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Leadership: Essential Writings By Our Greatest Thinkers edited by Elizabeth D. Samet

August 23, 2020


“Our little systems have their day.”Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • In Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar Schein offers the following taxonomy: (1) visible artifacts; (2) espoused beliefs, values, rules, and behavioral norms; and (3) tacit, taken for granted, basic underlying assumptions. “Until you dig down to the bit level of the basic assumptions,” Schein argues, “you cannot really decipher artifacts values and norms.”
  • Prospective leaders must understand not only the individual facets of a given organization but also the ways in which people interact with and are transformed by the institutions in which they operate. To what extent have individuals within a given organization apparently adapted to larger norms and expectations? How much autonomy have employees actually retained? Does a given corporation compel apparent uniformity by subtle or explicit means? Does it foster independence and idiosyncrasy while preserving commonality?
  • To understand the nuances of the culture in which a leader finds herself, she must become, to borrow a term from anthropology, a “participant-observer”: a kind of ethnographer who learns the intricacies of an organization by studying it as if it were a new culture.


Men, Women, and Chiefs from Tristes Tropiques by Claude Levi-Strauss

  • … The chief is rather the cause of the group’s wish to constitute itself as a group, then the effect of the need, felt by an already existing group, for a central authority.
  • Personal prestige and the ability to inspire confidence are the foundations of power…
  • How does the chief fulfill his obligations? The first and the main instrument of his power is his generosity … Although the chief does not seem to be in a privileged position, from the material POV, he must have under his control surplus quantities of food, tools, weapons, and ornaments which, however trifling in themselves, a nonetheless considerable in relation to the prevailing poverty.
  • Ingenuity and generosity transposed the level of the intellect. A good chief gives proof of his initiative and skill.
  • He must have a minute knowledge of the territories frequented by his band and by its neighbors: The hunting grounds must have no secrets from him, and he must know just when each clump of wild fruit trees will be ripe for plucking.
  • Apart from one or two men who have no real authority but are prepared to collaborate if paid to do so, the passivity of the band is in striking contrast to the dynamism of its leader. It is as if, having handed over to him certain advantages, they expect him to take entire charge of their interests and their security.

Pericles Reminds The Athenians Who They Are from The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

  • A man who does very well for himself will ultimately be ruined by the destruction of his city; but he has a much better chance of surviving his own bad luck in a successful city. Since then, a city is able to carry individual misfortunes – something a single individual cannot do for the city – wouldn’t it be better for all of us to defend her instead of what you are doing now? For, driven to distraction by the calamities in your homes, you are casting aside the safety of the whole…
  • The will is enslaved by sudden and unexpected events, advanced completely beyond our calculation.
  • …we must know that if we cling to our freedom and win through to safety, we will easily recover these trifles, but if we submit to others, even what you already have will tend to wither away.
  • It is more disgraceful to be stripped of what you have than to be unlucky about getting what you want, so go and grapple with your enemies not just with spirit, with the spirit of contempt. A lucky stupidity breeds boastfulness in cowards; contempt belongs to those who can trust in their strategy to triumph over their enemies, as you can. When the chances are even on both sides, intelligence makes for a surer daring when combined with a sense of superiority. Intelligence trusts less to hope, which is powerful only in desperate straits, than to a strategy based on facts, and this is the source of a firm foreknowledge.
  • An easygoing man is only protected if he marches beside a man of action.
  • To be hated and envied for a time is a lot for everyone who dares to rule over others, but whoever incurs envy in a great cause has made the right choice. Hatred can’t survive for long, and present splendor is passed on as eternally remembered fame. It is your duty to throw yourself into achieving the glory to come and avoiding disgrace in the here and now. Do not negotiate with the Spartans. Do not show that you are disheartened by your present suffering. For city and citizens alike, those whose minds are less saddened by misfortune, and take action against it, are the strongest.


On Authority from Almanacco Repubblicano by Friedrich Engels

  • Wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return it to the spinning wheel.
  • Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of development of society


Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution from a speech at The National Cathedral by Martin Luther King

  • Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.
  • On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then experience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?



“Emulation is the very nerve of human society.”William James

  • Emulation is customarily regarded as an elemental link in the chain of social relations, intimately bound up with imitation ambition. Yet lavish imitation can limit potential, while a figure of influence, like the hypnotist Svengali, may exert excessive control over the development of another.


Once Upon a Time from When Men Were the Only Models I Had by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

  • I had learned to distrust Freud, because of his views of women and because the Freudian psychoanalysts I had come to know. Yet, even distrusting Freud, I agree with him that tragedy is what most marks us if we’re thinkers …



“Do external things distract you?”Marcus Aurelius

  • …heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory … Most confident multitaskers are the least successful managers of competing activities.
  • …access is not so much synonymous with learning. What turns access into learning is time and strategic patience.


On Noise from Moral Epistles by Seneca

  • … I am forcing my mind to focus on itself and not be distracted by outside events; let everything be echoing outside, so long as there is no disruption within me, while desire and fear are not quarreling with each other, while greed and extravagance are not in conflict and neither is bothering the other. So, what good is silence in the whole neighborhood if your emotions are in an uproar?
  • When great generals see their troops are prone to mutiny, they control them by some task and keep them busy with exercises: there is never leisure for them to riot when they are kept busy, and nothing is more sure than that the feelings of leisure are dispelled by activity.
  • All faults are milder when they are open to view; even diseases are on their way to healing, when they break out of hiding and expose their strength. So, you might be sure that avarice and ambition and other sicknesses of the human mind are most destructive when they ebb in pretense of health.
  • … Recognize that you are settled when no shouting will affect you, no voice will shatter you, whether it wheedles or threatens, or raises meaningless din with its hollow sound.

