I Wish You Didn’t Need To Know This–But You Do

The three key examples are Winston Churchill, A&P Stores, and Grumman Company. Each of them showed outstanding leadership in the late 1930s, a time of deepening economic crisis--after a previous economic crisis. All three examples will help you re-energize your personal leadership and will also give you specific takeaways to use with your followers and, just as importantly, with … [Read more...]

John Adams and the Words That Hit Like a Ton of Bricks

· Do you have to be elderly, in your 80s in Adams’s case, to have this sort of reflection and perspective? Can a younger person reach the same conclusion? Personally, age may help but I don’t think it’s required. This sort of insight can come at any age, at any time. · Speaking of age, I’ve seen plenty of older people who were anything but cheerful in the same sense that Adams displays on March … [Read more...]

American Bloomsbury – Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work by Susan Cheever

They live in separate houses. They have different families. They conduct distinct lives. Yet, they form into a tight-knit group. Over time, their closeness even transcends the gaps of home, family, and daily life. You will see them together and when you see one of them apart, you wonder where the rest of them are. They are a number of people in your organization, or your neighborhood, or your … [Read more...]

The Folding Metal Chair and Eleanor Roosevelt

Walk the talk--that's a cliched way of saying that your decisions should be reflected in your actions. I also think that the way in which you express this link or connection is very important. Eleanor Roosevelt's slamming down of that folding metal chair in the middle aisle echoed in more ways than one. She let everyone know where she stood. She also was doing what she could do; she had no formal … [Read more...]

2011 and 1721

Jack Boylston was the five-year old son of Dr. Zadbiel Boylston. The elder Boylston was a devoted and loving father. I can scarcely imagine what it must have been like to watch his son wince with the process of inoculation and not knowing whether he would live or die as a result of what I, as his parent, was doing to him. Think of looking into the face of your child as you cut the little arm, rub … [Read more...]

You, Egypt, and Revolution

·         We see and hear the word “revolution” tossed around a lot. There’s the technology revolution, the information revolution, the sexual revolution, the Internet revolution, the social media revolution and on and on. You get the point. It’s too bad because that sort of inundation tends to make us numb to the real thing—when an actual revolution is at hand, as in Egypt, we dismiss or look … [Read more...]

46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell

I applaud loudly for Scott Liell, author of this book. He tries to take a single writing and writer, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and show us nearly two hundred forty years later its meaning and significance. Liell skates on the thin ice of few sources but regardless: applause all round. I read Liell’s book at the best time of year for such a topic, the summer and its high national holiday, … [Read more...]

Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE ONE-ARMED MAN ·         I don’t know the name of the One-Armed Man. I’d love to be able to tell you his whole story. Maybe someday I’ll find the information.       Did you hear the sound of the wind right before I referenced "rumble and roar"? Interesting coincidence of sound, word, and meaning. A brush of spirit, perhaps.       The story … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on Daniel Morgan and Leadership

·         After you receive my newsletter on Morgan and “campfire conversations,” please be sure to check out The Tackle Box for a guide on using Morgan in your current-day leadership. You’ll find The Tackle Box in the Shop portion of the website. ·         Daniel Morgan was actually born in New Jersey, not Virginia, in 1736. You might not realize it but much of New Jersey in the 18th … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on John Wooden and the What-If Question

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON JOHN WOODEN AND THE WHAT-IF QUESTION ·         John Wooden is one of my most popular historical leadership development case studies (I’ve got 60 of them). I think the three most important takeaways from Wooden’s leadership experience. They are: the Lasting Imprint (how to help your followers gain lifelong lessons from their relationship with you); Shoes-and-Socks (how to … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on the Four Humble Items

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON HARRY TRUMAN AND THE FOUR HUMBLE ITEMS       Yes, I know the video was eight minutes, not five. My fault. Still, I hope you enjoyed it.       Have you come up with your four items yet? Mine: a copy of Huck Finn, photo of family and friends (preferably while camping, hiking, fishing, or at the Chicago Art Institute), my baptismal verse scratched in my handwriting, and a … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on the Big Little Book

·         The 110 maxims on personal conduct conjure two images in my mind. One is the Book of Proverbs in the Bible’s Old Testament. Like the verses in Proverbs, the 110 points are direct, pithy, and eminently practical (at least in the setting for which they’re written). There is a stern aroma of morality and judgment. The 110 points are often quite specific and directive. And along the way you … [Read more...]

