Issue No. 346 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting dips into my summer re-runs bucket just in time for the Republican and Democratic conventions in the U.S. this month. President Nixon noted that "the best politics is poetry, not prose." The Presidents Club made it to my 2012 Top-10 list. Plus this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Hillary and Donald: Read This Book!
Woody Allen once said, “I took a speed-reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia.”
Faithful readers of this eNews often ask me if I’m a speed reader. I’m not. I read with pen in hand and am slowed down even further by reading memorable stuff out loud to my long-suffering wife/listener, Joanne.
Speed reading would have helped as I tackled this issue’s 641-page book, The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity. While the notes and index are over 100 pages, it still left 527 pages of serious reading. But a speed reader would have missed the juicy morsels, laugh-out-loud humor and the incredible connect-the-dots leadership lessons of recent U.S. presidents. (And Joanne would have missed my constant interruptions.)
Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duff, editors at Time, have delivered what they call “the first history of the private relationships among modern American presidents—their backroom deals, rescue missions, secret alliances, and enduring rivalries.” And let me add: the interplay and conflicts between their unique leadership and management styles. Even my readers outside of the U.S. will enjoy this book.
This presidential behind-the-scenes read-a-thon starts with “Truman and Hoover: The Return of the Exile” and ends with “Obama and His Club: The Learning Curve.” (I read that chapter first—and I was hooked.) In between, there are 24 chapters with memorable match-ups like “Careful Courtship, Bitter Breakup,” “The Hazing,” “Blood Brothers,” “Two Scorpions in a Bottle” (Johnson and Nixon), “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” and “The Rascal and the Rebel.”
This book is a leadership case study on multiple levels. CEOs in transition (retirement, termination or promotion) will especially appreciate this revealing inside look at the new guy/old guy relationships in the Oval Office. The book will trigger all your emotions (as it did for each president): mad, glad and sad. Here’s a taste:
--George H.W. Bush, commenting on Bill Clinton’s general lack of discipline and long campaign speeches, “A good leader sets priorities—he doesn’t just list.”
--“The most precious commodity of the United States of America is neither the gold bullion in Fort Knox nor the launch codes in its ballistic missiles. It is the time of the commander in chief: there is only so much of it, and how it is spent shapes pretty much everything else.”
--On Gerald Ford: “Worse, perhaps, even though he had inherited the title, the job was not yet his.”
--Lyndon B. Johnson: “He moved Eisenhower’s portrait to a more prominent position, so that it would be visible in the background of pictures of Johnson greeting various White House guests.”
--Henry Kissinger on Egypt’s president: “Sadat handled four American presidents with consummate psychological skill. He treated Nixon as a great statesman, Ford as a living manifestation of good will, Carter as a missionary almost too decent for the world and Reagan as the benevolent leader of a popular revolution subtly appealing to each man’s conception of himself and gaining the confidence of each.”
--Nixon: “The best politics is poetry, not prose. Jesse Jackson is a poet. Mario Cuomo is a poet and [Michael] Dukakis is a word processor.”
--Nixon: “It is necessary to struggle, to be embattled, to be knocked down and to have to get up. Renewal. Americans are crazy about renewal.”
--On George H.W. Bush upon losing the election to Bill Clinton: “…at five the next morning [Bush] got out his list of several hundred people he needed to thank and reached for the phone. He got off sixteen hours later.”
--Bush 41 (writing to his sons about Nixon): [per the authors, Bush’s letter is] “as good a psychological profile of Nixon as any that exists. Nixon was a great leader, he told his boys, and a first-rate intellect but also a third-rate person.” Bush added, “He surrounded himself on his personal staff with people unwilling to question the unlovely instincts we all have—and that he has in spades.”
--“History doesn’t repeat itself, Mark Twain said, but it rhymes.”
--Bush 41 offered new perks to the Club, sending National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft to personally visit every former president (Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan). “Scowcroft asked what, now that Bush was president, they might want in the way of regular briefings and other logistical favors. This was self-protection on Bush’s part: he knew that his predecessors could be excellent allies on all sorts of issues; and regular briefings in advance of big decisions could keep them sounding supportive when reporters called.”
After Clinton’s election victory, he called on an aging Reagan at his Club office in Los Angeles. The Gipper had two pieces of advice for the young president-elect: 1) Go to Camp David and relax as many weekends as possible, and 2) Learn how to salute! “And so the 81-year-old Reagan proceeded to give the 46-year-old Clinton a private tutorial. The two men stood there in Reagan’s L.A. office, 34 floors above Beverly Hills, perfecting their salutes.”
Once in office, Clinton called another Club member, Nixon, to ask how he had structured his daily White House schedule—seeking guidance on how best to use his limited time.
And just like in real life (with incoming and outgoing CEOs), the relationships covered the continuum from angry to loving. The unusual friendship between Bush 41 and Clinton, as they teamed up to address the tsunami and Katrina crises, was outside-the-textbook stunning. So much so that at a 2011 Kennedy Center event honoring George H.W. Bush, 27 members of the Bush family assembled for a family portrait and Neil Bush called for Bill Clinton to join the family photo! He did.
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic below for The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duff.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) The authors note that John F. Kennedy asked Clark Clifford for counsel on how to navigate the transition into the White House. Kennedy’s team, said Clifford, “behaved as though history had begun with them. The new elite did not appear to show much interest in history.” He added, “I regarded this as a form of arrogance.” So…in your next transition, how do you avoid the triple sins of ego, ignorance and arrogance?
2) Eisenhower’s people held rehearsals for Cabinet meetings. Kennedy was restless in long meetings; he hated them. (But after the Bay of Pigs debacle, he called Eisenhower for advice and changed his approach to meetings.) So…when you inherit a new boss (or board chair), how do you get-up-to-speed on your new leader’s style (and idiosyncrasies)?
Life-long Learning Revolution - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas in Chapter 11 in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is to scrutinize our fundraising methodologies not against what works, but against God-honoring principles.
To stay aligned with biblical principles and current trends, in what Wes Willmer calls the “revolution in generosity,” requires intentionality in monthly, quarterly and annual doses of life-long learning. So…what is your 12-month learning plan in the Donor Bucket?
To create the first step of a life-long learning plan for yourself and your direct reports, download Resource #20.4: "My Annual Professional Development Plan" from the Meetings Bucket webpage and check out other resources at the Donor Bucket webpage, including Willmer’s book, Revolution in Generosity.
ECFA Blog on “Governance of Christ-centered Organizations” – Add your thoughts and comments to John Pearson’s blog posts, including this one from 2014, "Quick Fix Tool for Board Self-Assessments."
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