Leadership Lessons from Hamilton

By Susie Adams

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Like much of the country, I’ve spent the past few months with the soundtrack of Hamilton earworming in my brain (in a good way). The leadership styles of the protagonist (Hamilton) and antagonist (Burr) have applications for modern day leadership and decision making.

Are you Alexander Hamilton?

Brash, ambitious, driven, over-achieving and principled.

CliftonStrengths® Top 5 (as determined by me)

  1. Futuristic – People exceptionally talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They energize others with their visions of the future.
  2. Ideation – People exceptionally talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
  3. Achiever – People exceptionally talented in the Achiever theme work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.
  4. Restorative – People exceptionally talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
  5. Self-Assurance – People exceptionally talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to take risks and manage their own lives. They have an inner compass that gives them certainty in their decisions.

You have supreme confidence in your intellect and decision making. And you are driven to move quickly and fix the things that don’t work out as planned.

Theme song – “I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot”

Are you Aaron Burr?

Intelligent, deliberate, quiet, ambitious and driven

CliftonStrengths® Top 5 (as determined by me)

  1. DeliberativePeople exceptionally talented in the Deliberative theme are best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate obstacles
  2. Significance – People exceptionally talented in the Significance theme want to make a big impact. They are independent and prioritize projects based on how much influence they will have on their organization or people around them
  3. Competition – People exceptionally talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.
  4. DisciplinePeople exceptionally talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.
  5. Focus – People exceptionally talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.

You are fiercely ambitious. You review all of the options and study all facets of issues. You resent people who are more spontaneous and view them as reckless.

Theme song – “Wait for It” 

How the styles might play out today. 

If Hamilton and Burr were leading organizations today and were tackling issues of equity, inclusion and social justice, they would approach things quite differently.

Hamilton would move quickly, initiating conversations, programs and initiatives.  He might not do his homework, confident in his own instincts.  He would not be afraid to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing; certain that at the end of the day he would get it right and make a difference.

Burr would move more slowly and more deliberately. He would talk to the experts, analyze all sides of the issue and the impacts of his moves on his career.  He would set a deliberate plan and work that plan.

Neither is right or wrong. Neither is perfect. But as leaders, during times of high stakes decision making we needto understand the “basement” of our strengths and try to strike a balance for maximum effectiveness.  A strengths-focused Alexander Hamilton might “talk less” and listen more.  A strengths-focused Aaron Burr would realize that he needs to take some visible action immediately while he develops the long-term strategy.

If we can help you understand your strengths and how to put them to work for you, contact us. Likewise, if you need help with the difficult conversations these times require, we can help.