Article by Mark Matteson

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Upon reading an article about actor Tom Berenger, I went on YouTube and watched the three-hour TNT Mini-series “Rough Riders” about our 26th President Teddy Roosevelt (TR). What a story! I am a huge TR fan anyway, having read at least ten books on his life. My favorite was the Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris. A few years ago I visited his home, “Sagamore Hill,” now a museum on Long Island. They had to kick me out.

Teddy was a force of nature, larger than life in all he did. He had no equal, he was peerless. You either loved him or you hated him. Edith Wharton wrote, “If you are spreading light to the world, it may be accomplished two ways, be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” TR was both. His daughter Alice once said, “He wants to be the corpse at every funeral and groom at every wedding!”

Here is my short list of admirable qualities leadership TR possessed:

He had an extra-ordinary love of learning. He read a book a day! He spoke German and French fluently. That skill came in handy when he charged up San Juan Hill and captured a German-made machine gun that didn’t work. The wounded German soldier told them how to use the gun as TR translated German to English. It was the turning point in the battle. That made him famous — a true American Hero.

He truly cared about his men. He memorized 1,250 Rough Riders names. He would wander the camp at night encouraging his men, asking questions and listening to their concerns. To shift their focus from the fear of the next battle, he often asked the question, “What are you looking forward to after this war?” Brilliant.

He led by example. He was fearless as he led the charge up San Juan Hill at 40-years-old. What he lacked in military knowledge he made up for in courage and audacity. He was a man of destiny.

He accepted criticism from his boss, Col. Leonard Wood. He demonstrated humility and a willingness to change. Not an easy task for TR. He was used to be the Silver Back Gorilla in the troop.

He was honest. He was brutally honest in his assessment of any situation, including his opinion of President McKinley, “That man has the backbone of a chocolate eclair!” (“No, Teddy, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel!”)

He showed emotion. He loved the action, the thrill of the battle, yet he was not afraid to show his emotions. At the end of Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba, as he sat crying, one of his men said, “It’s okay Colonel, we won.” He replied, “It’s never going to be this great again.” He was reflecting upon what he later called his “Crowded Hour,” the most gloriously exciting time of his life. His heroics put him in the Governors’ mansion and eventually the White House.

He was a family man. He was a devoted husband and loving father of six children. A true leader at home and work. He had the kind of balance few men in his position ever attain. He created the first “Home Office” so he could spend time with his children. The world came up to Long Island as an effect.

He bounced back from personal and professional adversity in his life. He lost his wife and mother on the same day! Next to Lincoln, he was the most criticized president this country had ever seen. Yet he kept charging up hills.

He was a career changer. He changed careers many times in his life: student, ornithologist, politician, soldier, author, speaker, big game hunter, naturalist, world traveler, explorer and diplomat. He was a true “Man of Letters” writing over 50,000 in his lifetime. Moreover, he wrote 35 books, many on different topics!

He lived in the present moment. He gave everything he had to the moment. Whatever he was doing, he gave it 100 percent, whether it was writing a book, delivering a speech, riding a horse or leading a charge. “Carpe Diam” was his mantra. Ever excited about the next big thing he was going to do, the phrase “Bully” was often heard with great enthusiasm.

Our 26th President was the brightest candle and biggest mirror of the 20th century. There will never be another “Teddy.” A true man of destiny! I need to watch that movie again...


Mark Matteson is one of the EGIA Contractor University faculty members. EGIA Contractor University has assembled the most experienced and dynamic faculty ever put together. Faculty members have personally built some of the most successful contracting companies in America. Visit Contracting Business for more information and to learn about the Contractor Leadership Live event.

Matteson gives over 75 presentations each year. You can book him now to secure the inspiring message that will spark your group’s success! To read free blog posts, articles, special reports, or to sign up for Mark’s monthly e-zine or watch Mark’s demo video, go to: Call 206.697.0454 or email