The George H.W. Bush Quote They’re Getting Wrong
I’ve seen a George H.W. Bush quote floating around on the Internet that completely misses the point.
Former President George Bush didn’t say, “I think history will point out some of the things I did wrong and some of the things I did right.” At least he didn’t say it during his interview with his granddaughter Jenna Bush Hagar on the Today Show that aired on NBC, 12/3/2018..
The actual quote:
Jenna asked, “What do you want your legacy to be?”
Bush replied, “I want someone else to define the legacy. I’ve kind of banned the use of the “L” word – legacy word.”
Bush continued, “I think history will point out some of the things I did wrong and perhaps some of the things we did right.”
Did you notice the simple shift in pronoun?
The shift from “I” to “we” rolled easy from the former President’s lips. “… I did wrong,” shifts to “… we did right.” It’s a shift all leaders would do well to embrace.
When it comes to failure, be like President Bush. Use “I.” When it comes to success, use “we.”
- “I” reflects personal responsibility.
- “We” respects others.
The shift from “I” to “we” is the heart of humble leadership. A side benefit of taking responsibility is trust.
What’s important about taking responsibility, even when others screw up?
What’s the difference between taking responsibility for failure and dealing with other people’s mistakes?
Hatred tarnishes the vessel it’s carried in.
That’s a powerful quote. Thanks Dr. Virginia.
A class act is recognizing the importance of those you work with.
Love it! Thanks.
Great insight Dan (as always). Yet another reason to love your blog.
It has been interesting to see the positive reflections on the accomplishments and especially the character of Sr. Bush. Even those who don’t share his political views admire the man for how he handled himself in both the good times and bad.
Sadly, I wish our current political leadership (especially POTUS) would take this approach instead of turning it on its head… taking personal credit for getting people re-elected while distancing himself from those who were trying to ride his coattails and got trounced (“I was NOT on the ballot”). You can’t have it both ways!
What I found most interesting is that the majority of the comments from folks weren’t simply a generic “I am sorry for your loss”. Instead they included specific examples of something former President Bush had said or done that touched their lives and continued to resonate with them. Again, a testament to his character.
I think taking accountability is an indicator you are invested and care about what you are doing. It can help foster an environment that makes it acceptable to take ownership for mistakes so the individual or team can work on how to work through the mistake and learn from it. It helps take the focus off of blame and redirect one’s energy in a more useful manner.
The difference is the “I” and “WE” word. Tis all about the behavioural credit in terms with your humility to get create a norm and positive engagement. Difference is knowing knowing and proving that you know your role and how to get the work done. I know that my mistakes today creates an awareness to the success we hope to achieve tomorrow. Some are yet to know the meaning and worth of their mistakes thereof, the leader must make it a priority to discipline, educate and challenge the team to never be afraid to make new mistakes. Mistake are lessons of wisdom!
Dan, as within many of your thoughts, this is excellent. “We” too often utilize the wrong pronouns between the “I” and the “We”. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks, Blessings & Peace, Bill Sewell
Two stand alone comments from one of my favored business leaders – “one of the key attributes of a leader is the ability to lose face in order to move the issue forward” and “people remember the exception; be the exception.” Plays well with the “I” and “we” deeply seated and genuine approach taken by Bush 41. I heard him speak in live settings. The real deal.
Thanks for pointing us to effective leadership in action. I enjoyed reading how you pointed out that well after the leadership investment, he was continuing to take responsibility for his role and continuing to advance his team. I can only hope to emulate the same behaviors as I age. Stunning, elegant, ‘routine’ example of what Collins describes as a level 5 leader. Takes the blame, shares the credit. Thanks again for the insight
This is one of the best quotes regarding leadership that sets the stage for all endeavors large and small and is a powerful leadership lesson simply on its own. Thanks, Dan.
Very thoughtful insights in today’s blog, Dan. President Bush forged new pathways, taking risks by advocating for others (i.e. Americans with Disabilities Act, GI Bill for families…etc..). He was not one to boast about his accomplishments, but to commend those around him for their hard work and dedication. He was truly a remarkable president…and person.
Rest in peace, President George H.W. Bush.
“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” — News conference , March 22, 1990, days after word spread that Bush had banned broccoli from Air Force One.