Lessons from Afghanistan to all business leaders

The Washington Post has done a service to its readers and indirectly all businesses in its years-long effort to expose the waste of lives, resources and time the US government alone has spent in Afghanistan over the last 18 years. There ought to be hand-wringing in the halls of the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom and [...]

By |2020-01-16T19:28:36+00:00January 16th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

We Don’t Know What We’re Doing

George Packer, writing on the passing of Leslie Gelb in The Atlantic, quoted Gelb in saying "Foreign policy makes no sense." Packer added: "He meant that our leaders, even ones he respected, often don’t know what they’re doing. They have to make decisions with large but unknowable consequences in ignorance, thinking wishfully, perhaps under the [...]

By |2019-09-11T21:28:07+00:00September 11th, 2019|Blog|0 Comments

John Casciano – Requiescet in Pace

With the passing of Air Force Maj Gen (Ret) John Casciano, the country has lost a leader, a gentleman and mentor for countless men and women over the last 5 decades. A career intelligence officer who rose on a non-traditional path that included both Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command, a long deployment to [...]

By |2019-09-04T14:34:00+00:00September 4th, 2019|Blog|0 Comments

On President George H.W. Bush

On Wednesday the 28th of May, 1986, then Vice President George H.W. Bush gave the commencement address at the US Air Force Academy. The speech itself was unremarkable. It was the man himself that stood out to me. He was very gracious. While most of my fellow newly minted lieutenants stiffly saluted and shook his [...]

By |2018-12-06T16:51:58+00:00December 6th, 2018|Blog|0 Comments

Audits Are Really About Trust

In a Christmas Day release from The National Interest, (retired Army General) Tom Spoehr makes a passionate case that the upcoming audit of the Defense Department is unnecessary and potentially wasteful. Sadly, this Op-Ed column is riddled with straw man arguments, false trails and magic pixie dust to deflect the targeted reader, in this case, [...]

By |2017-12-26T20:32:27+00:00December 26th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Future Dystopias Are Our Past and Present Human Nature

A family member once asked me during a home viewing of The Hunger Games what the point was of watching something that was so fantastical and obviously could never happen. I responded that this was not fantastical at all, but a fictionalization of human history. "When? When did this happen?" Well, I said, how about [...]

By |2017-12-11T21:13:28+00:00December 11th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Transparency is *Really* Important

Transparency. How much light gets through. Can you see what is on the other side of the divide? Perhaps no concept brings on headaches for senior leaders. Perhaps no concept brings on hesitation from investors. Perhaps no concept makes workers wonder whether their jobs will be secure in the future. Why? Why should I as [...]

By |2017-12-06T21:54:21+00:00December 6th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Professional and Business Leaders Must Now Declare Where You Stand

Well, this is an interesting time in the U.S., isn't it? For all those who say we should avoid discussing politics and religion at work and family gatherings, you have larger issues to worry about than having to figure out what is interesting about the weather, the early turning of leaves this summer, and the [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:01+00:00August 24th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

On Travel and Its Importance To You

"Someone hauled that wood up here." That was one key point of discussion when our family stood atop the Kofel, a small, but steep granite mountain on the west side of Oberammergau in the Ammergauer Alps of Germany. You don't need to be an experienced mountaineer to get to the top. The [...]

By |2020-01-08T16:24:55+00:00July 27th, 2017|Blog, Travel|0 Comments

Can You Change Your Mind? It’s Important.

If you've read this column over the last few years, you would likely have noticed several themes, one of which is peoples' remarkable consistency in getting in their own way on the road to success. I've written many times that the three most important words a senior leader can say is "I don't know." Once [...]

By |2019-09-11T12:47:02+00:00March 13th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

A Cautionary Leadership Tale

Warning Aspiring Leaders: If you set about bringing down the king, you had better be prepared to BE the king. That means fixing all the issues you were complaining about. Leading, governing is always harder than complaining. Side note: if you're unable to separate your political feelings from the intellectual argument on leadership that follows, [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:01+00:00February 14th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Look Around, Leaders. What Do You See?

Look around, leaders. Who do you see? Yes, it is meant to be a loaded question. We are told constantly through the popular culture and through many of our religious cultures that we are to see and value the dignity of the individual and not merely the skin colors or genders. And as far as [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:02+00:00January 31st, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Are You “That Guy?” Here’s Some Help…

Sorry to say, but if you are, you don't know it, and most likely nobody is going to tell you. But there's hope. You can turn it around. Really. The New York Times piece "How To Keep Your Office Holiday Party From Going Off The Rails" is a good place to start. “Getting on top [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:02+00:00December 21st, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Will You Survive The Unintended Consequences Of Your Good Actions?

