What are the leadership and life lessons we can learn from Hamilton?
Hamilton has hit our country by storm since its arrival as a film on Disney+. The musical is phenomenal and original on its own, but the timing with current events makes it all the more compelling and relevant. As I reflected on the film, I recognized a number of leadership virtues and life lessons that can be learned.
My hope is that you gain value from my reflection on the musical. I would love to hear all the virtues (and vices) that you would contribute to this list!
Have a Definite Purpose – “Not Throwing Away My Shot”
Hamilton was driven through life with a definite purpose toward big goals. He had invested in his studies and personal development. He chose not to be a victim to circumstances which would lead many to a life of poverty and insignificance. He knew that he had a shot at living a significant life – and was “not throwing away [his] shot!”
He was resolved to do everything he could to secure independence from England and successfully establish the United States as a strong nation. He surrounded himself with men who were equally driven with the same desire and resolve toward their extravagant goals. They were proactive, relentless, optimistic, and ready to jump on opportunities and strive for progress.
I have been going through a journey to discover my own “definite purpose” in life so I can proactively strive toward big goals with excellence. A step in that journey is described in this post about developing a life plan.
Leave a Legacy – “Blow Us All Away”
The closing words of the musical are “Who tells your story?” This final song highlights that each of us leaves some form of a legacy and we cannot control how our story will be told and who chooses to tell it. Alexander Hamilton had a drive to protect his reputation and build a lasting legacy.
Hamilton and Burr share a split-stage song (“Dear Theodosia”) where they separately sing for their respective new-born children. Each of them dotes over his child and dreams of how he or she will carry on the legacy of the father. They exclaim that their respective children will “blow us all away.”
Contemplating your own legacy is a vital part of becoming the strong person you are created to be. If we begin our journey with the desired end in mind, then we know which steps to take in order to reach that end. Choose your legacy now so it isn’t left to others to “tell your story.” This is an important part of building your life plan.
Have Patience – “Smile More, Talk Less”
Aaron Burr provides a constant word of caution to Hamilton, which he mostly ignored and disrespected, that would have provided some wisdom for his overzealous pursuits. Alexander would have made less enemies and created more unity if he had heeded Burr’s advice to be patient and friendly.
All of us could learn to smile more, talk less, and begin to truly hear people as we recognize and validate their worth and potential. This does not mean that we should be idle and passive, especially in urgent times that call for action, but it is usually unwise to brashly march ahead into “battle” without counsel or unified support.
Sometimes we need a paradigm shift in how we perceive and relate with others. Recognizing the worth of others is a valuable virtue in any leadership role.
Invest in Your Inner Circle – “That Would Be Enough”
A repeated theme in the musical is the cry for Hamilton to be content with spending time with his family. His wife Eliza clearly yearned for her husband to be home with her more often, especially during her pregnancy and the birth of their son, Phillip. Alexander was away from home so much during the revolution and the early years of the country that he failed to invest time and love into his family. The evidence of this came in two of his major life failures – his adulterous affair and the death of his son. He did not take seriously his responsibility to be a steward over his wife and children, and he paid dearly for his mistakes.
One of my great passions and life purposes is to be responsible in my role as a husband and father. I will continue to invest in my “inner circle” – my family, friends, and church community. Through my career and academic pursuits, I have found it necessary to often tap the breaks on my desires so that I can be present and strong within my close relationships.
Choose Forgiveness over Revenge – “Forgiveness. Can you imagine?”
The most moving part of the musical for us was when we experienced Alexander and Eliza grieving the death of their son. Hamilton had done so much to hurt his wife, but she chose to forgive him and reconcile their marriage through the journey of grieving together. They accomplish the unimaginable together because of her choice to forgive him. Her genuine forgiveness is evident in the final song as she describes all the work she did to further Alexander’s legacy after his death.
Aaron Burr and Phillip Alexander both chose revenge instead of forgiveness and that choice ruined and ended their lives, respectively.
Choose to Forgive
We have the choice on a regular basis to hold grudges and take revenge on others who have wronged us – OR to extend grace and forgive them. Revenge produces destruction. Forgiveness opens the door to healing and reconciliation. Holding a grudge hurts yourself more than the other person. Choose forgiveness and free yourself of the burden of anger and revenge.
If this is a topic you would like to further explore – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Opportunity to Contribute
I realize that the life of Alexander Hamilton provides many more lessons of virtues and vices. Reflecting on the lives of significant men and women enables us to learn from their success and mistakes. Please provide your own examples of lessons from the musical through the comments section below this post. Two ideas to start with are – 1) Have a Character of Loyalty and not Deception and 2) Take Responsibility for your Mistakes.