The Life-Cause

A life-cause is something that seizes your interest, focuses your talents, and reinforces your spirit of living. I've come up with this phrase in the course of working with a client in my Creative Conversation service, my 1to1 work where I use a person's River from history to illuminate key points about a client's River. My term "life-cause" comes from the client and I having examined the life and … [Read more...]

Tuck Into Your Mind For October

I read the other day that the presidential debates will be in October. Three of them total. My mind went to a point from the 1980 presidential campaign that I'd like to share with you. It's not generally well known. You could find it handy as we get nearer to the debates in October. In the summer and early fall of 1980, President Jimmy Carter ran ahead of Republican presidential nominee Ronald … [Read more...]

One Basic Belief And Two Different Approaches

The other day I attended an historical lecture by an historical scholar. I won't specify more than that. Suffice to say, it was about a particular event in American history that is among my most fundamental interests. The historian who gave the lecture is highly respected in academic circles; he is a history professor and published author. I really enjoyed the lecture until it came to one point in … [Read more...]

No Theories

Three people, unknown to each other and in totally different settings, have asked me the same thing. After learning about my work and ministry here at Historical Solutions LLC, they wanted to know about my theory of leadership. What is your theory, they asked me. Don't have one. Don't want one. Don't need one. Well, I said it a bit more politely than that. I'll leave the theories and the … [Read more...]

Your Culture

I'm working with an organization that is just a few years old. Their leaders, four of them, are determined to start a culture among their employees. They want a culture. I applaud them. Good goal. Tough goal. Not an easy goal to know that you've reached or continue to reach. But it's a very worthy thing to pursue that will pay real dividends to those involved. Culture matters because it helps a … [Read more...]

The Second Term

A common point made in the run-up to the recent presidential election was that Obama's re-election made history. There is one clear reason for the facuality of this assertion: not since Franklin D. Roosevelt had a majority of voting Americans re-elected a president with such a high unemployment rate. 76 years...1936 for Roosevelt and 2012 for Obama. That is genuinely historic. It brings me to an … [Read more...]

Seeing The Future: From Thanksgiving To Valentine’s Day

Shouldn't do it but I will. I am. I'm thinking there are things about the near-term future that we can know with confidence. First, a deal will be made to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. That deal will have forms of increased revenue. Second, a pledge of spending reductions will be made. It will not be finalized, not be actualized. It will be promised. Third, an element of public mood will … [Read more...]

Learning From Benghazi

You’ve simply got to find a copy of today’s Wall Street Journal. In it you’ll find a front-page article on the current state of the Benghazi, Libya issue. That’s the event where the radical Islamic terrorists killed four Americans on September 11, 2012, including the US Ambassador to Libya. The Journal article, a lengthy and detailed piece, is a compelling exploration into the development of the … [Read more...]

Hillary Clinton’s Mistake

I don't want you to make the mistake that Hillary Clinton appears to have made in the recent tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. It's a key point for leaders and leadership. As you may know, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, visited five talk shows on the Sunday following the killings of four Americans on September 11, 2012. Rice said, wrongly, that the event resulted from spontaneous … [Read more...]

Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Affordable Care Act

I wonder if the Affordable Care Act, known to many people as Obamacare, will become the 21st century equivalent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Before you either curse me or cheer me, let me explain. I'm not comparing the health care law as tantamount to the potential expansion of slavery and slaveholding. Not at all. What I'm wondering if whether one of the major political parties of the … [Read more...]

Hillary Clinton Revisited

Five months ago (December 5, 2012), I wrote about a leadership mistake by Hillary Clinton. It involved the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya where four Americans died. I wrote that then-Secretary of State Clinton performed poorly as a leader because she side-stepped clear responsibility and ownership of the incident. I was wrong. It was much, much worse than I said. We now know that her mistakes preceded … [Read more...]

Today’s Presentation: The 96 Hours

A little later this evening I'll be presenting on buy-in and leadership. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite topics and modules. The history here is the 96 hours that Abraham Lincoln lived, October 1 through October 4, 1862. Several people have asked me to write a book around this stretch of days. I think they're right. I should write a book. In fact, maybe I'll broaden the topic slightly … [Read more...]

Neptune And You

Here's an exercise for your use of history. Neptune. What's the difference between the past of Earth and the past of Neptune? Answer that; it's not a trick question. I'd say that somewhere on the list of answers is this: people. Earth has people. Neptune doesn't. People are part of the story of Earth's past. Not true for Neptune. Now, what's the difference between the concept of past and the … [Read more...]

Future Known

A client and I talked over coffee the other day. Actually, I had similar conversations with two separate clients, individually. They are alumni of Walkshop I, where we re-experience the day when Benjamin Harrison finished processing Major Change. On that day of finished processing, he signed up to serve in the Civil War. The topic we discussed was about the future. Specifically, when you have the … [Read more...]

The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman

War divides. In American history the division caused by war is not just between one side and the other on the battlefield. It's also between those who support in and believe in the war and its waging, and those who do not. In this sense, the two wars that flowed out of 9-11—Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War—were no different than any other war in American history. They divided. Paul Berman … [Read more...]

The Why Of The Review

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated recently that the American military is undergoing a major review of itself. He explained that this was not unusual--the military often does this after a major war or wars. Routine. OK. Routine. But I want you to go a little deeper here. When you have a predictable basis for review and reflection, that suggests you may fall … [Read more...]

The Ghosts Of Spring Mill

On MLK weekend, my family and friends convene every year at Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana. In the park is a historic grist mill, circa 1830s. Two houses stand near the mill, original to the village. Two of my best friends joined me in a casual conversation in the snow-covered yard and garden between the houses and next to the mill. Roughly 180 years ago, friends and families stood on … [Read more...]

Beneath Obama’s Announcement This Morning

Later this morning, President Barack Obama will deliver a speech at the Department of Justice. The topic will be his conclusions on surveillance by the national government. The speech follows several months of controversy unleashed by Edward Snowden's leaking of information on how the government has gathered data on citizens and groups. I want to remind you of what's beneath this speech and the … [Read more...]

Today’s Hike

I hiked this morning. I saw things. A robin looking lonely. A blue jay gliding over the surface of a river, rushing somewhere. A collection of mallard ducks floating on the surface, waiting, eating. Trees chewed by a beaver, falling the way he didn't want them to go. Animal tracks; three or four deer. Human footprints. Mine, too. And as the snow fell, all of them covered up. Erased. I heard … [Read more...]

