The Many Faces of Benjamin Franklin: A Masterclass in Versatile Leadership

Versatile leadership involves the ability to adapt communication as per the needs of others.  It is different from situational leadership where the leaders have to adopt the strategies as per the situation.  

In versatile leadership, the leaders have to demonstrate the skills and abilities by suiting to various kinds of people and situations.  It requires lot of flexibility, maturity and emotional intelligence on the part of the leaders to balance various kinds and aspects of people.  

It is also about having expertise and experience in multiple areas. 

Leadership is about managing complexities and diversities.  At times leaders lose some to gain some.  

However versatile leadership helps in eating the cake and having it too.  It balances and manages diversified people with diversified opinions and views thus keeping the flock together.  

In this context, let us look at Benjamin Franklin who displayed his versatile leadership by venturing into various facets of life in his lifetime.

A Versatile Leader

Benjamin Franklin was one of the rarest Americans. 

He will be remembered forever in the history of mankind for his unique and unparalleled incarnations as a printer, publisher, postmaster, philosopher, author, inventor, entrepreneur, intellectual, statesman, and humorist.   

He was also the rarest of the rare American leaders who wrote a lot to enlighten the world and who did a lot to write about him.

Ben was a multifaceted personality with in-depth knowledge in several domains.  He excelled in various areas and aspects and evolved as a versatile leader.  Versatility was his personality.  

He preferred the road less traveled.  He was a rag to riches story that also epitomizes an inspirational leader. He created a group—Junto that emphasized on self-improvement. He was the brainchild for self-improvement books.  

His writings influenced Andrew Carnegie and Dale Carnegie.  He laid the foundation for human development and progress.  He opined that everyone deserved success irrespective of their poor parental lineage.

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” —Benjamin Franklin

Ben’s incarnations

Ben was self-educated and learnt through voracious reading.  He learnt the tricks of the printing trade from his brother, James.  He deserted the press due to the differences with his brother and worked as a typesetter in London.  

After returning to Philadelphia he worked as a shopkeeper and bookkeeper.  He donned the role of publisher of a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette.  He proved as an author with the publication of Poor Richard’s Almanack.  

Let us briefly profile few of his incarnations as an inventor, entrepreneur, intellectual and statesman.

Inventor: He had passion for inventions.  He indirectly championed for the cause of industrial revolution through his scientific inventions.  He invented lightning rod, bifocal glasses and Franklin stove to name a few.  He was liberal to share his inventions with others as he did not patent.

Entrepreneur: He had business acumen and risk taking ability.  He set up his own print shop and first franchisee system.  He competed and collaborated with his competitors as a business strategy.  He converted business threats into opportunities and came out profitably in his business endeavors.

Intellectual: Ben diversified his reading into diversified domains such as politics, history and science that widened his mental horizons.  He is an example to the present day youth that anyone can start the journey towards success anywhere at any age and stage of life.  It is the bad tradesman who blames his tools.  Ben did not blame his poor parental background.  He proved to the world that anything and everything is possible through passion, perseverance and persistence.

Statesman: Ben proved his statesmanship through his diplomatic skills with an emphasis on win-win approach. He was an effective negotiator and net worker.  He was a successful diplomat who promoted better relations between France and America.  He was a statesman par excellence.

Thirteen virtues: Ben was a practical man.  He practiced what he preached.  He practiced thirteen virtues by following one virtue for a week.  The thirteen virtues necessary for true success are: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. One of Ben’s friends advised to add humility as the thirteenth virtue as he was proud in his conversations.  Subsequently he included humility as the thirteenth virtue and practiced rest of his life.

Extraordinary leader: Ben was an extraordinary leader who gave due credit to others.  He empathized with others.  America was blessed with a leader like Ben who was instrumental in drafting the constitution and one of the founding fathers of American constitution.  He was the most accomplished American during his time.

Benjaminism: He strove for innovation and creativity irrespective of the area he explored.  He was the first to include pictures in newspapers.  He influenced every aspect and area of human life.  All human beings use his inventions and follow preaching either directly or indirectly.  There is an element of Benjaminism in every human being in this world.

American legend: It is difficult to replicate his charisma in the current context.   However, the present leaders can learn several lessons from this American legend.  Ben’s ideas and ideals and values and virtues are relevant to the humankind.  He demonstrated to the world that an individual can do anything and everything in a lifetime.

Ben was an extraordinary leader, inspirational leader, innovative leader, visionary leader, strategic leader, servant leader, passionate leader and above all a lasting leader.  He left his footprints in the history of mankind through his versatile leadership. 

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