Queens and Kings

The world is mourning the death of the longest reigning monarch in the UK, Queen Elizabeth. Just thinking she is the only monarch that the significant majority of her subjects have ever known is quite amazing in and of itself. Although not without imperfections, she was a class act which we need more people to emulate. Dignified public service is something we should use an example – just look no further than Boris Johnson as the most recent contrarian to that premise and what happened to him.

What is interesting is that if her Uncle Edward had not abdicated the throne allowing her father George to become King, she may never had served as Queen. I find that amazing how these two very different stories weave together in history as bookends. A dutiful Queen who served through thick and thin and a self-centered King who shed the crown for love. Her namesake, the first Queen Elzabeth, also served a long time, as did her great-grandmother Victoria. Just think of that – three women served as Queen for just shy of 180 years – almost two centuries.

King Charles will not be able to serve as long, but he has been waiting in the wings for a long time to serve. Using an American analogy, I hope he will not be a worn-out relief pitcher who warmed up too long in the bullpen and was spent by the time he entered the game. One thing about Charles, he has been more outspoken about the environment and climate change, which has been good. As King, he may need to be more silent on these subjects as the Prime Minister runs the show.

There is also a good documentary on him about funding and sponsoring a program to teach teen kids and young adults about the hospitality profession – see link below. It is called the “Belling Hospitality Training Centre at Dumfries House Estate.” When I saw this documentary, I came away with a much more favorable impression of now King Charles.

So, may the Queen rest in peace. Thank you for your service and stewardship. And, long live the King.

https://www.looktothestars.org/news/9973-prince-charles-opens-hospitality-training-centre-in-scotland

Civil war survey results are disturbing – note to Senators with a plea for leadership

The following represents a letter I posted on my two Senators’ websites and that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It is yet another plea for leadership, this time in the face of a survey result noted in the first sentence. Americans need to hear that elected officials have a steady hand on the wheel.

Seeing a survey that noted 40% of Americans (and 50% of Republicans) think that a Civil War is likely in the next ten years is disturbing to this independent voter. What also is disturbing are elected leaders who sow discord to garner votes. One Senator said if the former president is charged there will be rioting in the streets. From what I have read and witnessed, charging the former president may be appropriate and hold him accountable for his alleged and possible crimes.

We need Senators to be the leaders we deserve. Like many, I am very tired of these zero-sum games that are being played. We are the ones that pay the price for this gamesmanship. Please help manage real expectations not perceptions and wants. To be frank, it is a failure of leadership that this many Americans believe these things.

Please feel free to adapt and use. It is high time Senators start acting like leaders. And, if they cannot, they should resign. It is one thing for an entertainment opinion host to babble about BS, but when an elected official parrots that BS, it is shameful because most of them know better.

Of course, women can lead

So, some guy on a recurring podcast is telling us women should not lead and it is a sign of weakness when they do? Really? I heard a Republican legislator say something similar about not being able to be masculine in this country. Really?

If that was not ironic enough, we were watching a movie just last night made in the early 1970s, where the two male leads were chatting about it not being a man’s world anymore and we should take our country back. Does that sound familiar? It should be noted this was still at the start of the women’s movement who were protesting they are tired of not getting opportunity and equal pay.

What I find of interest is an article which appeared this week about this legislator. Its point is if this bothers you so much Mr. Legislator, then why is the most masculine acting person in the Republican party a woman? Her name is Liz Cheney and she has far more courage than the men in her party, with the exception maybe of Adam Kinzinger who was an Air Force pilot and can rival her courage. Speaking of courage, Cassidy Hutchinson and Dr. Fiona Hill also have an abundance of courage, telling the truth with threats against them.

And, the guy his MAGA fans think is so tough, who called his VP a wimp for not breaking the law, cannot bring himself to admit he lost an election. Not very manly or very adult-like is it? Plus, he is the same guy who refused to do a debate if Meghan Kelly was on the next panel as she asked him hard questions last time. We later learned that it was not the questioner, it was the fact Trump was being fed the questions by someone at Fox News before the Republican candidate debates so he could prepare. Kelly just went off his preset script.

For the women-not-being-suited-to-lead-dude, Angela Merkel was the leader of the free world for years and Jacinda Ardern had the gumption to get better gun governance passed in New Zealand after a mass shooting. Golda Meir led Israel during a very tumultuous time. Last time I checked, Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House for the second time. That is leadership. And, while I was not a huge fan of her politics, Margaret Thatcher was so tough, she was referred to as the “Iron Lady.”