“…Conceptions are artificial.  Perceptions are essential.Wallace Stevens



Does change terrify you? Yet what can come into being without change? What after all is dearer, or more proper to nature? Can you have your bath, without change passing upon the firewood? Or nourishment, without change passing upon the viands? Can any serviceable thing be accomplished without change? Do you not see that change within yourself is at piece with this, and equally indispensable to Nature? – Marcus Aurelius

  • Change comes from without, but it can also come from within those leaders who accept its necessity and harness its energy. Leaders who do this well – leaders who respond swiftly to external change or anticipate such change with their own innovation – show themselves capable of seeing things afresh and imagining new paradigms. Such leaders prove willing to risk revision not only of their own habits and techniques but also of the direction of entire fields.


Whoever Desires Constant Success Must Change His Conduct with the Times from Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius by Niccolò Machiavelli


  • I have often reflected that the causes of the success or failure of men depend upon the manner of suiting their conduct to their times. We see one man proceed in his actions with passion and impetuosity; and as in both the one and the other case men are apt to exceed the proper limits, not being able to always observe the just middle course, they are apt to err in both. But he errs least and will be most favored by fortune who suits his proceeding to the times.
  • For any man accustomed to a certain mode of proceeding will never change it, as we have said, and consequently when time and circumstances change, so that his ways are no longer in harmony with them, he must of necessity succumb.
  • That we cannot change at will is due to two causes; the one is the impossibility of resisting the natural bent of our characters, and the other is the difficulty of persuading ourselves, after having been accustomed to success by a certain mode of proceeding, that any other can succeed as well.


Personal Best from The New Yorker by Atul Gawande


  • Good coaches speak with credibility, make a personal connection, and focus little on themselves. Hobson and Harding “listened more than they talked, Jim Knight said. They were 100% present in the conversation.” They also parceled out their observations carefully. “It’s not a normal way of communicating – watching what your words are doing,” he said. They had discomforting information to convey, and they did it directly but respectfully.
  • The sort of coaching that fosters effective innovation in judgment, not merely the replication of technique, may not be so easy to cultivate. Yet modern society increasingly depends on ordinary people taking responsibility for doing extraordinary things: operating inside people’s bodies, teaching 8th-grade graders algebraic concepts that Euclid would have struggled with, building a highway through a mountain, constructing a wireless computer network across the state, running a factory, reducing the city’s crime rate. In the absence of guidance how many people can do such complex tasks at the level we require?
  • Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance. Yet the allegiance of coaches is to the people they work with; their success depends on it. And the existence of a coach requires an acknowledgment that even expert practitioners have significant room for improvement.


Birth Of A Dynasty in Sports Illustrated by Alexander Wolff

  • When you’re through learning, you’re through.
  • Preposterous as it may sound, winning per se was never Wooden’s main emphasis, even as the Bruins reached that doorstep… “The word when never escaped his lips. Literally. He just asked us to pray to our potential.”
  • “Whatever you do in life surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you,” said John Wooden



“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one great thing.”Archilochus

  • Mastery requires all the attributes examined thus far in this anthology: the capacity for studying systems and cultures; an ability to follow and then depart from exemplary models; the cultivation of patience and deep attention; the willingness to risk revising oneself in one’s organization. These are habits of successful leaders but only because they are habits of self-aware and resilient individuals
  • “Knowledge and truth can lodge within us without judgement,” Montaigne warned; “judgment can do so without them: indeed, recognizing our ignorance is one of the surest and most beautiful witnesses to our judgment that I can find.”


About Good Sense and Cleverness of Queen Dido from The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan

  • … Good judgment consists of weighing up carefully what you wish to do and working out how to do it.


Of Studies from Essays Civil and Moral by Francis Bacon

  • … Natural abilities are like natural plants, the need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they may be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men used them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; But two weigh and consider.
  • Reading maketh a full man; conference a steady man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.


