Be the Boss

3 ways to lead and inspire like President George H. W. Bush

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush watches the inaugural parade from the Presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House January 20, 2005 in Washington, DC. His son, George W. Bush, was inaugurated for a second term earlier in the day. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Since his passing last week, the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush has been celebrated for his bravery and his service. The statesman has also been revered for his charisma and impact as a leader.

Here, gathered from memories and eulogies of the former President, are lessons in leadership from George H. W. Bush that can help anyone looking to inspire and unify a team.

1. Share the credit, take the blame

George H. W. Bush was generous with credit and selfish with blame, his son, George W. Bush, said of his late father in a eulogy Wednesday during a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

"In victory, he shared credit. When he lost, he shouldered the blame," the 43rd President of the United States said of the 41st, according to a transcript of the eulogy.

Remarks by President George W. Bush at the State Funeral of President George Herbert Walker Bush:

Jon Meacham, Bush's friend and biographer agreed.

"His life code, as he said, was 'Tell the truth. Don't blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course,'" Meacham said according to a transcript of the speech.

New @TIME cover: George Herbert Walker Bush 1924-2018

2. Never underestimate the power of a simple, 'Thank you'

President H. W. Bush is famous for copiously writing thank you notes. In fact, his letters were the foundation for his own memoir, "All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings."

"There exist thousands of handwritten notes encouraging, or sympathizing, or thanking his friends and acquaintances," President George W. Bush said of his father on Wednesday.

As a column in the Washington Post says of the President H.W. Bush's frequent thank-you-note-writing: "Nothing was too small, too personal or too easily overlooked to merit a handwritten thank-you letter from George H. W. Bush, who died late Friday at 94."

Catherine Meyer, a digital strategist (and, full disclosure, a former colleague of this reporter), says she received a thank you note from the Former President in 1990 and the short note deeply touched her.

"A lot has been said in recent days about George H. W. Bush and his thank you notes. It reminded me of one I received from him when I was a lowly editorial assistant. It made me feel so appreciated," Meyer says along with a photo of the note on Facebook. "A thank you....from the President! I never forgot that small gesture. We could learn a lot about decency from how he lived his life."

The art of the thank-you is a soft skill good leaders have mastered. Google billionaire and former CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt has stressed that leaders should not underestimate the value of this simple gesture. 

"There's no simple formula for success, and there's no simple formula for being a great leader. It's a unique set of skills. But it is well understood that if you yell at people enough, they will quit, and if you're nice enough to them, they are less likely to quit," Schmidt says to Tyler Cowen on the "Conversations with Tyler " podcast.

"Today, as entrepreneurs, remember that the quality of the people that you work with — the people you hire, the people on your board, and so forth — will determine an awful lot of your outcome." -Advice from @ericschmidt on team success

Indeed, as a boss, saying thank you is savvy management, too. You are more likely to get more productive work from your employees if you remember those two words, Schmidt says.

"All of the great leaders I've worked with have not used enough praise, although they've dragged along people because of their unique skills and so forth. But it just seems to me that if you take a moment, and you add the preamble of 'Thank you' or 'I appreciate it,' or 'I recognize it,' people's hearts sing, and you get a lot more work out of them," Schmidt says.

3. Failure is part of the process

In his eulogy, President George W. Bush also recognized his father's tenacity when faced with tough challenges.

"He accepted that failure is part of living a full life, but taught us never to be defined by failure. He showed us how setbacks can strengthen," the 43rd President said Wednesday of his father, according to a transcript of the eulogy.

President George W Bush eulogizes his late father, President George H.W. Bush

The organizational psychologist and top-rated Wharton professor Adam Grant has said resilience is the key to success.

"I don't think there's any skill more critical for success than resilience," Grant tells CNBC Make It. Grant co-wrote the book "Option B " about resilience with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg after her husband David Goldberg's sudden death in 2015.

"I think about resilience as the speed and strength of your response to adversity. So when you encounter a difficulty, a hardship, a challenge, how quickly and how effectively are you able to marshal strength and either overcome that challenge or persevere in the face of it?" Grant says.

To improve your own resilience in the face of setbacks, says Grant, get a clear handle on who your work is affecting and how. Also, keep a journal of your own contributions, Grant says.

"Pausing to take a little bit of time to reflect on those contributions that we make every day even once a week is enough to strengthen our ability to focus and to invest effort in what otherwise might be a difficult and stressful job," Grant says.

See also:

Adam Grant: Resilience is the secret to success. Here are 2 ways to improve yours

This is what Google learned after interviewing one job candidate 16 times, according to Eric Schmidt

Bill Gates has a brilliant but simple strategy for success — flip your thinking like this

Why being an introvert has helped the CEO of this tech company succeed