The Leader in the Second Chair

What kind of leader do you aspire to be?

the-leader-in-the-2nd-chair

We are in an ugly political season. In fact, it may be the ugliest one in my lifetime. So, in light of that and from a political perspective, one of the political leaders that I admired the most was Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee.

I have been giving a lot of thought about the topic of “Leading from the Second Chair”. Although I have not yet read Bonem and Patterson’s book by that name, I have seen a lot of that type of leadership in my own life and in the life of some of those who I admire greatly.

His was the very first presidential campaign that I worked on was as a young volunteer. Unfortunately, I was a part of his unsuccessful attempt to become President in 1979. I admired Sen. Baker on multiple levels. Others admired him as well. Known in Washington, D.C. as the “Great Conciliator”, Baker is often regarded as one of the most successful senators in terms of brokering compromises, enacting legislation, and maintaining civility across the aisle. A story is sometimes told of a reporter telling a senior Democratic senator that privately, a plurality of his Democratic colleagues would vote for Baker for President of the United States. Unfortunately, in my opinion, not enough Americans apparently shared that same sentiment.

Some of the times during his career that I admired him the most were his days as White House Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the opponent who defeated him early in the primary season and caused him to drop out after the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.

Baker did not seek re-election in 1984. However, as a testament to Baker’s skill as a negotiator and honest and amiable broker, Reagan tapped him to serve as Chief of Staff during part of Reagan’s second term (1987–1988). Many saw this as a move by Reagan to mend relations with the Senate, which had deteriorated somewhat under the previous chief of staff, Donald Regan. It is interesting to note that in accepting this appointment as Chief of Staff, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in 1988. He would never run again. Who knows if he would have been successful? I, for one, would have loved to have seen him elected in 1988 over the alternative that year.

The Leadership Principle

So what is the leadership principle that I admired in Sen. Baker? Well, I think it is embodied in these two principles.

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Be Compelling

Leadership Basics

be-compelling

I think that I have mentioned before that I just love a good quote. Today, I return to a quote that I wrote about several years ago. It deals with the need for us to be “compelling” leaders.

Here it is:

“So why do we remember him? We remember him because nothing is more compelling than a good man in an evil time.”

Just let that sink in a moment.

The speaker was Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia. And I was listening to a speech given on July 8, 2013, at the National Shrine in Washington, DC. In his speech, he centered his thoughts around a well-known military and political leader.

He quotes from this leader’s own words written while on a military campaign Germany. Apparently, he kept a diary. And some of his words are worth sharing today because they gave rise to Archbishop Chaput’s words that so captivated me.

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Lincoln on Leadership

The original "Great Communicator?"

Lincoln on Leadership

We are in the midst of a heated and contentious political season. During this time every four years there seems to be renewed interest in great former presidents such as Abraham Lincoln. So, what is the deal with Lincoln? Was he really the greatest president of all me?

Donald T. Phillips wrote a book in 1993 entitled, Lincoln on Leadership. The subtitle was Executive Strategies for Tough Times. In that book, he provides significant insight into leadership principles that Lincoln exhibited and that he also cultivated in those around him. Phillips points out many unique qualities of Lincoln. He also focuses on what he calls The Lincoln Principles. He goes on to develop Lincoln’s Principles of People, Principles of Character, Principles of Endeavor, and Principles of Communication. I don’t have me to develop each of these. But, I recommend the book if you are interested in pursuing this line of thought on a political figure that has become a pop culture figure again of late.

More than meets the eye

One characteristic that caught my eye was the fact that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to hold a U.S. Patent. Lincoln received a patent for a method of making a certain kind of boat more buoyant. Not all that remarkable in and of itself. But it demonstrates that Lincoln was creative. He was not just a “community organizer”. He was actually a contributor to the business community and he understood that government is not the solution.

He was not only creative; he was also a great developer of leadership intelligence and information from those around him. Lincoln was keenly aware that people (his cabinet and his military leaders) were the major source of information and that in order for him to be a great leader he had to stay close to them. But being close to them was not enough. He needed the relationship to be real and intimate. He built those relationships by holding meetings that were more informal with these people rather than structured and formal meetings.

