Monday, October 27, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit - Reviewer Professor M.S.Rao

Acclaim about the Book
"Strock's book may well become a kind of Bible to many people, a manual for inspiration that people will keep in the office desk, on the bedside table, or in the briefcase for easy and quick renewal." - Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal

What are the Details of the Book?

If you want to learn leadership lessons from Theodore Roosevelt, read this book.  If you want to excel as an effective team builder, communicator, and contributor, read this book. If you want to grow as an ethical and moral leader, read this book. If you want to read an authoritative resource on Theodore Roosevelt, read this book. James M. Strock’s authored book Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit is divided into 13 chapters containing 288 pages including Theodore Roosevelt Chronology, Notes on Sources, Select Bibliography, Acknowledgments, Index and About the Author.  

What is Inside?

At forty-two, just weeks from his next birthday on October 27, Theodore Roosevelt became and remains the youngest person to assume the presidency.  TR – he was the first president publicly referred to by his initials-stood at five feet nine inches, likely weighing, at the time a shade under 200 pounds. He was physically powerful, distinguished by an immense, disproportionate chest, the result of years of disciplined exercise and ceaseless exertion.

TR’s conspicuous zest in brandishing the “Big Stick” enabled critics to credibly deplore him as dangerous warmonger; he definitely countered that during his nearly eight years as president, “not one shot had been fired against a foreign foe.” This most combative of men would be the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. (In January 2001, more than a century after his celebrated heroism in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt posthumously was accorded the medal of Honor. TR now stands as the sole president awarded the Medal of Honor, the only person to achieve America’s highest military decoration and the Nobel Peace Prize, and, along with General Douglas MacArthur’s father, Arthur, one of two Medal of Honor winners whose sons who would earn the same military recognition.)

In a speech at Santa Barbara, California, on May 9, 1903, Roosevelt declared: “The problems differ from generation to generation, but the qualities needed to solve them remain unchanged from world’s end to world’s end.” In 1908, as he prepared to leave the presidency, he offered a valedictory: “(M)ost of all, I believe whatever value my service may have, comes even more from what I am than from what I do.” The overriding lesson of TR is that leadership is a way of life.

A fundamental lesson of Roosevelt’s leadership is his example of relentless attention to the job at hand, undisturbed by vain attempts to divine the consequences of his actions on his future prospects.

TR regarded courage and honesty as “twin virtues.” Honesty without courage-as exhibited by the “timid good” – is not effective. Fearlessness allied with honesty is the basis for moral courage. Roosevelt exhibited moral courage throughout his political career, as acknowledged by many among his most severe detractors.

TR was a continuous learner and believed in taking constant feedback. Throughout his life, TR would turn to travel for learning and perspective. He believed in taking feedback. For instance, Nathan Miller reports that as president, TR “insisted that every news article, no matter how unfavorable to him or his administration, be shown to him, and a staff member was assigned to look through 350 newspapers each day and to clip items that reflected the mood of the nation.”  Additionally, his thirst for learning was never quenched. He observed, “Life brings sorrows and joys alike. It is what a man does with them-not what they do to him-that is the true test of his mettle.”

He understood and accepted the dynamic whereby the home-run king may also be the strikeout king: “(T)he man who has never made any mistakes has never made anything.” The more activities one undertakes, the more likely the errors; the more significant the activities, the more significant the errors. In a letter in 1900, Roosevelt sought perspective by reference to “one of the two greatest of all Americans, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln committed mistake after mistake.”  His ability to bounce back from disappointment showcased qualities of character that inspired others and fortified his leadership.  His mediation of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 resulted in his winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Hire people more talented than oneself. TR sought conspicuously talented individuals for his team. He understood that a chief executive has not more important task than attracting and retaining the ablest possible group.  TR, like his hero Lincoln, was willing to bring on disagreeable persons if they would achieve results.  Spend the time necessary to evaluate and acculturate prospective team members. Roosevelt devoted substantial amounts of his own time, as chief executive, to personnel matters. He understood that choosing the right person, and making his own expectations clear from the start, could save immense time and effort over the long term.

