Disaster Zone

David Gergen on Leadership

From the Leadership Summit today, an interview with David Gergen by Bill Hybels Book, Eye

by Eric Holdeman / August 7, 2009
From the Leadership Summit today, an interview with David Gergen by Bill Hybels

Book, Eye Witness to Power, David Gergen: He is an authority on leadership, teaching it at Harvard. Reading about other leaders can be helpful. Leaders can get better at leadership. You can be born with it, and you can learn it. You need to be a reflective practitioner. Leadership is learned in the doing of it, but also reading on leadership. "Not every reader is a leader, but every leader is a reader," Harry Truman. Don't confuse motion with progress. Book, The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker (sp?) is the author. It is pretty easy to fool yourself. You have to be open with yourself. The Lend Lease program came out of Roosevelt going fishing to think about an issue. Good leaders have enough self confidence when they can take time away and come back refreshed.

What was the most admirable quality of each of four presidents? Nixon: Best strategist, who could look into the future. The trip to China was one of those moments. Someone who looks farther back helps you look further forward. Ford was the most decent President. You did not have to keep your back to the wall with him. Can you be too decent a person to be a good leaderâ€"no! We have come to appreciate decent people. Clinton, a very brilliant mind. He was very resilient person. Always willing to get back up and be an effective person. Reagan was the best leader in the White House since Roosevelt. He had strong principles and a contagious optimism. It encourages everyone toâ€"Go!

Seven Presidents after WWII were veterans of the military and WWII. It formed the era of leadership in the White House. Reagan once said, "Sometimes the right hand does not know what the extreme right hand is doing."

There were also weaknesses in the Presidents. Nixon: held people at the periphery of his circle. There was a very dark side to Nixon that only showed when you were in his inner circle. He had a very dark side. He had demons that he could not control. He was the author of his own tragic demise. Jerry Ford: Naive about politics. Carter suffered from some of that as also. Reagan: He could be very detached. He entrusted too much until he swapped out his team and brought back the A-Team. Clinton: There is a bit of a parallel to Nixon. Cracks in his character. His mistake beyond Monica, was not coming clean and asking for forgiveness.

Great leaders carry with them great flawsâ€"yes, or no? Not all great leaders are deeply flawed. All of us is flawed in some way. Maturity is coming to recognize your flaws. "Self awareness" is important. You need to come to grips as best you can. Many people will not concur your flaws. You need to control them so that they don't derail you. There needs to be an alignment between your public and private lives. Good leaders can have very messy lives. Martin Luther King was a great moral leader for the nation. In his private life he was not perfect. He never claimed to be a saint. Mandella has said that he gets up every day and tries to be better. King took more risks in his public life because he knew he was flawed in his private life. We need to be more forgiving of leaders.

Leadership does not have to be lonely. The role of leaders is to have a team of leaders. The world is too complex to do it alone. You need to work with other leaders outside your group. We build things together. "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together." Patty Stoncypher (spelling?

Leadership is no longer about ordering. It is about trust and communications. Language, role model, and symbols can be important. Your leadership brand. Churchill's V for Victory sign.

Who the speaker is speaks much more loudly than what the leader says. Who are we going to listen to in this modern world of instant communications? Trust is the foundational element.

In a speech there should be knowledge, logic and emotion. Any speaker who does more than 30 minutes of talking loses 25% of his audience. What should the flow be for a speech? If they don't know you, you need to establish who you are. Why they should listen to you. Get some emotion into the talk. The knowledge is in the middle, then wrap it up with some relaxation and emotional appeal. If you expect to impact people there must be a call to action.

Self discipline, good habits are important to being a leader. Churchill would take a nap in the middle of the day--just an hour. Habits to encourage include, self discipline and physical fitness is important. A flabby body, equals a flabby mind. Building time in your day to be with the people you cherish. People who live long lives have good social relationships. People who are in loving relationships live longer and are happier.