John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President

By John A. Barnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Resilience:
Turn Liabilities Into Pluses

“Courage is grace under pressure.”

—ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Many people become overwhelmed by adversity. They are thrown off their game by small obstacles; bigger problems stop them dead in their tracks. Leaders cannot afford this kind of reaction to difficult situations. On their way up, they must be able to deal with whatever is thrown in their path. Once they are in a position of leadership, they will have to deal with rapidly changing circumstances. They must learn to recognize challenges as opportunities, to turn liabilities to their advantage. In other words, leaders must learn to be resilient in the face of adversity.

While twenty-eight-year-old John F. Kennedy was running for his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, James Michael Curley, the incumbent congressman whom Joe Sr. essentially bribed to step aside in order to make way for his son, was indicted for mail fraud after winning a fourth term as Boston's mayor the year before.

Unlike Curley's earlier brush with the law (he spent sixty days in jail after arranging for a substitute to take a civil service exam for a needy but dullwitted constituent), this indictment involved Curley's efforts to enrich himself by using dubious means to obtain war contracts for paying clients. The

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