Roosevelt was an extraordinary team leader. Among the key elements of his approach to leading his team: the welfare of your team is your overarching responsibility; a leader should develop leaders, not merely direct followers; demonstrate faith in your team by delegation of authority; back up and protect your team consistently; delegation, though extensive, should be bounded by clear standards; fortify delegation with selective intervention; recognize strong performers; acknowledge and forgive acceptable mistakes including your own; overlook minor differences; create an “inner circle” of leadership; manage by wandering around; and continually convey gratitude and loyalty to your team, even after it has disbanded or leadership has been transferred.

TR’s approach to delegation was made effective by his wide-ranging interests, insatiable curiosity, technical competence, capacity to obtain information from outside the usual organizational channels, and methodical follow up to prior directives. He understood that an organizational culture that was unforgiving of mistakes could become dangerously inflexible in a time of accelerated change.  His inner circle helped him maintain high standards. This is important for chief executives, whose ascendancy is often accompanied by muting of longtime sources of feedback.

TR’s view of the contribution made by an effective leader includes the following aspects: the first duty of a leader is to lead; craft and present a compelling vision; reframe the discussion in terms that advance your vision; set and enforce priorities for the achievement of the vision; implement the “theory of the next step.”; the more you seek change, the more you should defer to tradition; exhibit invincible optimism; attend to important relationships outside the enterprise; work by your own clock; know when to break the rules; and strive to exemplify character.

TR’s words kept the flame of his vision alive for the American people to rediscover.  He was not naturally gifted as a public speaker. Charles Washburn recalled that as a young man TR had “a defect in his speech which made his utterance at times deliberate and even halting.” His vocalization had an explosive aspect, as if disproportionate force was required to push the words forth-far from the mellifluous style we have come to expect on the public stage today. Yet his public speaking was unquestionably effective.

TR offers numerous lessons in communication, including the following: believe in your message; leaders compose their own speeches-in collaboration with the best available minds; compelling speakers communicate unreservedly with their audience; an effective public speech is a poster, not an etching; strive for clarity of expression; don’t be dissuaded from restating “platitudes” representing the highest aspirations of your enterprise; use simple, down-to-earth stories to communicate complex issues; adhere strictly to your message; don’t exaggerate your case; remain attuned to the temper of your audience; master every available communications medium; and “you are the message”

TR generally spoke from prepared texts. His words were his own, though the composition did not come easily. As he told journalist O.K. David, “I am not a good writer.. I always compose with difficulty, and I have to work over everything I write, frequently several times, to get it to suit me.” He would draft, in consultation with others, an outline of his comments. He then would place the paper to one side, returning to it when his thoughts (including those rising from his subconscious or drawn from ongoing inspiration and experience) were further developed, or asking others to read all or part of the text. He would repeatedly alter and polish the product until the delivery date.

Like numerous other skilled communicators, TR possessed a mental picture of the flesh and blood of his primary audience. He understood the wisdom within British author Virginia Woolf’s observation: “The power of suggestion is one of the most mysterious properties of words.. English words, are full of echoes, memories, of associations-naturally. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries.”

Acting as a mentor in the 1908 presidential campaign, he warned his aspiring successor Taft to avoid “delicate subjects” where his meaning might be twisted by others. He urged him to keep his speeches “comparatively short” but aggressive, with “more elaborate discussion” to be reserved for more suitable formats and audiences, such as detailed letters to be distributed among opinion leaders. He resisted publicly responding to hypothetical questions, which almost unavoidably beget purposeless mischief.

Don’t exaggerate your case. A compelling speaker faces a seductive temptation to cross the sometimes indistinct line separating acceptable emphasis from unacceptable exaggeration. Roosevelt crossed the line from time to time. Nonetheless, he was aware that exaggeration could undermine the trust that is essential to effective leadership communication.

Remain attuned to the temper of your audience. Groups of people-including audiences-have identifiable moods and rhythms, just like individuals. Their composition or viewpoint may change over time. Skilled leaders are attuned to the disposition of their broader audiences, just as they pick up signals from live audiences and adjust in response while speaking.

Among the elements of Roosevelt’s approach to unfair criticism are the following: no matter how personal the attack, your response should be aimed entirely toward advancing the goals of those you serve; identify your audience; determine the appropriate response; as far as possible, plan the timing and content of your response on your own terms; carefully consider to whom the response should be addressed; carefully consider from whom the response should come; remember the two most powerful words in response to general charges: be specific; anticipate truth-twisters; create and maintain contemporaneous records for future use, remind unfair critics that if they start shooting, they are going to be shot at; don’t attempt to change to suit the notions of critics; become thick-skinned; and always adhere to the truth.

