Effective Leadership Studies: Theodore Roosevelt


Theodore Roosevelt: Hero, Leader, Mentor

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt was many things.  He was a civil servant, a war hero, and guardian of human rights.  Roosevelt’s success has inspired many Americans throughout history.  However, there was one man that he took under his wing and molded into his successor.  Roosevelt was able to impact this man’s life for years and led him to the presidency.

  1. Who did your leader mentor?

The person that Roosevelt inspired and mentored the most was William Taft, the 27th President of the United States and Supreme Court Justice.  Taft’s professional relationship with Roosevelt began when Teddy offered him a seat on the Supreme Court, which he turned down to finish his duties as governor of the Philippines (“William Taft: Life in Brief”, 2017).  This relationship would eventually lead Roosevelt to encourage Taft to run for president.  Roosevelt’s endorsement would lead to Taft’s 1908 victory.

  1. How did they mentor that person?

Roosevelt began professionally mentoring Taft in 1903 when Roosevelt named Taft his Secretary of War.  Taft became Roosevelt’s closest confidant and two worked very closely on many projects including the Portsmouth Peace negotiations, which ended the war between Japan and Russia.  When Taft was elected in 1908 he used the tactics and skills he learned under Roosevelt.  Taft continued Roosevelt’s goal of expanding U.S. foreign trade in South and Central America, as well as in Asia (“William Taft: Life in Brief”, 2017).  Although Taft’s presidency in many ways did not work out how Roosevelt had foreseen, it is clear that Taft was impacted by his mentor.  Roosevelt gave Taft the tools to ensure that he was prepared to take on the challenge.

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  1. Were they a good mentor?

I believe that Roosevelt was a good mentor to Taft.  According to Lesser (1995), one of the keys to good mentorship is great expectations.  Roosevelt saw that Taft had potential to be a leader and pushed him to run for President, if not for this encouragement, Taft most likely would not have ever run and just stuck to his original plan of becoming a Supreme Court Justice (which he later completed).  Many times mentors see what the mentee cannot yet see.  Another key to good mentorship is good exposure (Lesser, 1995).  Roosevelt was able to expose Taft to situations and people that set him up for success.  If not for Taft’s exposure to the Portsmouth Peace negotiations he many have not been successful expanding trade with Asia.  Exposure like this is irreplaceable and can be very hard to come by, for this reason, I believe that Roosevelt was an excellent mentor.

  1. Did your leader display emotional and social intelligence with the mentee?

Emotional and social intelligence are defined as skills that enable an individual to understand the impact of emotions on behavior and thinking, to regulate emotions and behavior, to understand the importance of emotions in others, and to understand social interactions and engage in adaptive ways with others in social situations.  Emotional intelligence provides the foundation for social intelligence, which includes social awareness and relationship management (Gerardi, 2015).  Knowing that Roosevelt was socially aware and maintained his relationships well, one can infer that he carried over these habits in his mentorship of Taft.  Although their mentor/mentee relationship did not last much long after Taft became President, it is clear that Roosevelt helped Taft become skilled on how to adapt to others in social situations and become an excellent mediator and ambassador with countries around the world.

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Gerardi, D. (2015). Conflict Engagement: Emotional and Social Intelligence. The American Journal of Nursing, 115(8), 60-5.

Lesser, R. (1995). How to be a good mentor. Chemical Engineering, 102(8), 111.

William Taft: Life in Brief (2017). In millercenter.org.

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