6 Leadership Lessons from Eleanor Roosevelt

Internationally known as “The World’s First Lady,” Eleanor Roosevelt was the first politically active First Lady in the history of American democracy, which redefined the role of a First Lady. The way in which she lived her life demonstrates many powerful leadership lessons that professionals can learn from. Roosevelt had a social conscience, a passion for politics and when combined with her gift of leadership, she was able to break new mold and affect positive change in the world.


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Here are leadership lessons from Eleanor Roosevelt:


Stand up for what you believe in – take a stand: In 1939, Eleanor resigned her membership from the Daughters of the American Revolution after they denied African American singer Marian Anderson from performing at Constitution Hall. Eleanor also organized an alternate venue for the singer at Lincoln Memorial. In another instance, she worked with officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, supporting anti-lynching laws that her husband didn’t endorse because he was scared he would lose the votes of Southerners. The greatest leaders take a stand for what they believe in even if it means taking a big risk.
Support those around them to facilitate their success: Eleanor’s husband, Franklin Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis which resulted in paralysis of his legs. While he was rehabilitating, and after he was elected governor of New York, Eleanor became her husband’s surrogate by filling in for him at meetings, state inspections and public appearances. Franklin would not have been a successful politician without the assistance of Eleanor.
Have a pulse on what is going on around them: A great leader listens carefully to know and understand what is going on in his or her environment. Eleanor Roosevelt had some trusted advisers who kept her in the loop as well as collaborated with her to affect change.  Her close friend, journalist Lorena Hickok, recommended that Eleanor hold weekly press conferences for women only, to ensure that media organizations had women on staff in Washington D.C. This also ensured that some of the news in the country was told from the perspective of women.
Is a part of the solution instead of the problem: During Eleanor Roosevelt’s time, women were often viewed as second class citizens, and instead of simply speaking up against injustices against women’s status in society and the workplace, one of the things she did was to support appointments for women to government positions by submitting a list of candidates for leadership positions. The greatest leaders have political and business savvy, enabling them to achieve goals that are important.
Use position of power and influence for social change: Through her newspaper columns and radio broadcasts, she became the voice for those in need, which included, working women, African Americans, youth and farmers. She created equal opportunities for women and made sure that there were appropriate jobs for writers, artists, musicians and theater people. Additionally, Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in shaping the New Deal, which was a program aimed at bringing relief to those in need during the Great Depression.
Be bold and play big: As a leader, Eleanor Roosevelt understood that the world was her oyster. She was elected chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and one of her most important accomplishments as a leader was the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.


Eleanor Roosevelt was a great leader because she embraced challenges and used her influence, political and business savvy to bring about positive changes in the world. These are traits that successful leaders possess, so if you aspire to be a leader, learn these key leadership lessons from Eleanor Roosevelt.


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