On Military Genius from On War by Carl von Clausewitz

  • Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger, and courage to accept responsibility.”
  • “Average intelligence may recognize the truth occasionally, and exceptional courage may now and then retrieve a blunder: but usually intellectual inadequacy will be shown up by indifferent achievement.”
  • “Determination in a single instance is an expression of courage; if it becomes a characteristic, a mental habit.”
  • “Intelligence alone is not courage; we often see that the most intelligent people are irresolute. Since in the rush of events a man is governed by feelings rather than thought, the intellect needs to arouse the quality of courage, which then supports and sustains it in action…Looked at in this way, the role of determination is to limit the agonies of doubt and the perils of hesitation when the motives for action are inadequate…”
  • “…Some may bring the keenest brains to the most formidable problems and may possess the courage to accept responsibilities; but when faced with a difficult situation they will still find themselves unable to reach a decision. Their courage and their intellect work in separate compartments, not together; determination, therefore, does not result.  It is engendered only by a mental act; the mind tells the man that boldness is required, and thus gives direction to his will…”
  • “…a quick retort shows wit; resourcefulness in sudden danger calls above all, for a steady nerve.”
  • “So long as units fight cheerfully, with spirit and elan, a great strength of will is rarely needed; but once conditions become difficult, as they must when much is at stake, things no longer run like a well-oiled machine. The machine itself begins to resist, and the commander needs tremendous willpower to overcome this resistance. The machine’s resistance need not consist of disobedience and argument, though this occurs often enough in individual soldiers.  It is the impact of the ebbing in moral and physical strength, of the heart-rending spectacle of the dead and the wounded, that the commander has to withstand, first in himself, and then in all those who, directly or indirectly have entrusted him with their thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears…”
  • “Energy in action varies in proportion to strength of motive, whether the motive be the result of intellectual conviction or emotion. Great strength, however, is not easily produced where there is no emotion.”
  • “Of all the passions that inspire man in battle, none which we have to admit, is so powerful and so constant as the longing for honor or renown…”
  • “…Other emotions may be more common and more venerated – patriotism, idealism, vengeance, enthusiasm of every kind – but they are no substitute for a thirst for fame and honor. They may indeed, rouse the mass to action and inspire it, but they cannot give the commander the ambition to strive higher than the rest, as he must to distinguish himself…”
  • “Staunchness indicates the will’s resistance to a single blow; endurance refers to prolonged endurance.”
  • “…a strong character is one that will not be unbalanced by the most powerful emotions.”
  • “Inflammable emotions, feelings that are easily roused, are in general of little value in practical life, and therefore of little value in war. Their impulses are strong but brief…”
  • “We say a man has strength of character, or simply has character, if he sticks to his convictions, whether these derive from his own opinions or someone else’s, whether they represent principles, attitudes, sudden insights, or any other mental force. Such firmness cannot show itself, of course if a man keeps changing his mind…”
  • “…Action can never be based on anything firmer than instinct, a sensing of truth…”
  • “…Often there is a gap between principles and actual events that cannot always be bridged by a succession of logical deductions. Then a measure of self-confidence is needed, and a degree of skepticism is also salutary.  Frequently nothing short of an imperative principle will suffice, which is not part of the immediate thought process, but dominates it; that principle is in all doubtful cases to stick to one’s first opinion and refuse to change unless forced to do so by a clear conviction. A strong faith in the overriding truth of tested principles needed…”
  • “…Obstinacy is a fault of temperament. Stubbornness and intolerance of contradiction result from a special kind of egotism, which elevates above everything else the pleasure of autonomous intellect, to which others must bow…”
  • “A major gulf exists between a commander-in-chief – a general who leads the army as a whole or commands a theater of operations – and the senior generals immediately subordinate to him. The reason is simple: the second level is subjected to much closer control and supervision, and thus gives far less scope for independent thought…”
  • “Truth in itself is rarely sufficient to make men act. Hence the step is always long from cognition to volition, from knowledge to ability. The most powerful springs of action in men lie in his emotions. He derives his most vigorous support, if we may use that term, from that blend of brains and temperament which we have learned to recognize in qualities of determination, firmness, staunches, and strength of character.”
  • “..If we then ask what sort of mind is likeliest to display the qualities of military genius, experience and observation will both tell us that it is in the inquiring rather than the creative mind, the comprehensive rather than the specialized approach, the calm rather than the excitable head to which in war we would choose to entrust the fate of our brothers and children, and the safety and honor of our country.”


Time and Patience from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

  • “Everything comes in time for him who knows how to wait…”
  • It’s easy enough to take fortresses, but it’s hard to finish off a campaign successfully. Storms and attacks are not what’s wanted, but time and patience.
  • … He (Kutuzov) knew how ready men are when they desire anything to manipulate all evidence so as to confirm what they desire; and he knew how readily in that case they let everything of an opposite significance pass unheeded.


Mobile and Other War Pieces by Omar Bradley

  • Many generals, in the course of history, have taken a hill at the cost of a division, and as many have lost the division without taking a hill. Bradley took a key hill and gained a division. His troops reached each of their objectives almost exactly in accordance with the schedule he had laid down.
  • It’s good for troops to feel they have an important objective. You have to move them up and move them back once or twice when they’re green, just to give them the habit of fighting, but if you do it too often, they get the feeling they’re being thrown away.



“If someone stops where they should not, they’ll stop anywhere. If someone’s slights a person they should treat generously, they’ll slight anyone. And if someone races ahead, they retreat in a hurry.Mencius

  • Tangible action soothes while invisible contemplation provokes suspicion. One wants always to be seen to be doing something. Premature demands for “deliverables,” “takeaways,” and near-term profits short circuit deliberative processes.
  • Hesitation, especially in someone like a president, is often interpreted as weakness and indecision. Sometimes it is, but at other times delay is not a mark of irrational procrastination or lack of will. Yet the fear of seeming weak can prompt leaders to make quick work of decisions over which they ought to labor – and to be seen to labor. At times, paradoxically, fear induces compensatory fits of paralysis, in which what ought to be an easy decision turns agonizing.
  • …But when discussion, debate, and reflection are construed as signs of cowardice rather than of a leader’s capacity for measured judgment and a trust in that of the people with whom a leader has surrounded herself, the lineaments of a cultural pathology can be discerned.
  • There are times when the best, most prudent, if least romantic course consists not in doing but in waiting. Mastering the art of the wait entails knowing when to wait and for how long. It also presumes the cultivation of deep attention…


Fabius Maximus from Lives by Plutarch

  • “I should be more faint-hearted than they make me, if, through fear of idle reproaches, I should abandon my own convictions. It is no inglorious thing to have fear for the safety of our country, but to be turned from one’s course by men’s opinions, by blame, and by misrepresentation, shows a man unfit to hold an office such as this, which, by such conduct, he makes the slaves of those whose errors it is his business to control.”
  • The council and actions of Fabius, which, before the battle, they had branded as cowardice and fear, now, in the other extreme, they accounted to have been more than human wisdom; is there nothing but a divine power of intellect could have seen so far, and foretold contrary to the judgment of all others, a result which, even now it had arrived, was hardly credible. In him, therefore they placed the whole remaining hopes; His wisdom was the sacred altar at temple to which they fled for refuge, and his councils more than anything, preserve them from dispersing and deserting their city … He, whom they seemed fearful and pusillanimous when they were, as they thought, in a prosperous condition, was now the only man, in this general and unbounded dejection and confusion, who showed no Fear, but walked the streets within assured answering countenance…


Replies to Parliamentary Petitions by Elizabeth I

  • … I did put myself to the school of experience, where I sought to learn what things were most fit for a King to have, and I found them to be four: namely, justice, temper, magnanimity, and judgment.