Best Profiles

Goodness! I have no right to expect to meet so many interesting people. But I do meet them, day after day, one by one. Today was no different. I met a potential client for my Creative Conversations service, my one-on-one coaching that uses history for personal growth. In the course of our chat, I realized that a profile can be built of those folks who excel and thrive with my ministry at … [Read more...]

Connecting Two Points At Starbucks

Enjoyed a cup of coffee at Starbucks yesterday when I connected two points in my mind. The conclusion rather disturbed me in the middle of my enjoyment. First. A group of five or six high-school aged students came in and ordered whatever they ordered. They were boys and girls. The thing that caught my attention was that each of them was dressed out of a fashion magazine, clothed, styled, and … [Read more...]

Currents And Waters

If you haven't seen my explanation of my River construct, look along the top row of this page and you'll see The River. Take a look to learn more. If you're already familiar with it, see below. Currents and waters are not the same thing. A current is moving, whether quickly or not. The movement is marked by starting here and going there, again regardless of the distance or direction involved. It … [Read more...]

The Links Of Syria

A participant in my recent Workshop on leadership and credibility asked a great question: what are the key historical connections with the Syrian civil war and the US interaction with it? Super question. Here is my thought: five jump to mind. First, the current situation in Syria points to something I've been pounding on for the past three years. We are reliving the replaying of the late 1930s. … [Read more...]

Beautiful Expressions Of The Old And New Worlds

The differences between America and Europe, the New and Old Worlds, can be found in thousands of places. Among the most beautiful is music. Let me recommend to you roughly six minutes of pure pleasure in sensing one expression of difference between America and Europe. Find a few minutes and listen to two short classical music pieces. One is Elk Hunt by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman; it's part of … [Read more...]

My Thoughts On Miley Cyrus

...zzzzz..... Done. … [Read more...]

The Personal Public Event

It's strange that a few days ago I began thinking about this point, the Personal Public Event. Strange that today it's the 12th anniversary of 9-11. Context first. Our church pastor, prior to arriving at our church, was a minister at a congregation near New Orleans. He refers often to Hurricane Katrina and the destruction to both the region and the lives of he, his family, and the congregation. I … [Read more...]

Doctrines And Syndromes

The historical and current states of international relations for the United States reveal many things. Among them is a curious separation of terms. For American presidents, there is a Doctrine. A Truman Doctrine existed, as did a Reagan Doctrine, a Carter Doctrine, even the originating Monroe Doctrine. But for the American people and the American public, there is a Syndrome. The Vietnam Syndrome, … [Read more...]

Obama And Circularity

No political point-scoring. I'm not interested. What does interest me very much is to note something that I think you'd agree is a weird part of life. Circularity. How many times have you seen or watched something at one point in your life, perhaps criticized the person or people involved, and then discovered that at a later point many of the same circumstances and issues suddenly find their way … [Read more...]

Syria And The 1930s

I've made the point numerous times that we're living in a bit of time warp. To me, it feels like a replay of the 1930s. I won't belabor all the reasons for why I think this. Let me focus for the moment on the current situation in Syria. Italy was one of the focal points of unfolding international controversy in the 1930s. Its expansion into northern Africa was done as a junior partner in an … [Read more...]

Motivating Through The Mundane

One of my clients for my Walkshops made a great point the other day. He is in the midst of experiencing Benjamin Harrison's struggle with executing Major Change during his military duty in the Civil War. My client said that he was shocked that Harrison had to contend with such long periods of inactivity, dull routine, and daily mundane events. It showed, my client concluded, the importance of … [Read more...]

The Moments Of Quiet Leadership

Quiet leadership. Like me, when you see this phrase you think of doing things behind the scenes with little or no fanfare, maybe even in secret. Do you engage in quiet leadership? When is it the right time to do so? When is it the absolute wrong time? What does your attitude toward quiet leadership suggest about your nature as a leader? These questions came to my mind when writing a recent book … [Read more...]

1877: The Year of Violence by Robert Bruce

Can you express time in distance? What is the equivalent in distance, for example, of 136 years? I’ll use history to suggest one possible answer. If you look at the United States and the American experience in 1877 and ask yourself how far we’ve come by 2013, I’d say a good argument can be made for this answer—about 15 inches, roughly one full step. Not much more. I measured my distance … [Read more...]

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Entry #21 – The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell What do you do when you start reading a book and, unless something drastically changes, you know you aren't going to like it? That's the question that I had to answer with The Wordy Shipmates. And no, nothing drastically changed. I ended where I began—with an intense dislike of this work. But still, some good came out of it. Hang on and we'll … [Read more...]

Sounds Of The Season

The sounds of late summer. Crickets in the weeds. A garden with long, tired vines. A few inches of brown at the base of corn stalks. A stray brown leaf from the locust and birch trees. Inevitable. … [Read more...]

External And Internal: The Link Between Brand And History

Permit me to use a term that might nauseate a few people and fascinate others. Brand. There is a link between the brand and the history. The history of an entity is a key source of its brand. But it's not enough to know that. You also need to know that the brand, like the history which informs it, can be divided into two parts. One part is the external brand, or that attitude and understanding … [Read more...]

Cancer Specialist in 1865

I've found that a cancer specialist had a medical practice in downtown Indianapolis in the summer of 1865. Nearly twenty years later, Dr. Edward Howard was still in business. His practice had grown to include his son as a fellow cancer specialist. Oh, and one more thing--Dr. Howard emphasized that his treatments were non-invasive. Can you imagine? Cancer, non-invasive, specialist, years of … [Read more...]

Sweeping Under Rugs Or Fanning The Flames

Race in America. We're poorly served by two extremes who want to do opposite things that make it all worse. One side wants to sweep it under the rug. That's the portion of the political Right or, loosely, a part of 21st century conservatism that wants to say that race relations are so much improved that we really don't need to think about it any longer. That attitude and approach helps produce … [Read more...]

Robert E. Lee, Mexico, And His Big Decision

I'm reading a biography of Robert E. Lee right now. The section I completed a few days ago pertained to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Lee is a captain of engineers in the conflict, though he quickly earns promotion. The point that was clearest to me was that you can sense the potential in this event for Lee's subsequent decision to leave the U.S. Army in 1861. In the Mexican War, Lee is … [Read more...]

Walkshop II: The First Offering

11 people participated in the inaugural offering of Walkshop II. The topic was Major Change and leadership, just like in Walkshop I, but in this iteration we explored how leadership intersects with the execution of Major Change, not the processing of what to do about Major Change. Again, Benjamin Harrison in the Civil War is the historical theme. But in Walkshop II our day was June 13, 1865, the … [Read more...]