Always adhere to the truth. In the thick of a fight, when counterpunching against malicious critics habitually dealing in falsehood, there is a risk of lowering one’s own standards of honesty. That can have serious consequences. Though it may take time and persistence, the truth can emerge and will always be the ultimate defense against mendacity.

TR understood that where essentially virtuous leaders cut ethical corners, even for worthy ends, the benefits attained are evanescent. Individual of lesser character gain the upper hand whenever the boundaries of honesty and character are breached. TR wrote, “Incessant falsehood inevitably produces in the public mind a certain disbelief in good men and a considerable disbelief in the charges against bad men; so that there results the belief that there are no men entirely good or any men entirely bad, and that they are all about alike and colored gray.”

TR was diagnosed as having a weak heart. The doctor warned him that his life, including his choice of an occupation, must henceforth be one of the limited physical exertion. He should not even run up flights of stairs. His ambitious project of remaking his body would have to be limited severely if not abandoned. To do otherwise, Dr. Sargeant said would be to risk death. TR silently vowed to “live my life to the hilt until I was sixty.”

TR managed his time effectively. He passed along to his own children what he heard from his father. “Get action; do things,” “carpe diem!”, “don’t fritter away your time; create; act; take a place wherever you are and be somebody!” As his friend George Haven Putnam wrote, “He believed that life was worthwhile that the years and days were given to a man in trust, and that it was a crime to waste even an hour.” If there was a lull in conversation, he might pick up a book, transporting himself to another time and place. At the end of an exhausting day in the outdoors, he would put pen to paper, writing an article or working on a book that would simultaneously immerse him further into his experience and afford him greater perspective.  James Strock concludes the book as follows: “Those who continue to learn from his leadership find inspiration not only in what he did, but even more from what he was.”