What is the leadership principle here?

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Big Ideas

Leadership Lessons from Disney World

Big Ideas

Great leaders have BIG ideas. Not every one of them is necessarily big. But some of them must be.

Consider these words and the idea that they represent.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

Those are the words of Walt Disney himself. He made that statement on the What Is Disneyland television program on October 27, 1954. In those words, Walt Disney expressed the incredible power of even a small idea. The idea was a cartoon mouse that would ultimately propel Walt and his brother Roy into the place where they could do, and would do, incredible things.

“He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels.”

Walt Disney wrote an essay in 1948 essay entitled, What Mickey Means to Me. In that essay, he recounts the “lowest ebb” and the “disaster” and describes it as an intellectual property theft of two things. One was the theft of his earlier and successful cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. And the other was most of the Disney artists that worked with him early in his career.

But focus on the idea that popped out of his mind.

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Behind Every Great Man

No One Does It Alone

Behind Every Great Man

One of the greatest leaders of all of history is Moses of Biblical fame. Moses is considered a great leader because of the mighty deliverance of God’s people from the bondage and slavery of Egypt.

It is not my normal habit to use too many Biblical illustrations in my writing. But today is Mother’s Day and today I am reminded of Moses and of his mother. Do you recall her name? Don’t go look it up. Try to remember it. Do you give up? The mother of Moses was Jochebed.

The name “Jochebed” translates or implies, “glory of Jehovah” or, “Jehovah (is her or our) glory.” Therefore, you could make the case, based upon this name of the mother of Moses, that the announcement of Jehovah, as the name of God, was not made for the first time when God revealed Himself under that title to Moses in the burning bush. Rather, Jochebed’s name revealed what God himself would later reveal to Moses out in the desert.

What is the leadership lesson on this Mother’s Day?

It is this.

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How Important Are Results?

Should we actually expect something from our leaders?

How Important Are RESULTS?

Everyone knows that there are “unreasonable expectations.” But, are there “reasonable expectations” that we can have when it comes to our leaders?

I believe that there are reasonable expectations that we can have for our leaders. I believe that it is reasonable to expect honesty, integrity, diligence, dependability, and probably much more. But, I also believe that it is reasonable to expect some measure of results when it comes to our leaders or of those who would be leaders.

We live in a society that values effort as much as it values results. There exists a “moral equivalence” and an acceptance of just trying. “Just trying” is acceptable for a child who is up to bat at his first T-Ball game. Ultimately, in that environment, a 30% success rate over the span of an athlete’s career will land you in the Hall of Fame.

What can we expect?

What then, are the reasonable expectations when it comes to the performance or the results of our leaders? Can we expect any real tangible results? Or should we be satisfied that they are really trying their hardest to lead?

Let me say that I believe that it is reasonable to expect “something” from our leaders when it comes to results. It is altogether reasonable to expect them to either empower us to achieve or to actually spearhead an achievement through the power and influence of their leadership skills.

How do we make that a reality?

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The Discomfort of Thought

Are your opinions well thought out?

Discomfort of Thought

Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. And some of them are a little funky.

I am sorry for those initial thoughts which you are now desperately trying not to visualize. However, my point is that we all have belly buttons and we all have opinions. But, when was the last time you really examined your belly button? When was the last time you really considered the basis of your opinions?

President John F. Kennedy, in a commencement address to the graduating class of 1962 at Yale University on June 11, 1962, said the following:

We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

This statement came following some opening humorous remarks to the Yale graduating class of 1962. Following a few opening barbs thrown at some of his political detractors, he began to discuss the importance fiscal policy and the role of government in the lives of our society.

If you have time to read the transcript of President Kennedy’s speech, I encourage you to do so. You can find it here. And, if you want to hear him deliver the speech in his own words, you can hear a recording here.

So, what is the leadership lesson from President Kennedy’s commencement address?

In order to learn a leadership lesson from this speech, you must first read a few more of the words that form the context of this one quote. And, please note, his speech was very fertile ground for great quotes. Kennedy said this just prior to the sentence that I pulled out of the 30-minute speech.

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