In an oft-quoted book called “Half the sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, the Chinese proverb on which the title is based is “women hold up half the sky.” Any community or country that does not bear that in mind is not only being unfair to women, they are being unfair to themselves as they are competing in a world with only half their assets.

Of course, women can lead. And, they can do no worse than many of the men who have been in such roles. Often, they do better.

The deer must lead the way

I was watching one of those animal documentaries and it set a common belief on its head. Like me, many may have the belief the deer will follow where the stag leads. But, through observations, scientists have noted that is not always the case. The deer will feel threatened and move before the stag knows what happened. The stag will, in essence, follow the does and younger deer out of harm’s way.

That is the way it has to be now that elected officials are too scared to do anything. Of course, a change here and there occurs, but for the most part legislators are less inclined to make substantive changes that go against their funders’ wishes. As a result, collaboration is harder and even positive changes do not get passed, as one tribe cannot let the other take credit for political gain. Helping people is secondary to winning elections. It is that simple.

In the 2018 midterm US elections, the does rallied together in the Women’s March and ousted many stags from politics. It was an election that saw a large number of women get elected. Last week, in Australia, a change averse and industry helping government was swept out of office after nine years and three prime ministers. The does said we need to deal with climate change, child care and Medicare issues. And, by the way, integrity matters they said. It should be noted, not all the folks who got booted out were stags, as even does can be less than helpful as an elected official as we have seen here in the US.

It should be noted in 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, helped push through more restrictive gun laws after the nation was mourning the mass shooting deaths that just occurred. A female leader said acting to address this issue was of major importance. How refreshing. Ardern will be speaking at Harvard on the subject of gun control and will likely visit with the US president. Think of the contrast between her and certain elected officials here that are attending a conference held by the NRA, ironically in Texas, or parroting the usual and stale tripe that goes for debate in our country to prevent what most Americans want from happening.

Leaders look like Ardern. They look like Zelenskyy. They looked like Merkel and Mandela. They are imperfect, but they represent the people, all people of their countries. I mention Mandela as he was being pressured to swing the pendulum even more the way of the native South Africans after Apartheid. He did make sure their rights were promoted, but he also recognized the country as a whole needed to come together.

We need to listen to leaders like this. They are refreshing in contrast to our elected officials here who will actually go against the majority of people’s wishes to garner votes from a vocal minority. It is truly sad to see that occur. And, it should be noted how I sparingly use the word leader here in the US.

Ukraine invasion raises questions about democracy (an editorial worth the read)

The following is an editorial in The Clayton Tribune by a moderate conservative writer named Dick Yarborough. It was forwarded to me by a moderate liberal friend who is from that area and knows the author. I find it to be a very compelling and hope that it will reach many Americans of all political persuasions. Or, at least it should. Its title is noted above as the title of the post. (I apologize for the appearance of the piece as I pasted it in).

