure who may have been! From an early age Ben speaks about how his father would accustom the dinner table to intellectual conversation and friendly debacle between his family and their dinner guests (typically family friends). He grew up learning to appreciate and view two side of every debate; while remaining true to his personal view point on whatever topic was being currently discussed. Back in an age where parents typically chose the type of profession which each child would be brought up in, Ben ventured out on his own


Twyman Leadership Report 3 (into printing) and after a disagreement with his brother (a printer whom he was obliged to serve as an apprentice for) ventured out on his own at fifteen years of age to seek employment in the printing industry in Philadelphia, even though he was to be trained for another six years by his brother (which was against both his brother and his father’s wishes). Where ever Franklin was he would found groups of boys/men that were well versed and they would read and debate current governmental/social issues which he mostly disagreed with. He would publish his expressed thoughts in pamphlets and flyers at his printing house and would distribute them amongst the public. He was not afraid to go up against gentlemen of royal blood on these issues and when he served as a member of the Philadelphia assembly, he opposed the common ideals very often. Although he notes that although he expressed opposing view points, him and the gentlemen never had bad private friendships and would often dine with them in their homes as a guest. Franklin also challenged the common thought process of the time; asserting that if one were to stay away from alcohol it would help the production of that person at work. He describes many times how most men of the day drank a pitcher of ale in the morning, mid-morning, at lunch, at supper and continuously throughout the evening. He also did a lot of experimenting with his diet by not eating any sort of animal meat; one of the main staples of the day. He attributes his long life to his choice of diet. He also claimed no religious sect, yet still remained a good man. During his life every person was a member of some religion and attended church on Sundays. Franklin refuted the church and organized religion, but remained a respected man. This actually helped him in many cases because when he aided in the start up of the Philadelphia


Twyman Leadership Report 4 schools, one member of each religious sect was chosen to sit on the board; but Franklin remained a trusted and neutral party and was frequently consulted by the board when a decision could not be reached. If Franklin had never challenged the process, he would have never been instrumental in starting the process of separation of America from British governmental rule. Inspirational I believe that Franklin represented more of a pain in the butt to his cohorts, rather than someone who was defined as being “inspirational” because of his constant challenge to their systems. However, to the common man of the day and even to those who read his story centuries later, he was a very inspirational man. Franklin disagreed with the way government was run. He especially thought that what we would call a “flat tax” today was completely unfair to the common person who was forced to pay the same tax as the wealthy Lord. He proposed through a published pamphlet that taxes should be based on a person’s worth; which would vary according to how much their possessions were worth. This was not a favorable idea amongst his fellow man, but was eventually put into the government laws. Building Teams and Strengthening Others Franklin loved to be surrounded by genius masterminds, not unlike his own, that would challenge him and help him develop and further his knowledge. He founded a group which was called “Junto”. It started as a few friends who would read books or articles and then present the information for debate with each other. The group’s popularity grew and they eventually had 12 members; which Franklin thought to be quite


Twyman Leadership Report 5 enough. When members began pressing for the addition of more members, Franklin suggested that each member strike out, still retaining membership in the original group, and form his own group. Each group chose their own name and kept the group a secret. All the additional groups were completely unaware of the original group “Junto�. He noted that it was important to him that during his debates at these meetings that no man felt as if his ideas were wrong or bad. He encouraged everyone to speak their mind and accepted openly that even though his ideas and that of a friend’s were different they were to be respected just the same. Throughout his life he formed many teams and brought together a vast array of people; his accomplishments at bringing people together are far too vast to name in one paper. At one point in his life he served in the military as a Colonel General and led a large troop through the coastal towns. These troops built forts and stockades that served as protection for the towns-people against American Indian attacks. He came up with the idea of and initiated the introduction of the very first fire brigade. It started from his concern about how the town of Philadelphia was subject to mass destruction from fire because of the way the town was laid out and how close together the buildings were. He knew there had to be a way to stop a fire from starting in one home and destroying numerous city blocks. He enlisted the voluntary help of local gentlemen who would carry large leather buckets of water to the site of a fire to douse the flames. Within his lifetime he saw the idea spread from Philadelphia to every other surrounding city. He also saw to the inclusion of the use of ladders, fire trucks, and protective wear for the men. He also came up with the first design of an open-face fire


Twyman Leadership Report 6 place that was meant to help prevent fires and distribute heat more evenly throughout a dwelling, however, he printed his idea for its creation (which was mocked) and another man implemented the idea and took its patent. He was a masterful networker. Even from an early age he begins networking with Governors, Lords, shop owners, and men twice his age with which he would debate ideas. These older men thought it impossible for a person so young to be so quick witted, bright, intelligent and well read. They also found him so interesting because of his strong personality and firmness of beliefs. He often brought friends together to form new bonds which he thought each member would benefit from. Practiced What He Preached Franklin was very adamant about practicing what he preached. He vehemently disliked the fact that predominate business men of his day were typically drunk by noon. He never frequented pubs or any establishments of the like, except when “Junto” was first founded and they met in a pub. This soon changed and they met in a private room which was rented from someone’s home for the sake of keeping themselves out of such an establishment as a pub. When working in a printing house in England (during his early to mid 20’s) he convinced the other men to only drink ale with their supper at the end of the work day. He conceived that it would not only save them money (which he often had to lend to them because they were so indebted to the ale houses; he charged interest and made money off them) but would make their work better. Although he claimed no religious sect he always donated to the local Presbytery; being raised a Presbyterian.


