Dan Rather on Leadership

A Life in the News

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Rather on stage in New York.  It was a surreal moment for me.  After all, I grew up watching the network news trio of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.  I had watched Dan Rather interview world leaders.  Tough interviews.  Now I would be interviewing him about his life, which he has chronicled in Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, a book I couldn’t put down.  And that’s a good thing because I read it several times along with everything else I could about Dan Rather before our interview.  I always prepare, but I definitely stepped it up knowing I was interviewing one of the world’s most prominent news anchors.

Years ago, I had casually met him once before in a hotel in Dallas.  He was covering a story, and I was attending a Board meeting.  I found myself in the elevator with the news legend.  We only spoke a few words and we were both off running in different directions.  I recalled his personal warmth but also could sense his intensity.

Before our on stage interview, we were to meet in the little green room backstage.  I was waiting when I heard his trademark baritone voice through the curtain.  He was very personable, humble and focused on everyone else.  At 80, he is as sharp as ever.  We started talking and I wish I had every minute on tape.  His firsthand account of modern history is riveting.  I asked him if we could sit down and turn on the camera for a few minutes before we jumped on stage.  He agreed.

Dan Rather worked for CBS for 44 years and anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 of those years.  At the same time, he appeared on 48 Hours and 60 Minutes II.  He currently anchors Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV.  Dan Rather has won numerous Emmy Awards for broadcast journalism and the Peabody Award.

In this backstage eleven-minute interview, we talked about the story that had the biggest impact on him, whether work-life balance was possible, how having rheumatic fever as a child shaped him, and finally his views on journalism today.

I started our talk with the discussion on the subject of leadership.  Having personally known so many presidents and world leaders, what would Dan Rather say were the characteristics of a leader?

Make an Appointment with Yourself

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Getting any time by myself seems to be impossible.  The pressures are just always there.  I never have an empty plate.  I never think, “What will I do today?”  My to-do lists are never ending.

To get that time, I have finally realized that I need to make an appointment with myself.  I have to get away.  When I do, I find that my performance everywhere goes up.

Here are 7 Steps for An Effective Appointment with yourself:

1.  Make an appointment with yourself.  Put it on the calendar and block the time.

2.  Have a specific goal in mind.  When you review your calendar for the upcoming week, your mind takes note of that upcoming appointment.  If you have a goal in mind, your subconscious begins to work on it for you.

Triathlete Chrissie Wellington on Achieving Your Goals

Chrissie Wellington is the greatest female endurance athlete on the planet.  She has won all thirteen Ironman competitions she has entered and four World Championships.  She smashes through world records with a margin that is so large it resets the definition of what is possible.

Her book A Life Without Limits isn’t only a book for sports enthusiasts and triathletes.  It’s written for anyone with the desire to achieve big goals.  Chrissie’s story of getting to the top of the Ironman competition is one sure to inspire everyone.

It doesn’t matter where you start.

Chrissie grew up liking sports, but her focus was more on her studies.

Her unlikely rise to the top of the sporting world started in her first job.  As what?

A government bureaucrat focused on international development.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Image courtesy of istockphoto/wakila

Clay Christensen is one of the world’s authorities on disruptive innovation.  His book The Innovator’s Dilemma won the Global Business Book Award for the Best Business Book of the Year in 1997, and it went on to be one of the top selling business books for years.  Recently, Professor Christensen teamed up with a former student, James Allworth and the editor of the Harvard Business Review, Karen Dillon to write How Will You Measure Your Life?  It’s about applying business principles to create a better life.

You end your courses—and began this book—with a set of three fundamental “How can I be sure that…” questions.  Can you give us some background of how your thinking led to these three specific questions?

Clay: The questions actually emerged from two of my experiences at Harvard Business School. The first was as a result of being a student here. Every five years, the school hosts reunions and it’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends. At our first reunion — five years out from graduation — everyone seemed to be so successful, prosperous and happy: the promise of our years at school seemed destined to pay off. But at subsequent reunions, things started to change. Cracks in that promise started to become apparent.

Now, I don’t want to mislead you — many of my classmates have gone on to incredible successes, have happy families and have raised wonderful children. But more of us than I would have hoped seemed to have made choices that haven’t led us to those outcomes. That led to the questions: how can I be sure that I find happiness in my career, find happiness in my relationships, and be sure that I live a life of integrity? Those seemed to be the questions that some of us had either never thought to ask, or had lost track of.

Now, with that as context, the second source was the class that I teach today at the Harvard Business School. Using the business theory that we’ve gone through all semester, I’ve enlisted my students to help answer—both for my benefit, and for theirs—the questions that so many of my classmates seemed to have lost track of.

Andy Andrews on Why Truth Matters

One of my favorite authors is Andy Andrews, who always writes things from a very different perspective as anyone else.  I have all of his books, and am always interested in his point of view.

One of his latest books is called How Do You Kill 11 Million People?  I have to admit that I would have passed by the book if it weren’t for the author.

The new book is the story of the holocaust, but unlike anything you’ve ever read.  It’s also a very small book, which you can read in about fifteen or so minutes.  But you will find that you are thinking about it for days afterward.  It’s a book that just makes you give it to someone else and say, “Read this.  I want to talk about it with you.”

The story is basically a question about how millions of people were killed by Hitler and the Nazis.  Most of the time, they boarded trains with little resistance.  Trains heading to concentration camps.  I’ve heard directly from Holocaust survivors the horrors involved.  Most of us have read books and seen movies depicting the events.

But I don’t know of anyone else who ever asked “Why?  Why did they board the trains without fighting back?”