Leadership Takeaways
  • Leaders should focus all energy on the job at hand, without regard to their own future prospects. In so doing, they will be of greater service in the present and more worthy of leadership responsibility in the future.
  • To the greatest possible extent, leaders should seek leadership on their own terms. Where the terms are imposed by others, a position of authority may be drained of much of its potential for disinterested service.
  • Leaders should visibly love their people more than their positions-and prove their love through their actions.
  • Anyone can choose to become a leader at any time, irrespective of position. The key is a commitment to service.
  • A leader should aim to build a life based on service, not a career based on advancing up a series of positions.
  • Against the vagaries of fate, even the most brilliant cannot reliably discern their own interest, but almost anyone can understand and seek to do his duty.
  • Rather than seeking success (which is generally outside of one’s control), a leader should seek to deserve success.
  • Courage is the “first virtue” because it underlies all the others. Courage (physical and moral) can be developed as an act of will. Courage can convey a heedlessness of self that confirm a leader’s complete commitment to service of others.
  • Fearlessness is not recklessness. Acceptable risk should be calculated, based on the value of the endeavor at stake.
  • Proven courage under fire can impart to a leader an aura of destiny, of being favored by fortune. This may cause others to repose confidence in him under circumstances marked by great uncertainty and risk.
  • To maintain usefulness as a teacher, a leader must always continue to learn.
  • Become a voracious reader. Seek information, knowledge, and experience from every available medium.
  • Examine the content of your learning experience-reading, writing, entertainment, time with companions-just as you monitor your nutrition. Leaders should strive for balanced mental and spiritual nourishment, including “vitamins for the mind.”
  • Develop your powers of observation and listening so that more and more of your daily experience yields knowledge, perspective, inspiration, and insight.
  • Utilize lessons derived from earlier times in your life as ready reserves that can be cross-fertilized and developed in future situations.
  • Effective executives make themselves-and their enterprises-perpetual-motion learning machines.
  • How an individual chooses to interpret a misfortune or mistake can be at least as significant as the objective facts at hand.
  • One should not dwell on a misfortune or unavoidable mistake, where nothing can be done to rectify the situation. Renewed action can establish a boundary separating the past from the present and future.
  • Leaders should strive to view mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Where appropriate, a leader should acknowledge error and apologize-but not take the “sinner’s stool.”
  • Where a leader makes a mistake in a manifest effort to serve others, forgiveness-by oneself as well as from others-is more readily achievable than where one appears to be acting in one’s own interest.
  • The path of success lay in the skillful avoidance of enmities and controversy.
  • Where a leader or organization exhibits, in his words, “courage united with skill,” the results can be extraordinary.
  • An individual’s ability to carry on in the face of calamitous adversity showcase critical leadership traits, including perseverance, self-containment amidst difficult circumstances, courage, perspective, and an ability to focus on the needs of others rather than oneself. Individuals who have mastered such challenges in their own lives are more apt to be viewed as leaders able to serve others.
  • A willingness to fight aggressively for one’s principles and interests empowers a leader, setting the stage for productive negotiation.
  • Preparation is critical. The contours of many agreements come into view prior to commencement of formal negotiations.
  • Make timing your ally.
  • Define your negotiating role-facilitator, mediator, arbitrator, or advocate-based on the interests you represent.
  • Seek to delegate your negotiating authority.
  • Ensure that the other side has complete authority to negotiate.
  • Seek direct communication with principals.
  • Focus resolutely on interests. Do not confuse interests with bargaining positions.
  • Protect ongoing relationships.
  • Become a skilful, active listener.
  • As far as practicable, maintain open negotiations.
  • Create a historical record.
  • Communication of the ultimate agreement is a critical phase of negotiation.
  • Scrupulously honor and enforce agreements. Trust is of paramount importance. All negotiations and agreements-ongoing and future-are interrelated and affected by evolving perceptions of a party’s veracity and power.  
  • Decisive action, backed by intelligent forethought and timed to seize the initiative, is a hallmark of effective leadership.
  • Forethought is the raw material of decision making. Where a leader’s learning and life experiences are intermingled, continuously growing, the ongoing process of reflection can endow a leader with creative, rapid decision making.
  • Leaders who cease to seize the initiative through decisive action may no longer be advancing, as far as possible, the interests of those they serve.
  • Hire people more talented than oneself. Look for the best in each person. Where one must bargain over personnel, set standards for selection. Spend the time necessary to evaluate and acculturate prospective team members. Do not prolong consideration of people who will not receive a position. Ceaselessly search for new talent. Ruthlessly replace individuals who do not meet the standards of the enterprise.
  • Work with the tools at hand. The welfare of your team is your overarching responsibility. A leader should develop leaders, not merely direct followers. Demonstrate faith in your team by delegation of authority. Back up and protect your team consistently.
  • Delegation, though extensive, should be bounded by clear standards. Fortify delegation with selective intervention. Recognize strong performers. Acknowledge and forgive acceptable mistakes-including your own.
  • Overlook minor differences.
  • Create an “inner circle” of leadership.
  • Manage by wandering around.
  • Continually convey gratitude and loyalty to your team, even after it has disbanded or leadership has been transferred.
  • Craft and present a compelling vision. Reframe the discussion in terms that advance your vision. Set and enforce priorities for the achievement of the vision.
  • Exhibit invincible optimism.
  • Attend to important relationships outside the enterprise.
  • Work by your own clock.
  • Strive to exemplify character.
  • Leaders compose their own speeches – collaboration with the best available minds.
  • Compelling speakers communicate unreservedly with their audience.
  • An effective public speech is a poster, not an etching.
  • Don’t be dissuaded from restarting “platitudes” representing the highest aspirations of your enterprise.
  • Use simple, down-to-earth stories to communicate complex issues.
  • Adhere strictly to your message.
  • Don’t exaggerate your case.
  • Remain attuned to the temper of your audience.
  • Master every available communications medium.
  • No matter how personal the attack, your response should be aimed entirely toward advancing the goals of those you serve.
  • Identify the audience for your response.
  • Determine the appropriate response-direct, indirect, humorous - to convey your message to your intended audience.
  • As far as possible, plan the timing and content of your response on your own terms.
  • Remember the two most powerful words in response to general charges: Be specific.
  • Anticipate truth-twisters.
  • Create and maintain contemporaneous records for future use.
  • Become thick-skinned.
  • Always adhere to the truth.
  • Leaders can rise to the level of events by honoring and applying examples of heroic lives to new circumstances.
  • Though a worthy example can be a priceless legacy, others may feel it to be a burden. Leaders should strive to lighten that burden, especially on loved ones.
  • Words, no matter how well chosen and crafted, approach the heights of eloquence only when recognized as aligned with actions.
  • A leader’s example can have an almost infinite reach across space and time.