Winfield Scott And Creative Conversations

You may know that I do 1-to-1 coaching in my Creative Conversations service. One of my current clients is using the life of Winfield Scott as a way of exploring his own leadership. I'm amazed by Scott. It's a shame we don't have a better understanding of his historical significance. One reason for the lack of appreciation is random and bizarre. Photography emerged as a more common tool in the … [Read more...]

A Leadership Point From The Trial Of George Zimmerman

Don't know if you'll see this anywhere but I have something to offer from a leadership perspective. I have lots to say or write  about the event of the trial and the incident of the shooting but won't do so unless you and I have a chance to chat together or write one another at some length. The point: sometimes, the best decision on communication is to wait for the appropriate venue of … [Read more...]

I’m Really Out Of The Mainstream

I have a paper planner (from the Audubon Society). I have an unsmart phone that I don't think they manufacture anymore. I don't have any technological product that begins with a small "i". I read books made with printed pages. I read a newspaper that folds under my arm. I use a push mower. I drive a 1998 Ford Explorer with 240,000 miles on it. I'm about as out of the mainstream as you can get. … [Read more...]

Intelligence And Irregular Warfare

A specialty of mine is irregular warfare and the American Experience. Irregular warfare is that which uses ambushes, hit-and-run techniques, and surprise tactics rather than more standard approaches to warfare. Terrorism is a subset of irregular warfare. National security experts often use "asymmetrical warfare" as a synonym for irregular warfare. I mention this to help explain something you see … [Read more...]

The Experiment

I think the most important thing that we, as Americans, have lost is our sense of the experiment. This nation of republican self-government is an experiment. Beginning as one, it continues still. It is an experiment to see if people with a generous amount of freedom can govern themselves successfully. The presence of the experiment fills every word, every syllable of my sentence just written … [Read more...]

Our Future And Their Future

We can learn a little more about our future by comparing it to how people in 1893 viewed their future. That was the year of the Columbian Exposition, the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus's landing in the New World. Then, Americans looked at the future and marveled at the big. Today, in 2013, we look at the future and marvel at the small. Columbian Exposition attendees remarked often … [Read more...]

Smallness And Bigness For Us

Another thought stems from the previous post. At the same time that we revel in the wonder of the small, we live in an organizational evolution that resulted from 1893. Our organizations and scales in our present day are massive. Vast. Global, interconnected. You dial a call about a particular service and the call is answered in southeast Asia by a person who can then gain control of your … [Read more...]

Of Hogs, Vladimir Putin, And Abraham Lincoln

This morning I found a moment shared, incredibly, by Vladimir Putin and Abraham Lincoln. One of Lincoln's tools of communication was to use illustrations from farming life in his speeches and commentary. He once referred to holding the leg of a hog as it was butchered and skinned. Imagine my surprise when, in today's Wall Street Journal, I read that Vladimir Putin was asked about the … [Read more...]

Chaos And Compressed Events

I'm working on my Leadership Now Walkshop II. That's the second iteration of my Walkshop on leadership and major change. Here's something that I've uncovered: the compression of events can be mistaken for the appearance of chaos. … [Read more...]

Barack Obama And The Trend Of Turnaround

When a leader faces a period of trouble, of difficulty, it's likely he or she will turn to something that they see as their strength. I note this by way of observing that in the last week or so President Barack Obama has made two major speeches during a period of sinking poll numbers, rising controversies, and worsening tensions. First, he spoke about nuclear weapons in Berlin, Germany. Second, he … [Read more...]

Two Points–Short Term and Long Term

Two points or takeaways in leadership can be found in the unfolding story of Benghazi. I'll categorize them as short-term and long-term. The short-term point is the answer to the question of: why did the Obama Administration seek to change the facts of the event? It was electioneering, campaigning, politics. That's it, no more and no less. It's certainly not the first time such things have been … [Read more...]

Fist in the Hand

As a leader, you communicate. Your way of communicating is inseparable from your way of leading. Let me share a quick insight from the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt. By the time he is President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt has developed a gesture of communication. It's forming one of his hands into a fist and then pounding into the open palm of his other hand. Like the title to … [Read more...]

Ladders Visible and Invisible

Yesterday, in a version of Walkshop I, one of my participants said a comment that resonated with me. She said that a lot of her new-hires or prospective hires ask about "career ladders." They want to know whether "career ladders" are available in her organization and on her team. She told me that she often tells them "you make your own ladder." That's exactly right. I suspect a double-motivation … [Read more...]

Fad Phrases

If you follows the news, you might have noticed a phrase in speeches, articles, and commentaries. It's "game-changer." Right now, this phrase pops up in communication about foreign policy, national security, and war, meaning that something new or different as a decision or action will fundamentally shift the nature or state of things. President Obama has repeatedly invoked the phrase when talking … [Read more...]

A Visible and Visceral Reaction

Earlier this week, I witnessed an amazing moment. In the span of a few seconds, 151 years disappeared. Gone. I was there to see it happen. This was the scene. Seven people, not counting me, were seated around a table. We were re-experiencing the four days Abraham Lincoln spent with the Army of the Potomac in early October 1862. A little over half-way done, I had the group take the real-life role … [Read more...]

A Old Question In A New Form: Computers And War

We've seen a lot in recent days about the alleged attack from North Korea on selected computer systems in South Korea. It appears that the banks and television stations in South Korea were the target of cyberwarfare from sources in North Korea. When will an attack on a nation's computer systems constitute an act of war? When will a cyberattack necessitate a severe retaliatory response on the … [Read more...]

Significant Decision

Today's announcement that the U.S. is transferring drones from the CIA to the U.S. military is significant. Apart from a wide-ranging effect on national security policy, I begin to wonder about the leadership implications of this issue. Think about a few for a moment. Maybe you've been in a situation similar to this. 1. An important new technology is shifted from one group's control to another … [Read more...]

Lillian Wald and the Partnership of Leadership

I'm guiding a client of my Creative Conversations down the Lillian Wald River. Wald began the concept and position of public health nursing in the 1890s (starting in New York City). She illustrates a previous posting of mine regarding the partnership of leadership. Many leaders discover the need to join with someone else in pursuing their vision. A leader finds an ally, peer, friend, or colleague … [Read more...]

