One of the assignments in my Kellogg MBA leadership classes is for the students to write a three-page paper on a leader they admire. I require them to include their chosen leaders’ strengths and weaknesses. I love the wide variety of leaders they choose, including everyone from Gandhi to Churchill to Jesus to their parents or bosses. I particularly enjoy the quotes the students often include in their papers, and I save many of them. Once in a while my former students send me quotes that they think I would enjoy.

Earlier yesterday (when I was thinking of what to include in this week’s post), I received a note from one of my favorite students:

Professor Kraemer, I hope this finds you well! I went to visit Roosevelt Island in DC this weekend (in honor of Teddy Roosevelt) and this quote about ideals reminded me of your values-based leadership philosophy. I am visiting Chicago this fall and would love to see you. Until then, enjoy the start to the school year and have a wonderful week!

The student included this picture with a Roosevelt quote.

I really appreciated the note and quote, especially since Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite leaders. In my classes, I always remind my students about the group of people that we expect to solve all of the difficult world problems; the group of people we usually refer to as “those guys,” that is, some OTHER men and women. But no, WE ARE THOSE GUYS!

No one better related to challenges than Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the U.S. He encouraged all Americans to step up and make a difference.

One of the best examples of how Roosevelt demonstrated the need to step up and live these thoughts was in a speech he gave at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910, entitled, “Citizenship in a Republic.” My favorite part of the speech is referred to as “The Man in the Arena.” I read this quote to the students in the last class of every quarter, and I have a copy of it on my office wall:

The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs,
who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst,
if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

26th President of the United States

I re-read this quote whenever I question whether I should take on a difficult challenge, and the answer is usually YES! In the challenging world we live in today, we could use a few Teddy Roosevelts!