“He’s here in double trust:

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,

Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Nor bear the knife myself.

  • Macbeth contemplating the murder of Duncan, by William Shakespeare


  • Trust, the phenomenon we are so familiar with that we scarcely notice its presence and its variety, is shown by us and responded to by us not only with intimates, but with strangers, and even with declared enemies.
  • Trust is essential to the effective functioning of an entire spectrum of relationships, from the personal friendship to the doctor-patient relationship to the international coalition.
  • In contrast to contractual relationships, trust lacks a guarantee. If there is no opportunity for betrayal, philosophers insist, there is no room for trust.
  • “Frankness and openness conciliate confidence. We trust the man who seems willing to trust us…”
  • In a climate dominated by gross breaches of trust in the public and private sectors, leaders must figure out how to earn trust or repair the damage done by past betrayals – betrayals sometimes inherited from their predecessors.


Interview with Jean Renoir from Conversations with Great Moviemakers: Hollywood’s Golden Age by George Stevens, Jr.

  • “You know, there is an old slogan, very popular in our occidental civilization: you must look to an end higher than normal, and in that way, you will achieve something. Your aim must be very, very high. Myself, I am absolutely convinced that it is mere stupidity.  The aim must be easy to reach, and by reaching it, you achieve more… The trouble with us human beings is that we are often very stupid. Things are in front of us, but we don’t see them. “
  • “…a picture is a little world. Something very important in life is balance. You must balance all the elements. What is very dangerous in pictures is that an actor becomes a star because of repetition of voice and the same gestures. The public becomes used to it, and though the poor soul makes millions, it’s nothing to do with talent. To me it’s something quite tragic to see a human being always repeating the same gestures that are not even real, not even the expression of reality. “
  • “It is the eternal quarrel between abstract art and figurative art. If the author feels you, he can express himself without the help of a subject, to build a bridge between his own inside and the spectator – good. My own preoccupations are slightly different. You know what my preoccupation is in pictures? It is that I would like the picture to give the feeling to the audience that it is unfinished. I believe that the work of art where the spectator does not collaborate is not a work of art. I like people who look at the picture, perhaps, to build a different story on this side. Without the collaboration of the public, we have nothing except dull art. The artist and the public must be in communion. We must arrive at such and such a point where the public is the maker and the artist becomes the spectator. “
  • “… I hate to discourage people. The truth is, if you discourage an actor you may never find him again. You’ll hide his personality behind a kind of mask of fear. An actor is an animal, extremely fragile. You get a little expression, it is not exactly what you wanted, but it’s alive. It’s something human. Don’t kill it by pushing your own ideas into his imagination. No. Try softly and slowly to help him find what you believe is the truth, because in the picture the truth is the truth of the author. “


Mission Command by General Martin E. Dempsey

  • Conduct of mission command requires adaptable leaders at every echelon.
  • US forces operating globally as a network will require unity of effort and prompt execution. Just as today, these attributes must accrue without over-centralization, as decentralized approaches will provide us competitive adaptability and tempo advantages.
  • Smaller, lighter forces operating in an environment of increased uncertainty, complexity and competitiveness will require freedom of action to develop the situation and rapidly exploit opportunities. Decentralization will occur beyond current comfort levels and habits of practice.
  • To the commander comes the mission for the unit; In the commander resides the authority responsibility to act and to lead so that the mission may be accomplished. In mission command, the commander must find the art of command and the science of control, as he, supported by the staff, integrates all joint warfighting functions.
  • The missions given subordinates must be within their capability; The commander must understand what his subordinates can do, and trust – but not blindly – than to do it.
  • Decisions are far less likely to be routinely related up the chain for institutional contemplation and wisdom.
  • Mental agility and superior speed and competitive cycles of decision-making are therefore attributes to be desired in the commanders of each echelon …
  • The key to victory…. Was the ability to create situations wherein one can make appropriate decisions more quickly than one’s opponent.
  • Mission command challenges commanders to cultivate the bias for action in their subordinates, develop mutual trust and understanding, and exercise moral nerve and restraint.
  • …the increasing need for the commander to frequently frame and reframe an environment of ill-structured problems to gain the context of operations by continuously challenging assumptions both before and during execution.
  • Created knowledge at the point of action is critical to operational and tactical agility.
  • Joint doctrine defines “Commander’s intent” in part as “a clear and concise expression of the purpose of the operation and the desired military and state
  • Building trust with subordinates and partners may be the most important action a commander will perform.
  • Mission command must be institutionalized and operationalized into all aspects of the joint force – our doctrine, our education, our training, and our manpower and personal processes.
  • We must place students into situations of uncertainty and complexity where creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, and independent, rapid decision making are essential elements.
  • Officers must be taught how to receive and give mission-type orders, and, critically, how to clearly express intent.
  • Training for mission command is about building teams, both within the unit by the commander and externally to the unit by the commander with supported, supporting, and higher echelons of command.
  • Training must replicate the distributed, chaotic, and uncertain nature of the expected operational environment. It must force commanders, supported by their staff, to receive and clearly express intent. Training scenarios must require the commander to extend trust as they employ their force and constantly assess.
  • Technology cannot replace the human ability to create and make intuitive judgment. Training should help the commander learn how to avoid information overload and “paralysis by analysis” … Training for mission command focuses the commander on gaining a comfort with uncertainty and chaos, and guided by intent, having the moral courage to decide quickly and act decisively.
  • Our training should also teach commanders what not to do.
  • Our leader development efforts must create a climate for greater trust, and challenge leaders to the point of failure as a way to evaluate character, fortitude, and resiliency of personality in conditions of adversity. Critically, we must collectively promote a culture that values calculated risk as a means to generate opportunity.