A Natural Impulse

Leadership has natural impulses. That's something akin to an immutable law of physics--which used to be termed natural law--a physical reality not subject to alteration other than by an agent of equal immutability. Got it? Enough of that, let's move on to my point--I read something that struck me as a natural impulse of leadership. I'm on the final section of a book about Ronald Reagan and … [Read more...]

1937 and You

In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt embarked on the first year of his second presidential term. Throughout the year, he had probably four key points in his mind. These points guided and fueled his approach to the presidency in 1937. They were: 1. Focus on overcoming those very specific entities that were most hostile to his domestic policies. 2. Seek to win victories in the upcoming off-year election, … [Read more...]

The Partnership of Leadership

To lead best is often to lead with partners. Collaborating with someone else is not second nature to leaders, who frequently get where they are through sheer force of individual will. But history is full of examples of leadership become more effective when it functions with partnership. Here is one of the most overlooked examples. In 1938 General George Marshall has risen to high levels of … [Read more...]

Something Lincoln Shows

When seeking buy-in from your followers, be sure to go where they are, see what they do, and demonstrate to them that you place great value on them and their work. This is a key step in building buy-in. And when you do this, understand that if it takes time, whether a few hours or a few days, you as the leader may experience some ups and downs. You may have a negative reaction at some point. … [Read more...]

FDR and BHO: Two Plans

I recently conducted a Leadership Now Workshop on Franklin Roosevelt's second presidential term as a lens for looking at the upcoming second presidential term of Barack Obama. My point was that this lens might lay down certain markers to illuminate the course of the next four years. If you have to plan, vision, and strategize as a leader, in other words look ahead, it helps to have markers. Among … [Read more...]

Three Families in the White House

There is no question but that the family and family life of Barack Obama has been a singular part of his presidency. It's also been a singular part of how we as the American public and people have lived in his presidency. Press and media coverage have emphasized the Obama marriage, the Obama parenting, and the Obama family generally. I'd say that's been a good thing. Here's the bigger point. When … [Read more...]

On The River-I

Throughout the year, I'm going to the same place on the same river at four different seasons. Today was my winter view. I leaned against a tree along a bank for perhaps a half-hour. I had a small notebook and pen in hand, jotting notes on what struck me during this time. I know that this single stretch of will look rather different from one season to the next. And yet, there will be a lot of … [Read more...]

Double Turn

Let's elaborate on one of my points from the previous post. You'll note that I watched a river earlier today. I'd like to say a little more about the double-turn I saw down river. It's a good point to hold up for our own lives. Looking a short distance down river, I saw that the river soon makes a noticeable bend to the left and then, not more than a few yards from there, another bend in almost … [Read more...]

Promises and Promising

Some leaders try to soften the effect of change by telling their followers that specific things may turn out for the better. They make these promises without any basis in fact or with very little of substance for projections. These are dangerous promises to make. You can't suggest or hint to someone that it's possible this or that particular thing may indeed turn out to be quite good. That's not … [Read more...]

Leadership Now Workshop-March 1, 2013-Lincoln and Buy-In

A Special Service from Historical Solutions LLC & Dr. Dan Miller Challenging Your Mind Is To Learn, Know, & Grow as a Leader You as a leader are constantly wondering about buy-in—do my followers support my vision? How deep is their support? Will they stay the course? How can you prepare? An important way, often overlooked, is history. A creative, insightful knowledge of a specific … [Read more...]

The Parking Lot

Not long ago I wrote a post about the fact that history is where you find it. I believe that important, dramatic, and meaningful historical events and people can be found anywhere. History is where you find it. Don't look only in museums or on monuments, at historic sites or historical markers, history can be anywhere. It's up to us to take the time to be curious, to unearth it. An international … [Read more...]


Looking back over the last year or so, a major change has occurred within my ministry here at Historical Solutions LLC. It was unplanned. The unplanned change has been a rapidly growing emphasis on the individual. I am doing much more these days with my one-on-one service known as Creative Conversations. This is where I help client think of his or her life as a River and then lay that River … [Read more...]

A Forward-Looking Lens: Franklin Roosevelt, Barack Obama, And The Suggestions Of A Second Term

This Leadership Now Workshop is for leaders who spend a great deal of time looking ahead toward the next 2-3 years. I believe the second presidential administration of Franklin Roosevelt holds important clues as to the likely direction of the second presidential administration of Barack Obama. As a leader who plans, visions, and thinks ahead, you need to know these clues. The session will be … [Read more...]

The People Eater

I met one of my alumni for coffee today. The time I spend with my alumni is always thoroughly enjoyable. We chatted about dozens of things. I'd like to share one of them with you. People-eaters. What is a people-eater? In leadership, I think a people-eater is a leader who uses his or her followers with no regard as to their growth and development. They're interested in squeezing out the last … [Read more...]

Watch A River Four Times This Year

I've got an odd request for you as we start 2013. Pick a river near you, one that has an accessible bank. Then, circle four dates on your calendar for the upcoming year. Make sure each date is in a different season--winter, spring, summer, and fall. Then, on those dates, go to the river bank and sit down for several minutes and watch the river. Look sharp. Look keenly. Jot down a few notes about … [Read more...]

The Tissue And The Tick Of The Clock

I've noted in the River section of the website that I think the separation between past and future is tissue-thin. I say this because when you think about it, the present (right now, this instant) is really the thinnest slice of time. This moment, whatever your definition of it, has vanished. It's now in the past. The present, I maintain, is a tissue between past and future. So, today is December … [Read more...]

Creative Conversation: Theodore Roosevelt And The Joy Of Life

Today I’m preparing for my next Creative Conversation with a client. The 1-hour session is this coming Monday. The topic is Theodore Roosevelt River. Specifically, my client and I will be exploring 1901-1905, the first presidential administration of Roosevelt. We’ll be looking closely, carefully, for applications to my client’s River. These applications are right there, waiting for us to … [Read more...]

First Thought On Evil Act

Today, of course, is the time of tragedy. A gunman, aged in his early 20s, shot and killed nearly 30 people in a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Among the dead as of this writing are 18 children and both of the killer's parents. My first thought is this: there is a strain of total emptiness running through a swath of American youth. Whether guns, explosive, drugs, or something else, a shockingly … [Read more...]

Sand Lines, Numerical Thresholds, And Other Stuff From The Future

We spend a lot of time in the future. Maybe more than we realize. The future is a major part of leadership. Because of that, we would do well to be more aware of how frequently we refer to the time that is ahead of us. I’ll give you two examples from current events. First, the Obama Administration has announced lately that the government of Syria won’t be allowed to use chemical weapons against … [Read more...]

