Brian Sanders

Leadership Encouragement “Pass The Torch”

Pass The Torch

I’d like to introduce you to Edith Galt and Cary Grayson. More than likely, they are people you’ve never heard of before. Edith’s husband was exhausted. The cross-country train ride was simply too much for him. He collapsed and was rushed back to the White House. Edith’s husband was President Woodrow Wilson. Cary Grayson was the president’s personal physician.

Upon arriving at the White House, President Wilson suffered a massive stroke. He couldn’t function. He couldn’t do the job of president. And yet…she didn’t want her husband to resign the presidency. What did she do? She kept President Wilson in the bedroom and took over all decisions. Read that again: SHE TOOK OVER ALL DECISIONS.

For 17 months, she manipulated meetings with congressmen by telling them the President was tired, and they were more than happy to tell her their need. She would listen, claim that she reviewed the information with her husband, and then render a decision.

Dr. Grayson kept the president out of pain and tried to help him recover as much as possible.

Wilson’s wife called what she did “stewardship” for the president and the nation.

The President’s face was impacted by the stroke. He grew a mustache and beard to hide the fact that his facial muscles no longer moved as naturally as before.

Many historians believe, (and I say accurately so) that the United States was run by the First Lady, not the person elected to the office.

What’s the leadership lesson? Breathe deeply because this is hard for leaders.

Here it is: know when to leave the stage.

There comes a time when one must pass the torch. Wilson should have passed the torch. He should have resigned instead of allowing his wife and doctor to make decisions they were not elected to make. Leaders, however, like to hang around. We think we’re indispensable when truly, we aren’t.

Know when to take a bow and exit the stage. You never want to be a shadow of your former self–an entity simply trying to regain some former glory. Trust another leader to take over and pass the torch. Remember, the longer you stay past your ability to be effective, the greater the chance you’ll damage the organization.


Brian Sanders serves as Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio. He regularly writes and speaks on leadership topics. His new book, “Leadership Endurance,” can be purchased HERE.

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