A Foundational Belief

You have foundational beliefs. So do I. A foundational belief is dearly and certainly held in your heart, mind, and soul. It shapes your view of the world and everything in it. We know it is part of truth, a thing above and beneath time and place and circumstance. You build your life upon foundational beliefs. And they power your leadership. You arrive at foundational beliefs through your … [Read more...]

Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton

“Run out and buy a copy.” “Couldn’t put it down.” “Wish they’d make it into a movie but in the end a great book never does well on film.” These are just a few of the many superlative remarks I offer to you about Milton’s book. And yes, this is straight-shooting. I’m not being glib or sarcastic. Don’t stop reading this review, however, because I think you’ll want to learn a little more about my … [Read more...]

The Levels of Leaders on the Ground

One night in the early spring I received a call at home. It was not long after supper, my wife Kelly and daughter Haley and me were cleaning up the table, washing dishes, getting ready for the rest of what we knew would be a nice evening at home. The call was unexpected and the voice on the other end was even more so. For me, and hopefully for the person to whom the voice belonged, it was an … [Read more...]

The Self-Perception of Innovation

One of my recent sessions at a hospital produced a discussion of innovation. When I asked about the state of innovation at this hospital, the participants agreed that it was next to impossible to innovate in the organization. They proceeded to list a variety of reasons why that was, ranging from fear of failure to stale attitudes toward change. The strength of their consensus was surprising to … [Read more...]

Delegation into united or divided teams

Not long ago a group of promising leaders at a hospital explored the role of delegation in leadership. In the discussion they encountered the issue of whether they preferred to delegate tasks on a major project into a team that was united in its pursuit of that project or into one that had evident divisions over it. Such a project might be a building expansion, the development of a significant new … [Read more...]

What if Jeremiah Greenman’s leader had behaved differently?

Benedict Arnold was the leader of the Quebec march. He was Greenman’s leader. Surprised? Get ready for more surprises. Before we go to the “what-if”, permit me to provide some background. Benedict Arnold is the most infamous traitor in American history. His name has become a synonym for betrayal and has remained thus for more than 200 years. That’s a legacy. Arnold was 34 years old at the … [Read more...]

Cell Phones, YouTube, and the Constitutional Convention of 1787

What if one of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had used their cell phone to record debate and then posted it on YouTube? Wow, that takes a minute to grasp. In case you aren't aware, you can buy a cell phone that has the capability to record "moving pictures", like a camcorder. You can then post the film on the internet. For many people, especially those under thirty years … [Read more...]

What if…John Wilkes Booth had not assassinated Abraham Lincoln?

What if Booth had not killed Lincoln? Put another way, what if Lincoln had lived through two complete presidential terms? In my view, had Lincoln lived and died of natural causes his reputation would reach us today in lessened form. We would not have the near Christ-like admiration that most people express for Lincoln. Conversely, we would probably still have the current minority (which is … [Read more...]

The Eloquent President by Ronald White, Jr.

All of us want to speak and write persuasively. Some of us do one or the other well. Few are masters of both. Ronald White Jr. has written a book that explores the great speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln as president. As you gather from the title, The Eloquent President, White concludes that Lincoln is without peer or parallel in his ability to communicate from the White House, be it as … [Read more...]

Empire and Independence by Richard Van Alstyne

Don’t make the mistake of thinking an older, out-of-print book can’t offer interesting information and points of view. For me, a book written in 1965 by Richard Van Alstyne, Empire and Independence, is an example of time well-spent reading a book you can only find in quaint used book shops or on similar Internet sites. Van Alstyne’s book is brief and written for someone with a keen interest in the … [Read more...]

This Man’s Army: A Soldier’s Story From the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism, by Andrew Exum

Published in 2004, this book covers the experiences of a young man from Tennessee as he joins the Army, becomes a lieutenant, trains as a Ranger, and serves in the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. Andrew Exum, the author, is the lieutenant. It’s a brief book, easy to read. Exum offers an honest glimpse into the daily life of a company-grade infantry officer in the Afghan War. He does so … [Read more...]