The Meeting-After-The-Meeting

The meeting-after-the-meeting is a reality of leadership. In case you don’t recognize it from my phrasing, I’ll describe it to you. You go to a meeting. By definition, it has more than one person. It is pre-arranged. It usually has an agenda; if not, there is at least some shared thought about a topic that needs discussing. Also, most meetings come with a general idea of duration. The … [Read more...]

A Twist On Better Listening

Listening, we’re told, is one of the keys to leadership. Instead of smashing ahead with only their thoughts and desires in mind, a leader listens. A leader listens to others. We’re also told that there is more than simply listening. There is active listening. That’s when you’re engaged and connected to the other person or other people—those to whom you’re listening—that you can practically repeat … [Read more...]

Writing Lincoln

I’ve starting doing something new with one of my favorite and most requested sessions, Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man. Each time before I conduct the session, I copy out, by hand, the Gettysburg Address. It’s fifteen of the best non-family minutes I’ll spend on any given day. For the time it takes to copy it down, I’m doing something that Lincoln did, that he actually, physically, … [Read more...]

Lincoln: The Movie

· The kernel of my reaction—I’ll watch it more than once in the movie theater, and will also buy a copy of the DVD for my home theater. I can’t endorse a film anymore than that. Go see it. (when you're done reading these bullet points, be sure to watch my video entitled "Lincoln and Me, Lincoln and You"--you'll find it in the video section of my website) · I was excited about this film from the … [Read more...]

One Of Those Symbolic Moments

Over this past weekend, a symbolic moment arrived for China. The People's Republic of China announced the successful landing of a military jet plane aboard an aircraft carrier. Four other military aircraft landed on the carrier a short time later. An aircraft carrier is a recognized symbol of global military power. It allows a nation to move its military aircraft--and the weaponry that they … [Read more...]

Standing Quiet

I conducted a Leadership Now Walkshop earlier today. In case you don't know, this is a service of mine that uses experiential learning for leadership development. I take a group of 2-8 people on a hike through downtown Indianapolis to re-experience 5 sites important to Benjamin Harrison on Wednesday, July 9, 1862. That's the day, 15 months after the start of the Civil War, that 28-year-old … [Read more...]

The Mark Of A Different Leader

Currently, one of the books I'm reading is by Edward Porter Alexander. He was an officer in the Confederate artillery during the Civil War. He was in almost every major battle fought by the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I'm struck by one of Alexander's comments from 1864. He notes that a difference could be felt by the Confederate army when Ulysses S. … [Read more...]

History, Culture, And Leadership

If you haven't done so, look at the previous blog entry on culture and leadership. You'll see that this is a new activity of mine for a client. I'd like to add a point from history here. The group we know as the "Founding Fathers" (George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and so on) were very concerned with culture. They believed that a foundational part of self-government depended on the … [Read more...]

The Follower

I think an important part of leadership is missing in all the books, articles, and lectures on the subject. It’s the part about your experience as a leader and follower simultaneously. You are a leader and follower at the same time. If you know me at all, you have heard or read my definition of leadership. Being a leader means you have one or more followers. That’s a leader. Period. But it’s … [Read more...]

You The Teacher

As I wrote in a previous blog entry, to teach is to transform. When you're a leader seeking transformation of what you and your followers are doing, you better look at your ability to teach. William DePuy, the American general who transformed the American army after the Vietnam War, saw that teaching was a central part of his role as transformative leader. I'd like you to go deeper into this … [Read more...]

Teaching And Transformation

To transform is to teach. You must be an effective teacher if your followers are to realize transformation, if their group or organization is to become something significantly different and better than what it has been. Osmosis won't cut it. Serving as a silent example won't, either. And don't get me started about the non-starter of yelling, shouting, and bullying your way to transformation. Nope, … [Read more...]

The Leadership Now Walkshop-Learning You Will Never Forget

A Special Service from Historical Solutions LLC & Dr. Dan Miller To See, Smell, Touch, Hear, & Feel Is To Learn, Know, & Grow as a Leader What’s The Goal? To prepare you as a leader for the next big, shocking change What’s The Method? You are one of a 3-5 person group that walks to 5 places vital to the story of our 28-year old leader on July 9, 1862. Who Is He? Benjamin … [Read more...]

Today’s Walkshop

3 people went out on the Walkshop this morning. One of the most gratifying aspects of it was this statement from a participant: "His whole life turned in a different direction in literally one minute." A short while later, my wife and I spoke on the phone. She caught me up on her day at the office. Among the things she shared was this: "Their whole lives completely changed in that … [Read more...]

The 2012 Presidential Election: A Few Days’ Perspective

Elsewhere on my website, in The Commonplace Book to be exact, you'll see that I've written a short piece on the 6 truly important presidential elections in the American experience. I wonder if I will add the 2012 to the list? Right now, a couple of days later, I'll share my inclination--though with the caveat that I may change my mind. I'm not inclined to list 2012 as Number 7. I don't think I … [Read more...]

TIEs: Truly Important Elections-My 6 Choices

· Below are my choices for Truly Important Elections—the TIEs. They are 1800, 1864, 1896, 1940, and 1980. Feel free to suggest others. Be sure to include a short explanation of why you think so. · 1800. Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in what was the world’s first example of a peaceful transition of power from one perceived organized group to another. In other governmental systems the … [Read more...]

The Currents of Waters

Next time you're on a river or standing on a river bank, take a close look at the water. You'll see there what you see in the river of your own life. Yes, I'd like you to take a moment and think about a part of my River construct. There is more than one current in the water of a river. There is the current on the surface. This current moves faster than the current at the bottom of the river. … [Read more...]

Light Rain, Soaked Ground, 58 Degrees, And Gray Skies

I’m looking out the window of my home office. A light rain falls. The ground is soaked. The temperature is 58 degrees. Gray skies.Let’s use this particular day to learn something about time and history.Go back over the brief description that I gave you of the day. Now, what does that day suggest to you if I said it’s early fall? What about early spring? For that matter, what about either summer or … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking III – What Really Happened Next

Bob Woodward said that Graham seemed nervous when she asked him if everything about the Watergate Hotel break-in story would come out, would they get the full story and be able to run it in the newspaper. Everything was riding on it--the Post's stock price, reputation, and viability as an organization. The question hung in the air as the eggs benedict began to chill. Woodward answered, "It … [Read more...]

What If Hitler Doesn’t Declare War on the United States?

