When I first got started in LIFE Leadership, the question “Why does Historical leadership matter” was not on my mind. In fact, if you would’ve discussed anything about history I would have anticipated taking a nap. I remember my mentor, best selling author Orrin Woodward, asking me if I could find the time to read fifteen minutes a day if it would get me closer to my goals. From there we begin. How many of us have started that process of taking a small increment of time to read just to get closer to our goals? Interestingly, we don’t just get closer to our goals from reading, we get closer to our goals from wisdom and applied knowledge that we get from learning. From wisdom and applied knowledge comes learning. Learning is like oxygen to our soul. My question is if learning is so important why do so few people begin a process to incorporate learning into their regular habits?. Today, I firmly believe that learning lessons are available to all of us through the study historical leadership. Like Solomon, then the wisest man in the world said, “There is nothing new under the sun!”
I have watched the core curriculum’s of our educational system slowly place less emphasis on the importance of history from its agenda. The leadership lessons that come from historical experience effect the roots of our freedom. What in the world has happened when a country that at one time stood for freedom does not teach its own people the principles that it was founded on? LIFE Leadership through its Freedom subscription is attempting to reawaken the hunger to learn about leaders and the principles that they taught from the past.
For example, one of my top five favorite leaders of all time is William Wilberforce. His story is as relevant today as it was in the eighteenth century. His name is synonymous with the abolition of the English slave trade. Today our bondage comes more from our economic state. We could apply the lessons we learn from leaders like him. However, if no one knows of the principles and the lessons we can learn, we are doomed to repeat the failures of the past. His name has been virtually eliminated from the archives of our historical curriculums. How could a man who people said of him , “Few men achieved more for the benefit of mankind” not be known to us? Historian G. M. Trevelyen said of Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery was, “One of the turning events in the history of the world.”
Like many twenty one year olds today, Wilberforce hadn’t found his true purpose in life. However, it wasn’t hard to notice the moral collapse in the world around him. As he grew he found his faith led him to his calling when he was converted in 1784 -1785. How many people know that leaders who influenced history took on the issues of the day? It’s been said that, "leadership is planned conflict against the status quo.” As a politician in England’s Parliament he felt a divine call. He took on one of the largest economic industries in England, the slave trade. From this we learn the leadership lessons of perseverance and determination despite all obstacles. I believe he developed three basic pieces that led to the success of the abolition of slavery: partnership, community, and moral influence. His partnership began with the group in his community known as the Clapham sect. There is genius in developing friends and community aligned in common purpose. It was said that their conversations were so stimulating that they “were like a meeting that never adjourned.” Wilberforce also had mentors and great opposition. The great John Newton, the author of ‘Amazing Grace’ who was a converted slave trader and became an Anglican minister told Wilberforce, “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up to the good of his church and for the good of the nation.” Taking on the largest economic force did not come without a life and death struggle. One of his biggest opponents was the great Admiral Lord Nelson who said, “I will not allow the rights of the plantation owners to be infringed while I have an arm to fight in their defense or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.” Wilberforce’s own passion and determination can be heard in this speech to the House of Commons, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for Abolition. Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected Abolition.”
The war to end slavery took nearly fifty years. In the end, the British Empire was said to have cost the government 20,000,000 pounds. Dr. James Houston wrote, “By the end of Wilberforce’s life, there was no one more universally honored as an Englishman than he was.” In addition, at the time he wrote one of the best sellers of his time, ‘Real Christianity’ where he wrote, “But a true Christian is not satisfied with merely producing a disguise of virtue. She seeks the actual substance, which will stand the scrutinizing eyes of God who searches the heart.”
One the biggest misconceptions of our day, is that the individual is powerless to do anything. People think the external forces are too big for them. People have a feeling of apathy caused from feeling helplessness. James Madison observed, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” The roots of freedom lay with the study of historical leadership. Wilberforce’s biographer John Pollack writes, “Wilberforce proved that man can change his times but that he cannot do it alone.” Although many people today might say that it was a different set of circumstances in different times there are those that learned the principles remain as relevant today as then. Where there is hope there is opportunity. God Bless, George Guzzardo