Open Secrets from The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell

  • “Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much.”



“The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.” – Sam Spade to Wilmer Cook, Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

  • We live in an age that claims to prize authenticity, even if it cannot quite define it, yet we are somehow primed to embrace the sham.
  • The bluff is a time-honored tradition and business, poker, and war as well as a subject of academic study for social scientists interested in decision making and strategic modeling.
  • Where is the line between ethical persuasion and a confidence game?
  • Exploitation and conspiracy, as much as justice and fellowship, thrive better in an environment of trust… Trust is always an invitation not only to confidence tricksters but also to terrorists, who discern its most easily destroyed and socially vital forms.



“If you don’t follow the same Way, don’t make plans together.Confucius

  • Several factors contribute to making Lear a poor negotiator. Placing his trust in the wrong people, he rejects the advice of wise counselors and fails to recognize Cordelia silence for what it is: sincerity. Lacking self-knowledge, psychological insight, and emotional intelligence, he is blinded by his vanity and self-importance to the real sources of his power and authority and to the true natures of his eldest daughters.
  • Confucius advises us to make plans for only those who “follow the same way,” those who are, in other words, dedicated to the same principles. But effective negotiators do not always have this luxury. We would like to think that our negotiations are predicated on trust, but we often suspect our counterparts of self-interest, at least perhaps dark designs.
  • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In Introduced the theory of principled negotiation devised by Harvard Law professors Robert Fisher and William Ury … Fisher and Ury set forth four essential principles: separate the people from the problem; focus on interest, not position; invent options for mutual gain; And insist on objective criteria
  • Competing gurus of negotiation often contradict one another, but certain recommendations emerge repeatedly. Many experts emphasize certain fundamental requirements: detailed research, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural sophistication, good listening skills, and flexibility. Others add performance and theatricality to this list of essentials.


Of Cannibals from Essays by Michael de Montaigne

  • … Clever people observe more things and more curiously, but they interpret them; and to lend weight and conviction to their interpretation, they cannot help altering history a little. they never show you things as they are, but bend and disguise them according to the way they have seen them; and to give credence to their judgment and attract you to it, they are prone to add something to their matter, to stretch it out and amplify it.
  • … For a man may have some special knowledge and experience of the nature of a river or a fountain, who in other matters knows only what everybody knows. However, to circulate this little scrap of knowledge, he will undertake to write the whole of physics. From this vice springs many great abuses.
  • … each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice; For indeed it seems we have no other test of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country we live in.
  • All things, says Plato, are produced by nature, by fortune, or by art; the greatest and most beautiful by one or the other of the first two, the least and most imperfect by the last.
  • The worth and value of a man is in his heart and his will; there lies his real honor. Valor is the strength, not of legs and arms, but of heart and soul; It consists not in the worth of our horse or a weapons, but in our own.
  • The role of true victory is in fighting, not in coming off safely; and the honor of valor consists in combating, not in beating.


Of Negotiating from Essays Civil and Moral by Francis Bacon

  • In choice of instruments, it is better to choose men of a plainer short, that are like to do that that is committed to them, and to report back again faithfully the success, then those that are cunning to contrive out of other men’s business somewhat to grace themselves, and will help the matter in report for satisfaction sake.
  • It is better dealing with men and appetite, then with those that are where they would be.
  • If you would work any man, you must either know his nature and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him; or his weakness and disadvantages, and so awe him; for those that have interest in him, and so govern him. In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their ends, to interpret their speeches; and it’s good to say little to them, and that which they least look for. In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees

Elizabeth I

  • …There are moments when a refusal to negotiate is in fact the smartest play.



“You were right, and I was wrong.”Abraham Lincoln letter to Ulysses S. Grant

  • Having the courage of one’s convictions in periods of adversity may be a stance of great responsibility, but it can also become a most dangerous virtue, shared by martyrs and fanatics alike; a virtue to which even those with bankrupt aims might default.
  • It takes a rather different kind of courage to admit to not yet knowing one’s mind, having altered an opinion in the light of new evidence or reinterpretation of the old, having made an error in judgment. Taking responsibility for missteps, mistakes, and misjudgments- say nothing of the grosser ethical lapses that have dominated the late 20th – an early 21st century financial and political arenas- especially in age of enamored of decisiveness, is a difficult act.
  • No leader wants to look uncertain, but bluster too easily passes for justified confidence but only the most secure can muster the courage to admit their lack of sureness when required.



“I an no orator, as Brutus is…I only speak right on.” – Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

  • From Aristotle and other theorists, we inherit not only the classification of appeals to pathos, logos, an ethos (the credibility of the speaker) but also the idea of the five canons of (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery), and a wealth of terminology and techniques.


The Four Freedoms by Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • … we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms…The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms means economic understandings which will secure it to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor- anywhere in the world.
  • A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.