What is the Recommendation?

It is a well researched book on Theodore Roosevelt. James Strock invested immense efforts to refer various resources to author this book. It shows his passion to author books on leaders and especially on American Presidents - Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Additionally, he is very passionate to share his knowledge with others. The chapters in this book are clearly structured.  It outlines summary at the end of each chapter that enables the readers to understand the essence easily and apply in their real lives. It helps compile and share those thoughts with leaders during leadership development programs. It contains inspiring quotes. It is the only authoritative book on the biography and leadership on TR.

This book helps you become an effective team builder, communicator and contributor to make a difference to the world. It keeps the flame of your vision alive. I always dream big, and this book helped me dream much bigger and broadened my vision to serve others globally.  Most of TR lessons are relevant not only now but also in future. The present generation leaders and 21st century leaders must learn lessons from TR.

The book is readable, and is written in a conversational tone. The book arouses the attention of the readers and sustains the interest from beginning to the end of the book. James Strock holds the attention of the readers from the beginning to the end of the book with his gift of writing, and his ability to present ideas and insights inspiringly. He moves the readers with his magical words. He has been gifted with the power of writing in a simple and straightforward language that glues readers to the book. He has the ability to hit the bull’s eye. It is an inspiring book on TR reflecting his leadership ideas and ideals.   It is a bible on leadership.

It is one of the rarest books I have read in my life. I strongly recommend reading this book to share TR’s leadership lessons to leaders at all levels including executive education and coaching. Read this book again and again to grow as a great leader. You can also gift this book to your friends and well-wishers to inspire them to grow as great leaders.

“Roosevelt faced serious challenges personally and professionally as president. His wife and his mother died hours apart. Immersing himself in work, TR wrote hundreds of treatises and books, won the Nobel Peace Prize and launched the Panama Canal. Strock (Reagan on Leadership), a former government official, analyzes Roosevelt's leadership engagingly and insightfully, but draws few concrete business lessons from his career.” - Publishers Weekly

Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit Paperback – January 28, 2003 by James M. Strock (Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition, January 28, 2003)

Life is great!

Professor M.S.Rao, India
21 Success Sutras for Leaders: Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year (San Diego University) Amazon URL: http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Leaders-ebook/dp/B00AK98ELI

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

“Treat Your Failures as Experiments to Achieve Great Success” - Professor M.S.Rao

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I was invited as a keynote speaker by an eminent educational institution. I treated it as an opportunity to share my vision to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 and to inspire students to dream big.

The students belonged to engineering and management education. I was so amazed at their enthusiasm in the campus. I recalled my past when I worked as a professor in various educational institutions, and delivered my speech as follows:

It is essential for every individual to fail in life. If you don’t fail, you have not tried enough in your life, and you have not explored anything in your life. People have various kinds of fears - fear of criticism, fear of ill-health, fear of old age, fear of poverty, and fear of failure. Among all these fears, the ‘fear of failure’ is the biggest stumbling block for human growth.  Although most people are ambitious and intend to rise high in their lives, they are scared of failures. They are scared of what others will think if they fail. They also have apprehensions that who will hold their hands if they fail.

We all have one life, and we must explore and experiment maximum to get the best out of us. It helps us lead a satisfying life leaving this world without any regrets. At the same time, we must learn lessons from each failure. We must treat each failure as an unsuccessful experiment, learn lessons for the reasons of failure to explore and experiment better next time. Such attitude and approach paves the way for success. Hence, what everyone must do is to list out the failures they encountered during their lifetime. They must also find out the reasons for those failures. What lessons they learned from such failures. What corrective action they can take in future to minimize their mistakes and maximize their success. Having such a systematic and scientific approach helps people overcome the stigma associated with failures, and to achieve success in life. Remember, to failure is not bad, but not to learn lessons from failures is bad. Hence, treat your failures as experiments; learn lessons; explore and experiment regularly to unlock your hidden potential to achieve an amazing success in your life.  

Wishing you good luck!

"The leader wonders about everything, wants to learn as much as he can, is willing to take risks, experiment, try new things. He does not worry about failure but embraces errors, knowing he will learn from them." - Warren G. Bennis

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Life is great!

Professor M.S.Rao, India
Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India
Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World in 2013
21 Success Sutras for Leaders: Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year (San Diego University) Amazon URL: http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Leaders-ebook/dp/B00AK98ELI

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