“I am going to break two
rules today. First, I am going
to leave the friendly confines
of Georgia and comment
on world events. Second,
I am going to talk about
world events that may have
changed drastically by the
time you read this. That is
because this column runs
around the state in different
places on different days but
I have a finite deadline in
which to get these thoughts
to you. Unfortunately, world
events don’t care about my
deadlines.
That brings me to Russia’s
invasion of Ukraine. As I
write this, Russian President
Vladimir V. Putin has ordered troops into that country in an unprovoked attack
while blithefully ignoring
protestations from most of
the rest of the world.
President Joe Biden and
our European allies have responded with economic sanctions including freezing the
overseas assets of wealthy
Russian families, blocking
international transactions
by some Russian banks,
suspending a gas pipeline
project to Germany and
threatening more sanctions
to come. Somehow, I have a
feeling Putin is not shaking
in his shuba. Undoubtedly,
he presumed this would happen. Reports say he is sitting
on a large amount of cash,
ready to ride out sanctions.
So, why the invasion and
why should we care? The answer is that Putin thinks we
are too weak to do anything
about Ukraine or any other
invasions he may choose to
initiate in the future. Not
militarily weak. We have
plenty of bombs and missiles.
We are perceived as weak
people in a form of government that is waning.
As the New York Times
observed recently, “Putin
and his inner circle believe
that liberal democracies are
in decline, a view that (President of the People’s Republic
of China) Xi Jinping and
other top Chinese officials
share.” That group also
includes Iran, Venezuela and
North Korea.
A study by the Economist
Intelligence Union in Great
Britain, shows that in 2020
only 8.4 percent of the world
population lives in a full
democracy, while 41 percent
live in a flawed democracy,
15 percent live in a hybrid regime and 35.6 percent live in
an authoritarian regime. In
short, democracy is indeed
in decline.
The U.S. is considered a
“flawed democracy.” We enjoy the right to vote and basic civil liberties but, among
other things, we have little
trust in our institutions,
including our government.
There is also a troubling
propensity to try and squelch
freedom of expression,
thanks to anonymous cowards who use social media in
an attempt to intimidate and
threaten those with whom
they disagree.
We are a flawed democracy
because we are a deeply-divided democracy, more concerned with our own self-interest than in the welfare of
each other and with seemingly little interest in coming
together. We are polarized
by race, political philosophy,
political correctness, age,
sex, religion, income, rural
vs. urban. The Economic
Intelligence Union says the
U.S. has “a degree of societal polarization that makes
consensus almost impossible to achieve.” No wonder
Putin, Xi Ping, Ali Khamenei
and other assorted tinhorns
think we are imploding in on
ourselves.
They see a bunch of pubescent millionaires playing
games that add no value to
our society while making a
big show of disrespecting our
nation’s flag and our National Anthem. And they are
treated as heroes by a segment of our population.
They see a group of outof-control zealots storm the
seat of our democracy like in
some Third World country,
vandalizing and looting and
assaulting law enforcement
officers because they didn’t
like the outcome of the presidential election. And they
are treated as heroes by a
segment of our population.
They see a segment of our
population obsessed with
destroying our past like
Taliban terrorists, forgetting
Pres. John F. Kennedy’s admonition, “Let us not seek to
fix the blame for the past. Let
us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
They see hyphenated
Americans, as if where we
came from is more important than where we are.
(When you see me hyphenate
“American,” you will know
an imposter got hold of this
space. I submit we are all
Americans, all the time. No
hyphens. Period.)
Our democratic way of
life is priceless and not to be
taken for granted. An earlier
president, John Adams said,
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes,
exhausts, and murders itself.
There never was a democracy yet that did not commit
suicide.”
Disrespect our flag. Disrespect our Capitol. Disrespect
our country. Disrespect each
other. And watch our democracy commit suicide. The
autocrats are waiting.”

Whether one agrees with every statement made above, I find its theme and purpose something that we each should consider and conduct ourselves accordingly.

People in leadership need handlers

As I watch with unsurprising bemusement, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, routinely is in the newspapers with actions or words that reflect a consistent lack of good judgment. Apparently, there is a lot of fodder in his history just as PM, that begs the routine question, “who on earth told you that was a good idea?” But, maybe that is the problem – the PM like others in leadership positions need a “handler.”

I recognize this is supposed to be one role of their Chiefs of Staff or whatever title said person has, but that person is not enough. There needs to be someone who has a watchdog role that can step in and say “that would be a very unwise move.” Boris, among others, would benefit greatly from such a person. Yet, Boris would need them to be doing a lot of overtime, as he has a wont to expound on things.

Boris is compared to the former president of the United States, but as one reporter said yesterday, they are not alike, but swim in the same cesspool. The numerous books and articles about Donald Trump paint a very untruthful and mercurial person to work for. This is a key reason he has so much turnover – people leave or get fired for getting on his wrong side.

Mercurial is a good word as Trump staff’s trying to manage him is akin to trying to hold Mercury in your hands – it is not possible. The more reputable books about Trump indicate a person who to sway him, you want to be the last person to talk with him. They are the Trump whisperers. Sadly, those Trump whisperers are not handlers as much as manipulators. Trump needs before, during and after the White House a handler to tell him not to attack everyone and stop opining on things that don’t matter. Plus, the person could be his fact checker telling him that something he is saying is not in the ballpark of being accurate.

Every leader would benefit from a handler, but there are some who would benefit greatly whether they are elected Downunder, in South America or in eastern Europe. I am setting aside the autocratic type leaders as their caretaking is a whole different matter. The handler would ask key questions hopefully before the action occurs:

-is calling someone a “loser” or “idiot” the best argument?

-is pretending to know a subject matter when you obviously do not the best thing to do?

-is opining on the entertainment news of the day something that in your position should be doing?

-is now the best time to take a vacation when people are in a bad way?