The Defence of Freedom and Pace by Winston Churchill

  • It is no good using hard words among friends about the past and reproaching one another for what cannot be recalled. It is the future, not the past, that demands are earnest and anxious thought.
  • … The cause of freedom has in it a recuperative power and virtue which can draw from misfortune new hope and new strength.
  • Can peace goodwill, and confidence be built upon submission to wrong-doing backed by force?… One may put this question in the largest form. Has any benefit or progress ever been achieved by the human race by submission to organized and calculated violence? As we look back over the long story of the nations, we must see that, on the contrary, their glory has been founded upon the spirit of resistance to tyranny and injustice, especially when these evils seem to be backed by heavier force.
  • The dictator, in all his pride, is held in the grip of his party machine. He can go forward; He cannot go back. He must blood his hounds and show them sport, or else like Actaeon of old, be devoured by them. All strong without, he all weak within.
  • Dictatorship – the fetish worship of one man- is a passing phase. A state of society where men may not speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, where a businessman or small shopkeeper ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions; such a state of society cannot long endure if brought into contact with the healthy outside world. The light of civilized progress with its tolerances and co-operation with its dignities and joys, has often in the past been blotted out. But I hold the belief that we have now at least got far enough ahead of barbarism to control it, and to avert it, if only we realize what is afoot and make up our minds in time. We shall do it in the end. But how much harder our toil for every day’s delay!



We Will Stand and Fight Here by Bernard Montgomery

  • I believe that one of the first duties of a commander is to create what I call “atmosphere,” and in that atmosphere, his staff, subordinate commanders, and troops will live and work and fight… I do not like the general atmosphere I find here. It is an atmosphere of doubt…
  • Here we will stand and fight; There will be no further withdrawal period I have ordered that all plans and instructions dealing with further withdrawal be burned, and at once. We will stand and fight here.
  • I have no intention of launching our great attack until we are completely ready; There will be pressure for many quarters to attack; I will not attack until we are ready, and you can rest assured on that point.
  • I understand there has been a great deal of “bellyaching” out here. By bellyaching I mean inventing poor reasons for not doing what one has been told to do. All this is to stop at once. I will tolerate no bellyaching. If anyone objects to doing what he is told, then he can get out of it: and at once…
  • What I have done is get over to you the “atmosphere” in which we will now work and fight; You must see that the atmosphere permeates right through the Eighth Army to the most junior private soldier. All the soldiers must know what is wanted; when they see it coming to pass there will be a surge of confidence throughout the army.


Speech to the Third Army by George Patton

  • Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war.
  • Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all of us. And every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a goddam liar… The real hero is the man who fights even though he scared.
  • All through your army careers, you have bitched about what you call *********** drilling. That, like everything else in this army, has a definite purpose. The purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into every soldier. The man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive.
  • An army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual hero stuff is a lot of *********.
  • My men don’t surrender, and I don’t want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit.
  • Every single man in this army has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain. Each man must not think only of himself but also of his buddy fighting beside him.
  • I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding a goddamn thing period, let the Germans do that … From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don’t give a good *** **** about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder we push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.



“It is possible to fail in many ways…”Aristotle

  • … those who study the habits of mind of successful entrepreneurs argue that failure is a necessary part of the process of invention, innovation, and creativity.
  • Leaders who believe they can legislate against failure tend to create climates in which entrepreneurial spirit is muzzled and individuals are so risk-averse that they may behave in ways – ignoring warning signs, concealing minor flaws or errors, refusing to adjust and adapt – that paradoxically court the kinds of catastrophic failure systems may not be able to survive.
  • Despite a desire to improve and innovate, the individual’s aversion of failure is often so strong the organizations must work to establish environments more hospitable to experimentation.


The Arctic Hedonist from The American Scholar by Anne Fadiman

  • Depressing?… “An Eskimo laughs as much in a month as the average white man does in a year.” A benighted people? The Inuit are honest, considerate, courteous, hospitable, fun-loving, self-sufficient, and morally superior to any but the “rarest and best of our race.”


The Story of Croesus from The Histories by Herodotus

  • … In the fullness of time, a man must see many things he doesn’t want to see and endure many things he doesn’t want to endure. I’ll set the limit of a person’s life at 70 years. In those 70 years, there are 25,200 days, not counting any month thrown in… And from one day to the next absolutely nothing happens in the same way twice. Thus, my dear Croesus, humans are the creatures of pure chance.
  • The rich man isn’t better off than the man who has enough for his everyday needs unless his luck stays with him, and he keeps on having the best of everything until he dies happily. Many people who are super-rich are unlucky, you know, while many lucky people are just moderately well-off. Now, the very rich but unlucky man has only two advantages of the lucky man, while the lucky man has many advantages over the unlucky rich man. First, the rich man is better able to gratify his desires, and second, he is able to afford the trouble they bring. The lucky man, on the other hand, is better off than the unlucky rich man in these ways: while he is not able to afford desire and trouble, his good luck keeps these things away from him. He suffers no bodily harm, he doesn’t get sick, he experiences no misfortunes, he has good children, and he is handsome. If, in addition to all this, he dies happily then he is the one you were looking for – the man who deserves to be called happy. Until he dies, though, you must hold off and not call him happy – just lucky.
  • Of course, it is impossible for a mere mortal to combine all these things, just as no country is completely sufficient unto itself. It will have this, but it will lack that. The one that has the most – that one is the best. Thus, no one person is self-sufficient: he will have one thing come up but be lacking in another.
  • … For God gives a glimpse of happiness to many people, and then tears them up by the very roots.


