Leadership Lessons from Ernest Hemingway

Known as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway was one of the so-called “Lost Generation” of artists. After attending high school, Hemingway opted to forgo college and become a reporter for the Kansas City Star. His time as an ambulance driver in World War I created lasting effects on his world view, inspiring his novel A Farewell to Arms. As a Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winning writer, Hemingway knows the inner workings of the human condition and through his quotes gives helpful advice for new leaders and seasoned professionals alike. 

“When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen.” Across the River and into the Trees, 1967 

Communicating effectively is one of the most important skills a leader can possess. And while it is imperative to give clear, concise guidance, the other side of communication is just as important. Listening thoroughly to your employees not only helps you better understand their thoughts and concerns, but you also make them feel validated and empowered to be their best in their roles. 

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.” 

This advice could be held for people in management positions as well. It’s imperative to understand your teammates before judging ideas or work philosophies. 

“The way to make people trust-worthy is to trust them.” Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917-1961 

Whether you lead a traditional in-office team or you manage a group of remote workers, trust is one of the most important values between an employer and its employees. Regardless of if an employee has been with you for a day or a decade, it’s important to hand out trust freely. Delegate work and give your employees the opportunity to grow into more responsibilities. Trust should be freely given first to allow employees to excel without the pressure of needing to build or earn trust. 

“But man is not made for defeat … A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” The Old Man and The Sea, 1952 

This quote from one of Hemingway’s final novels is parallel to the saying “Success isn’t final, and failure isn’t fatal.” If you believe in a mission, obstacles may sidetrack you, but they should never defeat you. Before starting a project or a new venture, create a list of the reasons for the goal to help steel yourself and your team to be resolute should things go awry. Embracing the “why” behind the “what” will help you never be defeated. 

BONUS QUOTE: “Courage is grace under pressure.” 

What are some of your favorite leadership quotes? Who would you like us to highlight in a future installment of this series? Let us know in the comments section below! 

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