-if this got out in public, is this something you could defend?

-do you honestly think anything these days can be kept out of social media?

-the best closing argument would be “you could do that, but it would make you look like an effing idiot.”

Handler. It would be a tough job. Especially when the boss is his own worst enemy.

Built to Last – a revisit to a still relevant book

This is a repeat post from about nine years ago. It is longer than my current posts, but I did pare down a few dated anecdotes.

As a retired business person, my favorite business book is “Built to Last – Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” written in 1994 by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. “Built to Last” is a data driven book that looks at the habits of 18 highly successful companies and contrasts their results to the second-best competitor in their industries. While the data supports their arguments, it is an easy read and not an arcane business book. To me, its lessons can be translated to any organization or governmental entity, be it national, state, provincial or local. If you would like to explore it more, check out the WikiLeaks summary of the book which is quite good.

While I read this book several years ago, today’s business, political and governmental climate of more short-term thinking troubles me. As our country does not have the patience to see if an idea works, we are destined to try small band-aid solutions that will never get at the underlying problems. I would say, though, band-aids can help if they move things incrementally forward, but many of our problems will take longer term planning and execution that will go beyond the terms of office of those making the decisions. This occurs in business as well as governments. The businesses who are publicly traded must meet analysts expectations on a quarterly basis. Think of how many times you have seen a business do better, but miss expectations and are crucified. So, it is not uncommon for businesses to forego longer term solutions that are not “accretive” or additive to short-term earnings.

Clearly, the same holds true in governments whether they are in the US or abroad. In these partisan days, we have too many people kicking the can down the road. They won’t take necessary action during times of prosperity and have predictable problems grow and must be resolved during times of economic strife. They did not learn their bible lessons from Joseph who had a dream that his Egyptian captors should save grain from the seven years of fortune, as seven years of famine would follow.

In “Built to Last,” the 18 companies studied dwarfed the performance over time of that of their best competitors.  They did not just dwarf the industry average performance; they significantly outperformed some very good companies. There were several lessons learned from these companies that formed the “successful habits” presented in the book. A brief review of these habits and some analogies follow:

Build a clock, don’t just tell time

These organizations were built from the outset to do more than just one thing. In fact, some of the companies failed at their first idea. Yet, they built a framework to develop new ideas and concepts. This is needed in government as well as business and non-profit organizations. What is the framework to plan and execute our strategies? In the US, this framework for future strategy has to be done in a thoughtful, non-partisan manner. Otherwise, we all will fail.

Be more than profits

These companies are all good community citizens. They recognize that for their business to flourish, their communities must be vibrant and take care of those less fortunate. This helps their customers and employees. It shows this is a great place to work. It also helps their shareholders, as the performance numbers are powerful. In the book it highlights how Dow Chemical survived one the worst chemical spill disasters in India, in part because they were a good community citizen. People knew the company was mortified by this tragedy and worked with them to rebound. Contrast this to the company whose coal-miners were killed in West Virginia two years ago. This company had a long history of trying to usurp the law and had a trail of audit issues for safety violations.

While we do need to reward and promote success, we have to be more than profits. Paraphrasing Gandhi, a community’s greatness is measured in how it takes care of its less fortunate. We have to help those in need climb the ladder. Otherwise, we will end up with the haves and have-nots. Having seen the “Hunger Games” last night, it is not unlike some dictatorial cultures where those that have do well and those that do not live in poverty. We have places like that on Earth today and our economic disparity in our own country is rather disgraceful for a free country.

Preserve the core but stimulate progress

These companies had enviable track records of success and had a core set of businesses. Yet, they all looked to grow. They realized to survive they had to progress, to make things more efficiently, more effectively and seek new avenues for growth. Our country has an enviable construct of government. It bothers me greatly when people want to mess with that construct. That is our core. Yet, we do need to work to define what is truly needed and develop a longer term plan for progress. We have added tools (laws, regulations, bureaucracies) over time to help us progress, so we need to review these and make sure they are still effective. Where our tools are outdated, redundant or less effective, we should refine them to promote progress. But, we need to preserve the core.

Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS)

Many people have heard or used this term, but don’t know where it came from. These companies have been successful because they set bold goals or BHAGs. One of the boldest goals noted in the book is that of John F. Kennedy when he declared at his inauguration that America would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  At the time, America had seen several launch failures, not unlike the recent North Korean missile failure. So, it was indeed a BHAG. And, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July, 1969. We need more of this in business and government. While the President has declared and set mpg standards for cars, something like we will make America’s energy production entirely green by 2050 would be a BHAG I think we should strive for. To do this would require a lot of planning, industry support and buy-in and execution.

