Leadership Series: Inspiration Behind the Wythe Room


“What’s in a name?” Those words may take you back to your high school English class. You may also remember that question followed by, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” These quotes are from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliet falls in love with Romeo whose family is a rival of her own kin. In this quote, Juliet attempts to explain that names don’t matter as they do not define a person. However, recent research suggests that names could matter more than we might think. Studies have shown names can influence everything from school grades to career choices. For instance, the world’s fastest man is named Usain Bolt. William Wordsworth was a famous 19th century poet. Then, there’s Sue Yoo, the lawyer. Now those instances may be coincidental, but there are a number of studies that believe names to be a predictor of success.

What about conference room names, do they matter? I’m fairly certain there is no scientific correlation between a company’s conference room names and that company’s success. However, I think conference room names can tell a story and provide insight about company culture.

At Interstates, we have a variety of conference room names. Some rooms are named after state symbols and locations. Like the Ellsworth Room in our Sioux Falls office or the Hawkeye Room in our Sioux Center location. On what was apparently a wildly creative brainstorm session, a conference room in one of our offices was aptly named Meeting Room A, not to be confused with Meeting Room B around the corner. We also have conference rooms named after historical leaders, that as a company we connect with in some aspect. This is the first in a series of nine Leading Edge blog posts to highlight some of those leaders and how their leadership is currently reflected in the Interstates leadership model.

The Wythe Conference Room bears the name of an individual who might be the least known historical leader we’ve selected for our conference rooms. George Wythe lived through the American Revolution and was one of the most respected men of his day. Interestingly, Wythe is probably most famous for the people he mentored and what they accomplished. That list includes Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, James Monroe, and John Marshall.

There are three specific competencies of the Interstates leadership model that stand out as areas George Wythe excelled in throughout his life.

1. Develops Oneself

You might think America’s first professor of law would have extensive education. Yet, Wythe was simply tutored by his mother growing up and later dropped out of college because he couldn’t afford the tuition. Despite these factors, it was Wythe’s determination to develop himself which led him to continue his studies at a law office. He was admitted to the bar at age 20. Eventually, Wythe was elected to the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

2. Models Servant Leadership

Wythe achieved tremendous success, yet he remained a humble and modest individual. “No man ever left behind him a character more venerated [respected] than George Wythe,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “His virtue was of the purist tint; his integrity inflexible, and his justice exact…”. In fact, Wythe was so well respected that when he was absent the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the other Virginia delegates left a blank space so that when he signed, his name would appear first.

3. Develops, Coaches & Motivates

The list of individuals mentored by Wythe included two future presidents, a congressmen/secretary of state, and chief justice of the supreme court, among many others. Wythe admitted to no greater love than that of forming young minds. George Wythe was a true mentor of leaders. It is harder to imagine a greater legacy than that.

What will your legacy be?

Keep leading the Interstates way!

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This blog post was written by Mike Meyers.