Not too long ago, a major power outage affected millions of people in Arizona, California and Mexico. Two nuclear reactors were temporarily shut down. Traffic backed up for miles all over the area. Cars collided as frustrated drivers navigated without traffic signals. Airports were shut down, stranding passengers. Happening on an incredibly hot, triple-digit-temperature September day, the power outage knocked out much needed air conditioning. It left people stuck in elevators. Even the outdoors was affected. San Diego beaches were closed when almost two million gallons of raw sewage spilled, a result of the water pumps failure at the regional station. The failure continued to wreak havoc days after it was resolved.
Catherine the Great was by any definition a political success story. Baptized Sophia Augusta Frederica, she rose from a young German girl to later take the name of Catherine II and become the most powerful woman in the world. Moving to Russia at just fourteen years old, with no knowledge of the language and no hereditary claim to the throne, she later ascended to power in a coup. The people of Russia loved her and she became one of the greatest benevolent despots ever known.
How she achieved such power is a fascinating study in leadership whether you agree with her methods or not. Robert K. Massie now chronicles her extraordinary life in his new book, Catherine the Great. Massie is a superlative author, historian and biographer. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Peter the Great: His Life and World. His many books are loved for his ability to bring his characters to life.
What were some of the personal qualities serving Catherine’s goals?
The expression “moving the needle” first appeared in England during the industrial revolution. The reference was to gauges on steam engines. During World War II, it became a more common term in reference to aviation gauges. In business today it’s synonymous with making progress.
I’ve seen three major types of people in business. One person can describe the needle, the other can move the needle, and rarely someone can do both. What do I mean?
One of the most thoughtful voices on transformative challenges and disruptive change is Geoffrey Moore. His books are must-reading in business schools, but are applicable to anyone seeking significant growth or change. I’ve spoken on the topic of personal and industry change at various conferences. After one of my speeches, someone connected me to Geoff. I enjoyed meeting him since all of his books are in my private library at home: Crossing the Chasm, Inside the Tornado, The Gorilla Game, Living on the Fault Line, and Dealing with Darwin.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has written two memoirs of her life. Read Extraordinary, Ordinary People and you will feel like you really know her personally. She writes about her parents’ unconditional love and the values that helped her grow into a polished diplomat. Read her latest memoir, No Higher Honor, about her time serving in the Bush administration and you will follow her experiences from National Security Advisor to Secretary of State in the aftermath of 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.