Cult-like Cultures

One of the more interesting habits was this one on cult-like cultures. They cited the customer service focus of Nordstrom and how the customer came before the shareholder. Their mantra is if we take care of the customer, the shareholders will make more money. They actually inverted the pyramid structure, putting the customer at the top.  New employees would need to adopt this or leave. Other companies had similar culture issues. Equating this to our country, Americans believe fervently in freedoms. They also believe in fairness. So, when things begin to look unfair, Americans will act. That is our cult-like culture. Yet, we need our community conscious leaders to let us know when things are becoming unfair.

Try a lot of stuff and keep what works

The successful companies are constantly trying new ideas. Sometimes they fail. It notes the example of Texas Instruments who used to be a darling of Wall Street. Back in the 1970’s, they had a leadership group that would actually publicly humiliate you for perceived dumb ideas. Guess what happened? Idea creation went to zero and TI fell by the wayside. In an another example, I read where a CEO made a $10 million mistake on a new venture. The Chairman of the Board called him in and instead of telling him he was fired, congratulated him on trying something new. That is why he had hired him. This is an interesting converse to the TI story.

In today’s world, I hate to see when people are unfairly punished for failures, real or perceived. We are human and we mess up. We make decisions based on the best information available.  I would want to understand why things failed.

Good enough never is

I switched the order of the chapters as I see a lot in this chapter with the above.  These companies never rested on their laurels. They always said this is good, but we could be or do it better. They never are satisfied with good enough. They strived to be more. This is one of the geniuses of Steve Jobs. He never was satisfied with good enough. He was quite adamant and even an asshole about it. Yet, those who worked with him saw his vision come true time and time again. There were many times when he could have let an inferior effort get to the market place, but he was enamored with the art and elegance of the product. He wanted the Mac to look good on the inside as well as the outside. He wanted the walls of the factory to be painted white as it shows the dirt and had to be cleaned more. He wanted the impression that if we care so much about cleanliness, we really care about our products.

Home grown management

This habit was equally amazing to read about. I will cite these numbers incorrectly, but out of the 500 or so leaders these 18 companies had over time, 495 of them came from within. Meaning these companies promoted recognizable leaders from their own ranks. This went against a preconceived notion. In actuality, promoted leaders were recognized for their success as natural transitions, their promotion opened other promotions which led to better career-pathing and the companies benefited from the intrinsic knowledge of how to get things done in the company, whose counsel to seek out and whose to avoid.

My old company made the mistake of hiring outside leadership several times in the last eight years. Each time, the leaders were eventually fired. It became a revolving door. Each time the leaders would try ideas that had been tried before and failed in this company. Several times decisions were made and announced and the employees knew the day of the announcement that the decision was poor. They would inevitably not know who to trust, so they would bring in new leaders from outside. As these folks were not known commodities, the mistakes would be magnified. And, the good internal candidates would leave creating a greater void.

New blood is good when effectively used. A company needs new ideas. Yet, it cannot throw out what makes them successful with the bath water. Our country needs leaders of all types. We cannot have only new leaders who have never governed before. And, we cannot just rely on leaders who have only governed.  We need people who know how to get things done who know others in other areas of government. Yet, we do need new ideas as well.

If you have not read this book, I would encourage you to do so. There are good lessons for many types of governance. The businesses and governments who think long term and embrace these successful habits will flourish. And, so will we as citizens, customers, shareholders and employees.

Bigotry is a lousy money maker (a reprise)

The following post has been dusted off from four years ago as a result of the current NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s pride in his slurs of transgender and homosexual folks, that have gone largely unanswered by fellow Republicans. I will not repeat them here, but it should be noted his remarks have not set too well with many. The Charlotte Observer has two editorials from yesterday called “Lt. governor’s rants about fake issues do real harm” by the Editorial Board while the other is called “‘Filth’ sends an old message to LGBTQ in NC” by a columnist in the Raleigh News and Observer.

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.

As a Christian and independent voter, one of my pet peeves is when so-called leaders, misuse their mantle and convey bigotry. Whether they are ministers, CEOs or elected officials, we need them to be among our better angels and be inclusive. To me, a chance to be inclusive has been missed by the relative silence of others leaders in the same party. The same goes for the other party, when one of its elected officials goes astray.