On December 11, 1941 Germany’s chancellor, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, declared war on the United States. His declaration of war against the U.S. came four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That’s what really happened. Here’s my what-if—what if Hitler hadn’t declared war on America? What if, say, he had waited a year, in late 1942, before formally declaring war on the U.S.? What … [Read more...]

Light Rain, Soaked Ground, 58 Degrees, And Gray Skies

I’m looking out the window of my home office. A light rain falls. The ground is soaked. The temperature is 58 degrees. Gray skies.Let’s use this particular day to learn something about time and history.Go back over the brief description that I gave you of the day. Now, what does that day suggest to you if I said it’s early fall? What about early spring? For that matter, what about either summer or … [Read more...]

The Loneliness Of Leadership

Loneliness is a condition from which all of us flees. We don't want it. Yet, the hard truth of leadership is that loneliness is a too-frequent companion of every leader. We know that to be a leader is, at times, to accept the need for unpopularity. You as the leader make decisions, take actions, and choose options that are not popular. You do it for the overall good of your team or cause or … [Read more...]

The Balance From History

I chuckle at some of these leadership sayings. Here's a hoot: "leaders don't complain about what's not working. Leaders celebrate what is working and work to amplify it." I wonder how much celebrating George Washington was doing when he faced the ruin of the American cause in late 1776. I wonder how much amplifying of the good Abraham Lincoln did when one of his sons died from illness during the … [Read more...]

A Wiser View Of Wooden

Long-time UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is one of my leadership development modules. He, along with Peyton Manning, comprise the only sports-related modules I offer among my nearly 60 seminars, workshops, and case studies of leadership in history. You gain more from Wooden when you have a wiser, or wisened, view of him. This is what happened--Wooden tolerated the behavior of a UCLA alumnus, … [Read more...]

A Tizzy Of The Wrong Type

Today there is an uproar among the political, punditry, and politics-geek classes. It's about Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney's remarks about the 47% of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes. As I understand it, Romney spoke off-handedly at a fundraiser some weeks ago about this slice of the American public as being overly dependent on the federal government and largely devoted … [Read more...]

Two Statements, Two Presidents, Two Very Different Leaders

I'll let the words speak for themselves. President Harry Truman, a Democrat: "The buck stops here." President Barack Obama, a Democrat: "There's more than enough blame to go around." When it comes time to vote for leadership, I'll take the one from Independence. … [Read more...]

Crisis And Project: Two Different Demands Of Leadership

A leader can be effective in handling a project and yet act very differently in the face of a crisis. I'll explain. A project--completing something that starts here and ends there--requires a leader who can oversee the execution of a plan, show flexibility in dealing with details that don't work out as expected, garner resources for use by the project team, and maintain a high or relatively level … [Read more...]

What If United Flight 93 Doesn’t Crash In Western Pennsylvania?

What If: United Flight 93’s Passengers Hadn’t Crashed The Airplane On The Morning Of September 11, 2001? Islamic radical terrorists had already hijacked three other passenger airplanes on September 11, 2001 and flown them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth plane—United Flight 93—was also seized as planned by the terrorists. The difference here, though, is rather than the … [Read more...]

Sweet Explosion

The Walkshops have exploded in growth and appeal. Three sections, two in September and one in October, have filled up. Requests are coming in for additional Walkshops in October and into November. I think I've found something that works rather well. Up there, Benjamin Harrison is smiling. I promise, Mr. President, that I'll do everything I can to uphold my responsibility as the portal between … [Read more...]

Manhunt-The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson

They say history is dull. They say history is dry. They say history is dreary. I say they’re nuts. And I point to this book as proof of my point. Dramatic, lively, and gripping—these are the words that describe Swanson’s book on chasing Lincoln’s killer, one of the best historical works I’ve read in recent years. The most outstanding feature of Manhunt is the writing, the author’s result. … [Read more...]

What Is A Leader To Do?

A recent report by U.S. Army officials indicated that an Army officer made a flawed judgment that led to dangerous outcomes. Back a few months ago, there was a series of violent protests across Afghanistan. The protestors were upset that copies of the Qur'an (Koran) had been burned by American soldiers. The soldiers had committed these acts at installations where captured Taliban soldiers and … [Read more...]

The Embrace: You And An Idea

The last time you embraced a new idea was----when? Let’s delve into this for just a minute or two. In other words, let’s craft the story of it. We’ll probably bump into a point or two that grabs your attention. Before you go further, permit me a quick couple of parameters to help guide you. For starters, the new idea can pertain to anything. It doesn’t have to be especially big or important or … [Read more...]

Minneapolis, Chicago, And The Step Backward

In 1950 a passenger train trip from Chicago to Minneapolis required a little more than four hours to complete. Today, the same trip takes more than eight hours. For a variety of reasons--poor track conditions, lower speeds, more stops, and mismanaged scheduling--the time has lengthened. We've taken a step backwards. This points to something I've seen elsewhere. When you go back and look at books … [Read more...]

Time Block

I'm offering a new service on a growing basis. I call it the "Leadership Now Walkshop." I take 3-5 people on a walk--an actual walk--to a specific set of places tied to a historical person or event and a defined aspect of leadership. We walk, I tell real stories about the person and event in that historical moment, and my participants listen, look, smell, see, and more. After the walk, we end up … [Read more...]

The 8-Year Old Girl

· This true story comes from the memoirs of Edward Porter Alexander. He was a Confederate officer from Georgia, the author of what’s considered to be one of the best war memoirs of the Civil War. You’ll see his book pop up consistently in footnotes or endnotes of nonfiction books on the Civil War. Before I forget, the year was 1863, not 1864. October. Sorry for the slip. · Take a breath and … [Read more...]

Your Schiff

A little more than a month ago I designed a leadership development module around the experience of Lillian Wald. She is generally regarded as the founder of public health nursing and visiting nurses. She began an organization, Henry Street House in New York City, in 1892. It continues down to 2012. Wald was an incredible leader. One of the outstanding parts of Wald’s leadership history is her … [Read more...]

A New Favorite Of Mine: Priscilla

I’ve now presented to a private client my module on Priscilla. The venue was my one-on-one coaching service entitled Creative Conversations. My client asked if anyone had written a book about Priscilla. That’s a sign that the module went well. The answer to the client’s question is: no. No book has been written on Priscilla. As I said to the client, we don’t know a lot of hard data about … [Read more...]

Withstand The Shorthand

We’re all looking for ways to save time. Let me suggest one way not to do it. Be very, very careful about thinking in shorthand. Shorthand thinking is abbreviation of thought. You hear a word or see an image and from that split-second of time you allow your mind to fill in the rest, the things not seen or heard. Here’s an example. You see a person pull into the drive-thru lane of a fast-food … [Read more...]