One of the truths of all human endeavor, especially in business, is that your actions have consequences. That is, after all, why we make decisions and think about what we need to do to achieve our desired outcomes. And when we do it properly, we are rewarded with success. But what happens when we take [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:02+00:00December 21st, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Be Ready To Answer What You Are Reading

"What are the last 5 books you've read?" I was surprised how often I was asked that question as a young rising professional by my bosses and other senior leaders considering hiring me. Then as I grew older, I found myself asking the same question to my direct reports when I took over a new [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:02+00:00December 6th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Embrace Processes For Business and Governance

Here is a typical situation when a leadership and organizational consultant goes into a new business to help them out. The consultant has a discussion with the client trying to get to the bottom of several issues in the front office. There are multiple paths that needed exploring, but the consultant's process tells him where [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:02+00:00December 2nd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Some Sociology, Thinking, and Leadership Ponderings…Post-Election

We need to talk. We need to listen. We need to love. Everyone. Our neighbors. Those who aren't our neighbors. The promise of technology, the internet and social media was that people would be able to get together in virtual communities. The reality is that people have used the information revolution to increasingly associate with [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:02+00:00November 9th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Be A Better Leader By Connecting Ideas

Ideas. The best leaders live in the realm of ideas. Facts and details are great and necessary. But connecting ideas is what advances business and humanity. You've heard me say often that the senior leader's job is to stay above the daily fray and focus on the long-term vision and strategy (see here). I also [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:03+00:00October 27th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

But Are Facts Enough To Change Minds?

It's better to be right than first. We've talked often here about narratives in the past (see here and here) and why it is so critical for senior leaders to look for evidence when making decisions and developing strategies to achieve corporate objectives. Sunday's Washington Post featured an article titled "Amanda Knox is innocent. But [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:03+00:00October 3rd, 2016|Blog|3 Comments

We Should Reconsider Who We Call Allies

Perhaps it is time to have an internal dialogue within the Government and between our treaty partners about precision in language about what an ally is and isn't. And if necessary, we ought to take the bold steps of making formal changes to whom we call allies. It matters. I would contend allies and coalition [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:03+00:00September 22nd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Some Thoughts For Rising Professionals

Whether you are a young rising professional or are tagged to be a senior leader's executive assistant, there are some very sound steps to help you get through turbulent waters. Few people want to go through the pain of the steps required to rise through the ranks in the corporate world, but those who have [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:03+00:00August 25th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Fiddling While Rome Burns and The Right to Be Wrong

It has been a difficult week for liberalism in the world. The notion that people ought to respect the election results even if it puts in power those they oppose isn't working. The idea that cosmopolitanism - diversity and respect for other cultures - is better than everyone looking and thinking the same seems to [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:03+00:00July 19th, 2016|Blog|3 Comments

Some business and leadership lessons from Brexit and what they mean for the future

How odd that the Washington Post said that the biggest "threat" to the European Union is the will of the people. The Brussels technocrats who have steadfastly maintained a distance between themselves and the people of the member countries all for the ostensible betterment of those people through routine and predictable rules of commerce and [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:03+00:00June 27th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

The Social Contract, The Oregon Trail and New America (Yup, they go together…)

Last week I had a very serendipitous convergence. I had fresh in my memory the day two weeks ago that I spoke to the government classes at our local high school. It's not the kids' fault that they didn't know what the social contract is. The overwhelming sentiment among these seniors was that we should [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00May 25th, 2016|Blog|1 Comment

Professional Lessons From a Great Mentor

Last week, I visited a mentor who arguably taught me the most about professionalism in my early career; lessons that have stayed with me until. John Casciano certainly didn't look like the type that would rise to the highest levels of National Security leadership. Short in stature, he certainly wasn't going to rise based on [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00May 23rd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Once Again, Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When Air Force General Michael Fortney told his subordinate commanders to root our and do away with Queep (http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2016/05/03/2-star-general-puts-wasteful-queep-duties-crosshairs/83873648/), he continued a long tradition of senior leaders trying to Lean down their operations and do away with those meaningless duties that take away focus from the company's bottom line. Unfortunately, his directive is doomed to [...]