Leadership can happen

In Ken Burns’ seven part documentary on “The Roosevelts” which focuses on Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor, conservative pundit and author George Will gives FDR high praise for galvanizing American industry toward building planes, jeeps, trucks, ships, tanks, guns, equipment, etc. for World War II. What may be less known, is FDR knew he had to allow the companies to make a profit to gain their full support. It also effectively ended the depression era as it got people back to work.

In this same documentary, Eleanor was asked to travel to the Pacific during the war to help the troops. Admiral Bull Halsey did not want her to come, as he saw it as a waste of time he could use planning. In her first twelve hours, he changed his mind entirely. Halsey noted she worked her fanny off visiting several hospitals, bases and going to several events. He noted the first lady visited every soldier and sailor in the hospital at bed side, asking their name, where they were from and if she could do something for them. As Halsey pointed out, these badly wounded combatants needed a mother to stop by and talk with them..

Dwight Eisenhower was getting all kinds of lessons from people about how to be a leader as president. Here was a man who led the Allied command and had to work with many countries and a variety of egos. Eisenhower told them leadership is not beating on your chest and using fear. Anyone can do that. It is gaining consensus toward a common goal. It is sharing your ideas and listening to theirs. They have to buy into the change or it will not be successful.

Although, LBJ can rightfully be criticized for our failures in Vietnam, along with JFK and Richard Nixon, he used his entire political capital and bully pulpit to get the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed. He knew the time was now as well as knowing the Democrats would lose the south if they passed. But, he got them done noting if the presidency is not used for doing big things, what is it for?

Even Nixon with his Watergate scandal, made two significant changes that helped America. He broke the ice on relations with China starting much needed conversations between two world powers. The significance of this move cannot be overstated. And, in reaction to the pollution of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River causing it to catch fire along with Rachel Carson’s book and earlier Congressional testimony on “Silent Spring,” Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ronald Reagan was not perfect as no president is and the Iran-Contra affair is his albatross, but he made an ad lib during a speech in Berlin in 1987 that led to major change. He said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The Berlin wall would come down a few years later. Reagan almost did not say it, but knew instinctively the time was right.

Let me close with a story about a president of a company that I have used before. Paul O’Neill was made the new CEO of Alcoa, a company that was falling short of expectations. At his first press conference, O’Neill did not say the normal buzz word type things. He said he was going to make Alcoa the safest place to work. A financial analyst called his investors and told them to sell Alcoa stock. He later said that was the worst advice he ever gave.

O’Neill knew the only thing the unions and management could agree on was employee safety. Two weeks into his tenure a worker died in a tragic accident on the floor. He called in his direct reports and said “we killed this man.” I want to know in twenty-four hours why he died and how we can prevent future deaths. With that signal, communication up and down the lines improved, empowered employees starting sharing productivity and revenue enhancing ideas and the company took off.

Leadership can happen. Often it takes courage to stick your neck out and do something. All of the above folks also failed to lead on occasion and made some poor decisions. So, even today when we see leadership, we need to let them know we appreciate what they did.

Beware of folks – a few quick lessons taught us by the books on the former president

There are many books about the former president, both before, during and after his presidency. Some have been written by excellent authors who have done their homework. There are lessons to be gleaned on how not to act which need to be highlighted.

Beware of folks who claim all criticism is fake news or from sources who just don’t like them. These are a toddler’s response to mom finding her child’s hand in the cookie jar. “Mom, that is fake news.”

Beware of folks who cannot articulate a point of view without name-calling or labeling something. That is like defining the ingredients from the name on the jar. It is a short-cut to arguing and an attempt to mask a lack of understanding.

Beware of folks who take credit for all things good, even if their role was small or nonexistent, and blame others for all things bad, even if they had a heavy hand in things. A leadership consultant used that phrase often to define how to spot a leader.

Beware of folks who need fixers or sycophants to rationalize or make problems go away.

Beware of folks who bully other people into acquiescence. There is a name for people like that. A bully.

Beware of folks who have a hard time with the truth. Start with the base of not believing a word they say and then add back when they actually tell the truth on occasion.

Beware of folks who will blame institutions of people as scapegoats for their failings. Institutions are not perfect, but they tend to be served by hard working people who are more trustworthy than politicians.

Beware of people who refuse to be accountable for their actions. It is my fault or I could have done better will go a long way.