The Lincoln Way

Next week I am scheduled to be one of the featured speakers at an event. In trying to practice what I preach, I’m using history. In this case, I’m following the example of Abraham Lincoln. Whenever Lincoln had a speech to give, he developed it in a unique way. He would mull the speech in his mind before he wrote anything. He found ideas, phrases, words, and images that best fit the occasion. … [Read more...]

A Balance Of Delicate And Important Proportions

I read today that Gabrielle Giffords and her husband have endorsed the plea agreement reached with the gunman who shot her and several other people in Arizona in early 2011. The exact statement was this: “Avoiding a trial will allow us—and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community—to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives.” All right, it’s understandable. Absolutely. And … [Read more...]

Founding And Tradition: Much Different

I presented to a leadership team (equivalent to a vice-president and a tight group of key directors) and two unique things happened. One was the structure of my work for them. It was the department or division’s annual retreat for its highest level of leaders. The client and I agreed that it would be a valuable for the group to use the history of their own organization—a history that began in … [Read more...]

Bill Clinton-The Last Moment?

President Bill Clinton delivers the keynote speech at tonight's Democratic National Convention. I'd like to share a thought with you, but I want to be sure you read it in the spirit with which it's intended. Here goes. It doesn't take a prophet to suggest this prediction. It might be that tonight is the last time that Bill Clinton delivers a formal piece of communication directly from a national … [Read more...]

Big, Big Deal

Two weeks ago marked the end of my first Leadership Now Walkshop. It was extraordinary for me, I can say for certain, and for my two attendees, I can say with confidence. Let me refresh your memory. The Walkshop was about how a large event collides with your plans for life and leadership. The topic was Benjamin Harrison and two key points in his life separated by fifteen months—when he heard … [Read more...]

A Big, Big Blessing

You’re probably like me in that you know, you have a sense, when something you’ve said has really hit home with the person to whom you said it. I saw it recently during Part 3 of my Leadership Now Walkshop. Here’s what I mean. At several points during the one-hour walk and the two-hour coffee debrief, I offered a comment based on Benjamin Harrison’s experience of July 9, 1862 and its potential … [Read more...]

Continued Relevance: Sorry To Say It

The page-one headline blazed in this morning's Wall Street Journal: signs of global economic slowdown. As I've said many times before, we are in an extended period of economic stagnation. I'm such a firm believer in this view that more than a year ago I designed a Leadership Now Workshop around the idea. It quickly became one of my most-requested sessions. I'll continue to offer it. This is a … [Read more...]

Your Thumbprint And The Plans For Change

Intriguing real situation from my module on the Battle of Tippecanoe, leadership, and change. Tenskwatawa, one of the Indian leaders at Prophet's Town, indeed, the man after whom the community is named, is pushed by three of the most aggressive of his fellow leaders to fight the American forces led by William Henry Harrison. Tenskwatawa hesitated and wavered before agreeing to the use of … [Read more...]

Day Of Surprises

Today's inaugural session of leadership, change, and the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe was full of surprises. Good surprises. I felt as I prepared the material for my client that one thing after another struck me as rather startling. I knew it would get the same reaction from the 100+ participants. I was right. I won't divulge all of the surprises but I will offer out one to give you a flavor. Both … [Read more...]

A Peek At Tippecanoe

Tomorrow is the newest module, my exploration of the world of the Battle of Tippecanoe and its relationship to leadership and change. Two things that must be shared with you right now are: this piece of River is like diving off a cliff into change. My participants in tomorrow's session are going to see aspects of change that they haven't faced as starkly as they will in this module. Among … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking IV – What Really Happened Next

Dr. William Douglass walks into his study, opens his desk drawer, places the periodical inside, and then swiftly closes the drawer and locks it. Done and done, he thought to himself. Douglass's first and main concern wasn't smallpox but rather medical standards and, to be honest, his own reputation as a physician. He wasn't convinced by the journal article about what someone may or may not be … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking II – What Really Happened Next

King kicks off the meeting with a quick summary of things as they stand on that morning. No bail money, a handful of protestors already in jail, not much of a groundswell of local people eager to march, and a federal court order banning any further marches in town. He reminds the 20 that he has told a few folks that he would march and would be willing to go to jail. The group of 20 starts to … [Read more...]

Change, Leadership, And Tippecanoe

Next week I’m delving into change and leadership. I know—boring and old-hat, right? Wrong, at least wrong when you use an historical example and dig into the real-world guts of it. My topic will be the Battle of Tippecanoe of November 7, 1811 and the events surrounding it. I’m taking my attendees through the experience in a very unique manner. This historical River will show us these … [Read more...]

A Person You Should Meet

Today I'm launching a new page on my website. It's entitled A Person You Should Meet. It's located in the You section of the website. Today's inaugural entry is about William DePuy. Get ready for a new person from history that will affect you for the better. Check it out. … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking I – What Really Happened Next

Confident, Lincoln obliged the calls for comments. He stood tall and straight and said with a grin, "I hear you had the Rebels here last summer [meaning four months ago]. Did you fight them any?" The crowd of people stared at him. Silent. Cold. Resentful. After all, where had Lincoln been during those horrible, bloody days? Was it his farm that was plundered? His family member that died or … [Read more...]

What If: The Gettysburg Address Is Never Given

What If: Lincoln Hadn’t Delivered The Gettysburg Address? The ceremony at the dedication of the national military cemetery, the first of its kind in the United States, went off as planned at mid-day, Thursday, November 19, 1863. But for any number of very plausible reasons, Lincoln couldn’t attend. Maybe he declined the initial invitation to “give a few remarks.” Maybe he accepted and had … [Read more...]

A Leadership Walkshop

· The title of this 2-part Leadership Walkshop is “Plans, Shocks, And Your Leadership: Two Walks In the Civil War Experience Of Benjamin Harrison.” · A maximum of 5 people can participate in a walking group. · When registering for the Walkshop, you are registering to participate in both Walkshops. I have decided not to permit people to select one Walkshop and not the other in this particular … [Read more...]

Water On The Rock: Time And You

Think of a big event in your life, something that you believe has left a deep impression on you since it happened. Got it? OK, I’d like you to go with me for the next minute of so. Keep your chosen event in the front of your mind. How much time has passed since the event occurred? Do you see it differently now? Does it have a different meaning, to whatever degree, than it used to have for you? … [Read more...]