The Trek to Kabul from Baburnama by Babur

  • Whatever happens, good or bad, when you look closely, you’ll find that it is all for the best.


A Valuable Lesson from Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

  • General Taylor was not an officer to trouble the administration much with his demands, but was inclined to do the best he could with the means given him. He felt his responsibility as going no further. If he had thought that he was sent to perform an impossibility with the means given him, he would probably have informed the authorities of his opinion and left them to determine what should be done. If the judgment was against him, he would have gone on and done the best he could with the means at hand, without parading his grievances before the public. No soldier could face either danger or responsibility more calmly than he. These qualities are more rarely found than genius or physical courage.
  • General Scott was precise in language; Cultivated a style peculiarly his own; proud of his rhetoric; not averse to speaking of himself, – often in the third person, – and he could bestow praise upon the person he was talking with without the least embarrassment. Taylor is not a conversationalist, but on paper he could put his meaning so plainly there could be no mistaking it. He knew how to express what he wanted to say in the fewest well-chosen words, but would not sacrifice meaning to the construction of high-sounding sentences. But with their opposite characteristics, both were great and successful soldiers; both were true, patriotic, and upright in all their dealings. Both were pleasant to serve under- Taylor was pleasant to serve with. Scott saw through the eyes of the staff officers than through his own; His plans were deliberately prepared, and fully expressed in orders. Taylor saw for himself and gave orders to meet the emergency without reference to how they would read in history.
  • As we approached the brow of the Hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready for him to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher, until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on… It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before, but it was one I never forgot afterward. From that event to the close of the war I never experienced trepidation upon confronting the enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.



“Go down Moses,

Way down to Egyptland,

Tell old Pharaoh,

To let my people go.

                  – Spiritual, traditional


  • “Nothing so aggravates an earnest person,” he declares, “as a passive resistance.”
  • Thoreau argues that most citizens serve the state “not as men mainly, but as machines…A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, and reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the State with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated by it as enemies.”
  • “Of course, it is unlikely to change any minds. But the simple fact of it is an affirmation of the power of art to accomplish what decent politicians cannot.”


The Peasant’s Revolt from A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman

  • “Matters cannot go well in England,” was his (John Ball’s) theme, “until all things shall be held in common; when there shall neither be vassals nor lords, when the lords shall be no more masters than ourselves … Are we not all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve?
  • Moral authority can be no stronger than its acknowledgment.
  • The assumptions of autocrats are often behind the times. Economic forces were already propelling the decline of villeinage, and commutation continued, despite the crushing of the revolt, until the unfree peasant gradually disappeared. Whether the revolt hastened or delayed the process is obscure, but the immediate outcome encouraged complacency in the ruling class, beginning with the King. Perhaps intoxicated by success, Richard developed all the instincts of absolutism except the toughness to quell his opponents, and was to end as the victim of one of them.


The Tyranny of the System from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

  • … the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable if mankind be viewed collectively.
  • Men, in general, seemed to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they can scarcely trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or will only do it by halves. Yet the imperfect conclusions just drawn, are frequently very plausible, because they had built on partial experience, on just, though narrow, views.
  • … Thus, as wars, agriculture, commerce, and literature, expand the mind, despots are compelled to make covert corruption hold fast to power which was formerly snatched by open force. And this baneful working gangrene is most quickly spread by luxury and superstition, the sure dregs of ambition. The indolent puppet of a court first becomes a luxurious monster, or fastidious sensualist, and then makes the contagion which his unnatural state spread, the instrument of tyranny.
  • Standing armies can never consist of resolute, robust men; they may be well-disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men under the influence of strong passions, or with very vigorous faculties.
  • The great misfortune is this, but they both require manners before morals, and a knowledge of life before they have, from reflection, any acquaintance with the grand ideal outline of human nature. The consequence is natural; satisfied with common nature, they become prey to prejudices, and taking all their opinions on credit, they blindly submit to authority. So that, if they have any sense, there’s a kind of instinctive glance, that catches proportions, and decides with respect to manners; that fails when arguments are to be pursued below the surface, or opinions analyzed.
  • Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience; But, as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and centralists are in there right when they endeavor to keep woman in the dark, because the former only want slaves and a latter a plaything.


Taking The Eli from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

  • Covey’s forte consisted in his power to deceive. His life was devoted to planning and perpetrating the grossest deceptions. Everything he possessed in the shape of learning or religion, he made conform to his disposition to deceive. He seemed to think himself equal to deceiving the Almighty.
  • It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom. The spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact…


Statement to the Court by Eugene Debs

  • In this country- the most favorite beneath the bending skies- we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman and child – if there are still vast numbers of our people who are victims of poverty and whose lives are unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last, death comes to the rescue and stills their aching hearts and lulls these hapless victims to a dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty; it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity.


Nonviolence Is the First Article of My Faith by Mohandas Gandhi

  • If one has an affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite violence.
  • In my humble opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as his cooperation with good. But in the past, non-cooperation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evildoer. I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent noncooperation only multiplies evil and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence. Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for noncooperation with evil.


I Am prepared to Die from Nelson Mandela’s statement from the dock at the opening of the defense case in the Rivonia Trial

  • Poverty and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects. Children wander about the streets of the townships because they have no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go to school, or no parents at home to see that they go to school, because both parents, if there be two, have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and a growing violence which erupts not only politically, but everywhere.
  • Above all, my Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy… But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another.



“Life is short, the art is long, opportunity fleeting; experiment hazardous, judgment difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendance, and externals cooperate.Hippocrates



“In the nighttime of all beings,

The self-controlled man is awake;

that time when beings are awake

 is nighttime for the seeing sage.”

