It was a simple family home. A mere seventy-five rooms, walls gilded in gold and platinum, an entry way larger than many places of employment, enough exotic marble to be a place of worship, and fresh and salt running water to the bath tubs. While this was the biggest home in the neighborhood, it is among others of similar peers.
The mansion is called “The Breakers” and was the family summer “cottage” of the William Vanderbilt family in Newport, Rhode Island. We visited this fantastic location this past weekend and learned more of the accomplishments of the Vanderbilt family. William was the grandson of founder Cornelius Vanderbilt who created the shipping and railroad empire.
After the tour, I thought to myself, “what a great leaders the Vanderbilt’s must have been.” As I thought and walked around, it occurred to me that they were great businessmen, family patriarchs and community influences. But leaders, I wondered. If critical roles of leadership is building ongoing compelling visions and developing people, then the Vanderbilt’s do not measure up. If their initial vision of controlling the shipping and railroad lines had true life, it would not have faded once monopoly laws and alternative modes of transportation evolved. I looked more and was unable to find clear examples of great achievers that developed under the Vanderbilt system.
While paying respect to their achievements, do you feel vision and developing people are compelling enough reasons to keep the Vanderbilt’s out of the Leadership Hall of Fame?