The Times and Trials of Anne Hutchinson by Michael Winship

You likely don’t know, but my personal approach to historical reading is to keep books going in five centuries—17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st. I just completed my latest installment for the first of those centuries, the 17th. Thus we come to Anne Hutchinson, arguably the most well-known female character of 17th century America. I knew the fundamentals going into the book by Winship, nearly … [Read more...]

Jesse James, The Last Rebel of the Civil War by TJ Stiles

A dense book packed with details, The Last Rebel by TJ Stiles is an exhaustive treatment of the life of Jesse James, the most notorious bandit of the post-Civil War era. The memory of Jesse James is one-part folklore, one-part pop culture, and one-part fact. Stiles’ book alters that mix, wiping out the large fractions of myth that have built up around the prototypical Wild West bank and stage … [Read more...]

Class 11, Inside the CIA’s First Pot 9-11 Spy Class by T.J. Waters

T.J. Waters is, to the best of my understanding, an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. He rushed to join the CIA in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Five years later, in 2006, he published a book about his training and education experiences as an aspiring spy, analyst, and staffer at the Agency. He was a rookie, one of many to comprise Class 11, trying to … [Read more...]

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards by Jay Feldman

The ground shook, the big river changed direction, and it affected people. That is the basis of this book by Jay Feldman, who added the subtitle “Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes.” That’s New Madrid, Missouri where the earthquakes referenced occurred in three major episodes from December 1811 to February 1812. Feldman tells three stories. One is how the fault line … [Read more...]

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

One of my friends, a man for whom I have immense respect because of his wisdom and broad reading interests, purchased a copy of Team of Rivals at my suggestion. Off he went, new book in hand. I was eager to hear his verdict. Let me repeat, word for word, his reaction to Team of Rivals. “Outside of the Bible,” he stated in an email, “the Goodwin book may be the best I’ve ever read.” I don’t … [Read more...]

Walt Whitman’s America by David S. Reynolds

He was a poet, a journalist, a one-time teacher, a bit of a rogue and a rambler. His was the voice of America in the mid-19th century. All this and more was Walt Whitman. David Reynolds, a professor at the City University of New York, has written a compelling biography of Whitman. Reynolds fixes Whitman in the times of his life. Long sections of the book describe the various influences on … [Read more...]

The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett

Sometimes you sit in a meeting, a group meeting, and you see the impact of a well-chosen phrase. These days, we are more likely to recall the impact of a well-crafted PowerPoint presentation. All of a sudden, lights click on atop everyone’s head and out of the room they rush, eager to spread the words of wisdom they have just received. There is more to Thomas Barnett’s book, The Pentagon’s New … [Read more...]

Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan

You're likely reading this review in the comfort of your home or office, perhaps a cup of warm coffee nearby. It won't enter your mind that while you're reading, thousands of American soldiers serve their nation in small bands of five or ten or thirty men. They serve not in Iraq or Afghanistan but in even more remote outposts around the world. These "imperial grunts" are the subject of Robert … [Read more...]

The Defining Moment – FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter

Franklin D. Roosevelt charted new ground for the American presidency. One of the directions that he pursued which set a precedent for his successors was the practice of the "100 days." American presidents down to the early twenty-first century, and the people who advise them, are conscious of Roosevelt's precedent. For it was the polio-afflicted president from New York who cast the mold of active, … [Read more...]

Love and Hate in Jamestown by David Price

Who in their right minds would choose to read about colonial America? Aside from a handful of professors and graduate students, probably not many would do so. At varying distances of three-plus centuries, our view of America’s colonial period (roughly 1550-1775) is quaint at best. At its worst, it consists solely of stilted imagery about the European rape of a virtuous New World perpetuated in pop … [Read more...]

The Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot

The book covers the history of American “small wars,” those uses of military power that haven’t involved a massive buildup of forces or the pitting of large armies against each other in formal battle. The time period spans from the early 1800s to the modern day. Not surprisingly, as a reader you can sense the driving force of September 11 in the development of the book’s arguments. I heartily … [Read more...]