Leadership

Joe Biden says he sees this one trait in all the most successful leaders

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Jessica Rinaldi | The Boston Globe | Getty Images
Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former vice president Joe Biden says there's one trait that's crucial to have in order to be a successful leader. In a speech at Colby College earlier this year, Biden says that those who have managed to find "that sweet spot between success and happiness are those ... who are personal."

"Over the course of time, in public life, I found that it comes down to just being personal," he says. "All politics, all international relations is personal."

Forming close relationships isn't just for politics, says Biden, but can be implemented in the office and at home. Sometimes, he notes, having this trait can help you succeed during difficult times.

For example, the politician recounts a lesson he first learned when he was elected to the Senate at age 30 and suffered a family tragedy. Just weeks after winning the election and days before Christmas, Biden received an ominous call.

When he picked up the phone, a stranger said, "Mr. Biden. Your wife is dead. Your daughter is dead. I'm not sure your sons are going to make it, you should come home now."

"My family was Christmas shopping and a tractor trailer broadsided them," Biden says in the speech. "And all of a sudden everything changed."

Biden says that his fellow senators prodded him to still attend his swearing-in, which he refused to do. Instead, Biden went directly to the hospital.

"I later learned I was probably the only senator in history ever sworn in in a hospital because I didn't want to leave my sons," he says. "So they sent the secretary of the senate up to the hospital to swear me in."

Biden points to other instances after the tragedy when his colleagues rallied around him, showing signs of leadership. The former vice president says that every Tuesday at 3 o'clock, the late Senator Mike Mansfield would have Biden come into his office to get his assignments.

"I thought all senators got assignments—no senator gets an assignment," says Biden. "But it took me about two months to figure out he was just taking my pulse to see how I was doing."

The politician adds that being able to forge these types of close personal relationships will ultimately help you become successful.

"Caring about your colleague as they're dealing with a sick parent, or their child has graduated from college, or the child just was in an accident," says Biden. "That's the stuff that fosters real relationships, breeds trust, allows you to get things done in a complex world."

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