Twyman Leadership Report 7 Franklin even went so far as to make for himself a check list of sorts, which contained all the desirable qualities he felt a man should adhere to in the attempt to arrive at moral perfection. He created his own list of virtues and defined them, which included (1) Temperance. Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation. (2) Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation. (3) Order. Let all things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time. (4) Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve. (5) Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. waste nothing. (6) Industry. Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut of all unnecessary action. (7) Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly. (8) Justice. Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are you duty. (9) Moderation. Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. (10) Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation. (11) Tranquility. Be no disturbed at trifles, or at accident common or unavoidable. (12) Chastity. Rarely use venery for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. (13) Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates. He created a chart to map, daily, how many of his thirteen virtues he had met, and concentrated on attempting every one each day. He started by doing this every day. After he discovered his conquest of reaching each one consistently, day after day, he used his chart as an occasional personal check; attempting it four times a year and then two times a year, and so forth, until he found he didn’t need it to keep in check his list of virtues because all the virtues were now second nature to him.


Twyman Leadership Report 8 Occasional Mistakes Early on in his documentation of his life, Franklin warns about the dangers of being too vain. He notes that this characteristic is very destructive, but also makes the comment that if he was to be faulted on anything it would be the act of being too vain. He notes that it is the human nature’s love for self pleasure that causes one to feel as though being vain is a good thing, and that human nature is what we are to fight so strongly against. Just like all people, Franklin enjoyed being a man whom others thought so highly of. He wanted to be respected and tried to drive himself, almost to fault, of achieving personal perfection. He always thought of himself as having a sharp mind, which he did, but felt bad about knowing that it was so good. Franklin recounts many of the important relationships he had the honor of discovering throughout his life; even from the time of this youth as he ventured out as a determined young boy, alone. Within these accounts we can see that Franklin was not always the best judge of character. He trusted people too much, especially those with titles. He recounts number close relationships which turned sour because of his lack of judgment of their character. He was often used by friends and other acquaintances for money (which he did not have much of but used very little for himself) and for his reading, writing and verbal skills; some of which were stolen and used by others for personal gain and fame. Recognizing Others and Celebrating Accomplishments He always gave credit where credit was due. In fact, many times in this writings he mentions articles, experiments, pamphlets, ect., which were, at the time, attributed to him that were not his! He makes it very clear which ideas and discoveries he should get


Twyman Leadership Report 9 credit for in history and which should not be attributed to him. It really speaks volumes of his personal character because he could have easily taken credit for more work than what he actually did. Franklin and the Eternal Leadership Question Are leaders born or made? Kouzes & Posner suggest that, of course, all leaders are born, in the physical sense, and that every person has the ability to be a leader, but that all people fashion their possible leadership by manor of choice. One either chooses to take leadership roles or one does not. Franklin chose to leave home, to go against his father’s wishes and seek his own life. But was this choice driven by an innate inclination to the effects of personal drive and determination that could not be helped by Franklin? I can’t help but be inclined to believe that while a person chooses the paths they take and that those paths can either build or destruct a potential leader, that there are innate qualities, which are born into each of us, that give us the pre-disposition to become what we do as adults. Maybe it is a question of nature vs nurture. Franklin talks about his father’s influence on his children to the ideas of reading and expanded knowledge, which was a driving purpose throughout his life. Did his father, unknowingly, create a son who would abandon him to seek his own way? Did he give him the tools he would need and the view of life to become something greater than what was ever expected of him? Or was Franklin so self driven by nature that he couldn’t escape becoming what he did? In his work, Franklin speaks about how, even as a boy, he was often chosen as the Captain of the ship or leader in a game. Are children astute enough to decipher between candidates or would they choose the boy who had the best innate qualities that they would want to follow? This question, at least for me, still seems unanswered.


Twyman Leadership Report 10 Conclusion Franklin was a well accomplished man. Even in his autobiography, of which much is missing to this day, the accounts of these accomplishments are baffling to any leader in training. To discover that something can always be made out of nothing was an encouraging thought for potential leaders. Surprisingly, little mention of his work with electricity is mentioned and when it is, he speaks of it as something he played at, instead of something he thought would actually get his name into history books. He was intuitive, self-driven, well read, kind, generous, careful of the perception of himself by others, hard working, an entrepreneur, a scientist, a creator, a friend, and when he found a fault in himself or with something else, he immediately set to work to fix it. Franklin says in his book that he will never ask for a position but he will never deny one when it is being asked of him. Benjamin Franklin encompasses what it means to be a leader and is a great and interesting example of what leadership means, even to this day.

Ben Franklin  

Ben Franklin paper