Creative Conversations

A Personal Leadership Service from Dr. Dan Miller of Historical Solutions LLC For the last 18 months, I’ve been offering a new and exciting form of leadership growth for my clients. It’s called “Creative Conversations.” At this point, I’ve had six people who’ve fruitfully gone through the experience and emerged with a clearer sense, appreciation, and idea of where they’ve been, where they are, … [Read more...]


Yeah, I know what day it is. President's Day. Still, I rise in defense of the often indefensible—the U.S. Congress. Well, sort of. Indirectly. And with a whole bunch of other qualifiers. Here we go. For all of the understandably negative press Congress receives, we have forgotten that it was Congress—or the version at the time, the Continental Congress—that was at the foundation of founding … [Read more...]

Lay Down Sally: More You Should Know

MORE ON LAY DOWN SALLY Her name was Sally Cary Fairfax. She was the oldest of four Cary children. Vibrant, effervescent, and vivacious were words often used to describe her. And of course, beautiful and stunning were equally common terms from the guys around her. Both the Cary and Fairfax families embodied every stereotypical image you have of wealthy, plantation-based Tidewater colonial … [Read more...]

Strategy and Compromise by Samuel Eliot Morison

A long time ago people cared about the books and articles written by this man. Now, hardly anyone would know who he was, let alone what he wrote or said or thought. Yes, it was a long, long time ago. At first, this review was all about tribute. I wanted to honor someone whose writings I had first read in my days in graduate school. Samuel Eliot Morison was one of the three or four most … [Read more...]

Your Leadership And The Second Shoe

Want to know how we’re feeling today? I think I’ve discovered it. From all of my wanderings I’ve picked up the palpable belief from people that they expect a second shoe to drop in the economy. They’re waiting for, dreading, and are somewhat planning or preparing for some event that will cause the second shoe to drop and the economy to do another tailspin like September 2008. Let me tell you … [Read more...]

Option B: When The Tears Fall-Leadership, Tragedy, and Ronald Reagan, 1985-1986

LEADERSHIP NOW WORKSHOP: Leading During Tragedy—Ronald Reagan and the Challenger Space Shuttle Dr. Dan Miller The Issue You are in a unique position of having to help people deal with tragedy. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, despite all the planning and prevention, tragedy strikes. And people turn to you to help understand, respond to, and make some sort of sense of tragedy. Tragedy is … [Read more...]

Option A: Down The Rabbit Hole-Leadership, Succession, And The Deeper Story Of Peyton Manning

LEADERSHIP NOW WORKSHOP: Down the Rabbit Hole—Leadership, Succession, and the Deeper Story of Peyton Manning Dr. Dan Miller The Issue Unless tomorrow’s leaders are in place, or you know where they’ll come from, your organization is at extreme risk. Leaders leave. Always, be it by retirement, resignation, removal, or something else. You must, absolutely must, have a clear and solid idea about … [Read more...]

The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World by John O’Sullivan

During ten years three leaders shared the pursuit of one objective. The ten years spanned 1979 through 1989, the three leaders were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II, and the one objective was the downfall of the Soviet Union and its sponsorship of communism world-wide. This is the story ably told by John L. O’Sullivan in The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three … [Read more...]

Patty and Tom: A Story of Marriage and Leadership

· Jefferson’s political allies nagged and hounded him during August and September 1782 about returning to political debates and issues. He refused, staying holed up in his wife’s bedroom and in the small temporary office near the bed. He had insisted on being present for every childbirth and for every child death. They were a devoted husband and wife. · Get ready for a shocking point—Sally … [Read more...]

Caty and Nathanael: A Story Of Marriage And Leadership

· At the time of their wedding in 1774, Caty was 21 and Nathanael was 32. · The two of them talked about growing old together, enjoying their children and reading to one another by firelight. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? · The fact that Nathanael and Caty still had their four children living by the time of this story was remarkable. Many couples suffered death rates among their children of 50% or … [Read more...]

What If The United States Does Not Unite?

Huge question, huge topic, so huge, in fact, that it’s hard to get a firm grasp on a clear response or line of thought. To better do so, let’s narrow it down a bit. Our focus will be fairly tight, say, in 1787-1789, as the moment when various States of the newly United States failed to come to an accord and unify behind the proposed constitution. The result would have been catastrophic to world … [Read more...]

More Information on Workshop

LEADERSHIP NOW WORKSHOP: Being a Leader During Economic Stagnation: 3 Jewels from the Late 1930s Dr. Dan Miller The Issue Then… The American economy had gone into a free-fall decline by 1930. A modest recovery had been made in the mid-1930s. By the late 1930s, however, a second economic slide befell Americans. The Issue Now… We had a severe economic drop in 2007-2008. Since then, we’ve … [Read more...]

Register for Leadership Now Workshop

REGISTRATION FORM: Being a Leader During Economic Stagnation: 3 Jewels from the Late 1930s DR. DAN MILLER, HISTORICAL SOLUTIONS LLC Date: Friday, October 21, 2011 Time: 10am to 1pm Location: Conference Center, Fort Benjamin Harrison – the Gates Room 5753 Glenn Road Indianapolis, IN 46216 317-591-0904/Note: Computer mapping will not work. The park entrance is off 59th Street and Post … [Read more...]

9-11 and 10 Years On: Your Leadership and History

9-11 and 10 Years On: Reflections on Leadership and History First, let’s do a couple of points from popular culture. Top hit song from 1951: Too Young by Nat King Cole. 2001: Hanging by a Moment by Lighthouse. Top movie from 1951: A Streetcar Named Desire. 2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Fad from 1951: Gilbert's Chemistry Sets. 2001: Bratz Dolls. I mentioned having looked at … [Read more...]

My Night At The Indiana State Fair: Leadership And You

Again, don't interpret these comments are sideline criticisms. Officials deserve extensive praise and even more extensive prayers. Well done. To clarify, as a result of this event, unified command was used for the first time in a major incident in Indianapolis, not for the first time in the U.S. In saying I'm a bit of a Calvinist, I'm referring to my spiritual life. I'm saying that I tend to … [Read more...]

The Huge But Avoidable Mistake

THE HUGE BUT AVOIDABLE MISTAKE: RELIVING THE STEEPEST COST OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION The Great Depression struck Americans in the 1930s. It had two parts, from roughly 1930 to 1935, and from 1937 through the end of the decade and into the early 1940s. And during this period—along with all the personal and individual sufferings of joblessness, homelessness, and hopelessness—there was one particular … [Read more...]

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...]