By |2016-05-10T18:40:03+00:00May 10th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Truth Isn’t Good Or Bad, It Just Is

A recent publication of the entire results of a 40 year old study on health and diet puts another nail in the coffin of what "everybody knows" regarding diet and heart disease. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/12/this-study-40-years-ago-could-have-reshaped-the-american-diet-but-it-was-never-fully-published/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_most-draw5) This post isn't about what we should or shouldn't be eating. It is about truth in research and completeness in our search [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00April 13th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Critical Thinking For Leaders

In previous posts we discussed how leaders have a responsibility to create organizational clarity, ensure the organization's identity and direction, create an organizational structure to meet the long-term objectives, to stay above the day-to-day fray and let their subordinates do their jobs, and to learn to say "I don't know." That all still applies. But [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00March 11th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Truth Doesn’t Change Based on the Rank of the Recipient

I was overseas in 1997, on assignment in a Middle East country in what could only be described as an "everybody-has-to-go-through-it" temporary assignment. My predecessor had told me that the bad guys had slowly, over time, moved a host of military equipment to locations in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. But those movements didn't [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00March 1st, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Distilling Senior Leader Responsibilities

In previous posts we discussed the importance of senior leaders focusing on the long-range vision and strategy and leaving the day-to-day “doing” to your doers. But through lots of feedback and discussions in the field, it is time to put out another post on how to do that. Leaving the doing to the doers does [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00February 17th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Some Thoughts On Critical Thinking

The benefit of applying critical thinking methodology to all aspects of life is that you are rarely surprised, and when you are, you can more easily adapt. But the hard part is that, at first, you will be nearly universally scorned by those who either can't or won't think critically. Those that listened heard me correctly on [...]

By |2016-02-11T22:38:50+00:00February 11th, 2016|Blog|2 Comments

Goodness Breeds Goodness…Really

This is my first Maxim for leaders. It seems strange to many that I speak of goodness before market share or process refinement or the importance of a corporate strategic plan. But I put it first deliberately and not for some pretend altruism. Before all else, goodness can make an organization. No matter your job, [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:04+00:00February 2nd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

More is more. You have to make it better.

More is better, right? More food for less money at the buffet; trackers on every shipping container to know what is inside and where it is in the world; more watts for less money per light bulb; more gigabytes of data per month on your mobile phone plan; more surveillance to help stop terrorist attacks. But [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:05+00:00January 11th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

This Week, Review and Renew Your Most Important Truth

Who are you and what do you want to be? Those are the two most important questions any business leader must answer when beginning a new business or job. And it is always important to review what you said when you started and renew your commitment to those answers at the beginning of each new [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:05+00:00January 3rd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Why We Don’t See “It” Coming – Mind Candy

The small ethnic European restaurant in the small town in middle America was hurting. The owner/chef made great food, but tables were empty most nights. The reviews on social media were less than stellar with many pointing out that the restaurant sold out of some top menu items more regularly than they should. After meeting with [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:05+00:00October 19th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Some Dos and Don’ts of Hiring a Consultant

How do you know when it is time to seek an outside view of your operations or to seek advice? And if you do, what should you consider in selecting a partner to give you honest, critical and unemotional feedback and advice? First, allow me to relate an allegorical story that is true in the sense [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:05+00:00September 28th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Accept Uncertainty and Thrive

One of the greatest challenges senior leaders face is dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity in all aspects of operations from strategic decision-making to daily tasks. When margins are narrow and your key variables are uncertain, it is naturally understandable to wait for more information before making decisions.  However, the longer a leader waits for information [...]

By |2015-09-21T15:15:28+00:00September 21st, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Was Huntington Right?

Yesterday's news presented two articles (one by the Washington Post and the other on the blog, Medium) that seemed widely disparate, one about retired general David Petraeus remaining in the limelight well after his ignominious retirement, and the other about xenophobia in Germany against Muslim foreigners. What could these articles possible have in common? Samuel Huntington. [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:06+00:00August 18th, 2015|Blog|4 Comments

The Dangers of Coddling Our Young Minds

The Atlantic just released a much needed and very important long think-piece titled "The Coddling Of The American Mind".  Just at the time I have been considering withdrawing from the academic game due to the issues raised in the article, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt sound the warning that by stifling all speech - beyond [...]

By |2017-11-23T18:26:06+00:00August 11th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments