When you think of Ben Franklin what do you think of, scientist, businessman, writer, or diplomat? When I think of Ben Franklin, I think of our nation’s first connected entrepreneur. In an age when men and women knew less than 600 people in their lives, Ben Franklin may have known and impacted tens of thousands of people in the global community.
He may have been the most influential American of his time, using the same skills we treasure today in our entrepreneurs. So how did this man come to play such a critical role in shaping our country and the world? What can you learn from his leadership capabilities?
Ben Franklin understood human nature. He understood that if you want to influence others you must communicate in a way that they want to hear from you. He created a vehicle to share his ideas with his fellow business leaders. He understood that people would only come around to your thinking by deciding it was their own.
Ben Franklin understood that you must use different ways to communicate with different people. He was adored by the general public for his ability to simplify ideas through stories and short quotes. He also understood the best way to convince people to see it your way might require you going to them to make the case for what you want.
During his life time he traveled the globe to share our fledgling Nation’s ideas and purpose with kings and queens and people of influence. He actively cultivated his network by providing introductions to many different levels in society. He was a gentleman and in many ways he was able to provide people with the right reasons for doing the right thing, presented in a way that spoke to their best interests. He was a compelling communicator, but used listening to turn people towards his way of thinking.
When challenged to create value without an unlimited budget Ben Franklin quickly and effectively used his social contacts to create value. Ben Franklin persuaded many influential people to do what was needed to provide our country the resources it required to battle the world’s most powerful nation. He understood how to influence people by appealing to their egos and their own agendas. Many times he would negotiate an agreement that would do nothing more than get people involved to do nothing. He created many unusual alliances to help us win the war for independence. If you’ve ever tried to convince people not to do anything when they think it’s in their best interests to act, you know how much of a challenge it can be.
Ben Franklin knew how to seize opportunities to get things done. It was said that he was in a state of perpetual motion when the news was good and hard to find when things were challenging. He knew he had to leverage opportunities when they presented themselves and took time to wait when progress was less certain. His success as a diplomat may have been because he understood how to position and promote his thinking to interested parties.
Finally, Ben Franklin understood the value of not always being available. In an era when diplomats where expected to be available at the whim of the leaders they served, he created a diplomacy model that incorporated many different strategies to help negotiate deals to successful conclusions. He also knew how to create public support, allowing the individuals he negotiated with to claim their own victories while setting and managing our country’s conflicting agendas.
You might want to think about how our nation’s first connected entrepreneur might respond to today’s challenges. Perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from his ability to make connections with people around the world.
See you next week.