-Bhagavad Gita



“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether the station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”  – Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

  • As Aristotle long ago noted, history tells us what happened, poetry what might.


Of the Inconsistency of Our Actions from Essays by Michel de Montaigne

  • Those who make a practice of comparing human actions are never so perplexed as when they try to see them as a whole and in the same light; for they commonly contradict each other so strangely that it seems impossible that they have come from the same shop.
  • …even good authors are wrong to insist on fashioning a consistent and solid fabric out of us. They choose one general characteristic and go and arrange and interpret all a man’s actions to fit their picture; and if they cannot twist them enough, they go and set them down to dissimulation.
  • Nothing is harder for me than to believe in men’s consistency, nothing easier than to believe in their inconsistency. He who would judge them in detail and distinctly, bit by bit, would more often hit upon the truth.
  • …the beginning of all virtue is consultation and deliberation; and the end and perfection, consistency.
  • We float between different states of mind; we wish nothing freely, nothing absolutely, nothing constantly. If any man could prescribe and establish definite laws and a definite organization in his head, we should see shining throughout his life and evenness of habits, and order, an infallible relation between his principles and his practice.
  • That man whom you saw so adventurous yesterday, do not think it’s strange to find him just as cowardly today: either anger, or necessity, or company, or wine, or the sound of a trumpet, had put his heart in his belly. His was a courage formed not by reason, but by one of these circumstances; it is no wonder if he has now been made different by other, contrary circumstances.
  • If I speak of myself in different ways, that is because I look at myself in different ways. All contradictions may be found in me by some twist and in some fashion. Bashful, insolent; chaste, lascivious; talkative, taciturn; tough, delicate; clever, stupid; surly, affable; lying, truthful; alerted, ignorant; liberal, miserly, and prodigal: all this I see in myself to some extent or according to how I turn; and whoever studies himself really attentively finds in himself, yes, even in his judgment, this gyration and discord. I have nothing to say about myself absolutely, simply, and solidly, without confusion and without mixture, or in one word.
  • … one courageous deed must not be taken to prove a man valiant; a man who was really valiant would be so always and on all occasions. If valor were a habit of virtue and not a sally, it would make a man equally resolute in any contingency, the same alone as in company, the same in single combat as in battle; for whatever they say, there is not one valor for the pavement and another for the camp.
  • Our actions are nothing but a patchwork- they despise pleasure, but are too cowardly in pain; they are indifferent to glory, but infamy breaks their spirit – and we want to gain honor under false colors. Virtue will not be followed except for her own sake; and if we sometimes borrow her mask for some other purpose, she probably snatches it from our face…That is why to judge a man, we must follow his traces long and carefully.
  • We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.
  • …a sound intellect will refuse to judge men simply by their outward actions; we must probe the inside and discover what springs set men in motion.


American Everyman: Portrait of Warren Buffett from Atlantic Monthly by Walter Kirn

  • He sits tight. He keeps his head while others are losing theirs, and then he moves in, if he wishes, and buys those heads (meaning large blocks of stock or entire companies) at an advantageous price. And then he keeps them. He rolls them into Berkshire Hathaway’s almost comically diverse portfolio and watches his wealth, and that of his shareholders, grow and grow. He watches it grow while the fortunes of other investors – more excitable types with more fashionable holdings, which they tend to think about selling the moment they buy them – rise and fall in gyrate and go sideways and eventually, and in all too many cases, are ground down between the twin millstones of fear and greed.
  • When things look up, he doesn’t celebrate, and when things look down, he’s not surprised – that’s the pose, at least. The truth, we suspect, is that such a cautious outlook is a luxury of the financially untouchable, and that Buffett fully understands this.
  • By calling himself “your Chairman” in the reports, by endlessly dissecting his own investment mistakes even when they’ve done his firm no damage, and by constantly pointing up the unattractiveness of the stock that accounts for his stupendous $40 billion net worth, Buffett is using a form of show-and-tell – exaggerated, dramatic, humorous – to teach lessons about humility, skepticism, and other qualities that he believes are crucial to profitable long-term investing.
  • For Buffett, the ideal corporate leader is someone who grabs hold of his own bootstraps and never stops pulling up, no matter how far he rises.
  • “Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money.”
  • … investing success is a matter not of intelligence, social position, or inside information but of simple common sense and psychological self-control – an encouraging message for the average person, and perhaps the best reason for Buffett’s popularity with the aspiring middle class. Suppressing emotion is the key to wealth, he preaches; The dull and the steadfast will inherit the earth from the fancy and neurotic.
  • All the traits that have earned him tens of billions – his long term-outlook, his midwestern probity, his practice of buying on the dips and closing his checkbook during the advances, his total lack of interest in the Next Big Thing, and, most important, his belief that the market is just a running opinion poll that prices stocks by assigning the same way to whims, hallucinations, and wild guesses as it does to rational judgments…



“Now my charms are o’erthrown, And what strength I have is mine own…” – Prospero, The Tempest

  • Whatever the scope of one’s authority and the sphere of one’s responsibility, the rhythms, and requirements of leadership, acquiring an almost physiological dimension, can grow to define a leader. As a result, contemplating the drift of life in their absence can seem daunting to even the most self-aware among us.
  • Whether negotiated with grace and elegance or mightily resisted, whether the occasion for rewarding reflection or debilitating crisis, the passage from office, authority, and power into a world unbounded by an explicit charter or an urgent, all-encompassing mission can prove as challenging as the practice of leadership itself.