Ten lessons from Reagan on building a brain trust
As a business leader, how do you make decisions? Be honest! Do you believe that as the leader (or should that be, ahem, dictator?) you always know best? Do you surround yourself with yes-men in an attempt to validate your ideas and gain “consensus”? Do you keep your distance from other “experts” to ensure that your opinion will go unchallenged? Or do you pull together the best and brightest you know to challenge your preconceived notions and share fresh ideas you’ve never considered?
While you’d love to say the first three examples bear no resemblance to you, if you’re like most leaders you may admit to having a pretty healthy ego. Author Dan Quiggle says that’s not a terrible thing—hey, it goes with the territory and it does give you the mettle to get the job done. Fortunately, there is a way to ensure that your ego doesn’t grow to unhealthy proportions: take a cue from Ronald Reagan and put together a strong Kitchen Cabinet.
“President Reagan would be the first one to admit (using his self-deprecating humor) that he wasn’t always an expert on everything,” says Quiggle, author of the new book Lead Like Reagan: Strategies to Motivate, Communicate, and Inspire (Wiley, June 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-92845-5, $25.00, www.quigglegroup.com). “He knew that he couldn’t achieve everything he wanted if he was always the smartest person in the room.
“Reagan knew that the mission and its goal were much more important than his ego,” Quiggle adds. “He purposely surrounded himself with expertise in all areas of his life so that he could make informed decisions. He understood that seeking out opinions, expertise, and advice from others wasn’t a sign of weakness. It was strong leadership.”
Even before his presidency, Reagan sought out highly successful advisors who shared his vision and were committed to seeing it realized—and who would be brutally honest with him. This group became known as Reagan’s “Kitchen Cabinet.” They advised him throughout his journey to the White House and even helped him choose the members of his first Presidential Cabinet.
“Whether the arena is politics or business, the difference between mediocre leadership and exceptional leadership often is defined by your ability to cultivate and engage your own Kitchen Cabinet,” says Quiggle. “Business owners and other leaders have a lot at stake—and you should waste no time in putting together a brain trust of your own.”
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