At hinge points in a leader’s journey, there is often a recurring question: Will one serve as a prophet…or a politician?
This is manifestly evident in some situations. For example, Theodore Roosevelt, master politician, opted to place his electoral prospects to the side in 1912. He emerged as a prophet. Running as a third-party candidate, with no campaign or party infrastructure other than that he cobbled together on the fly, TR finished second in the presidential election.
With the passage of time, many have concluded that Roosevelt’s historical influence was enhanced by his role as a prophet in 1912. Had he trimmed his sails further, stayed within the hedges of the conventional politics of the moment, he might not have spoken to the future in the unique way he continues to do, more than a century later.