What Was So Great About Catherine the Great?

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?

Finding the Needle in the Office

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/iqoncept

What needle?

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?

Notes on Creativity and Success from Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the bestselling author of the Outlander series and the Lord John novels. (Outlander fans, she is currently working on the eighth of the series Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. The latest Lord John novel was recently released.) She is a fascinating person with a diverse background.  I’ve known Diana for a few years and, when I visited Scottsdale, I interviewed her about her insights on her successful writing career. I quickly realized that some of her suggestions are applicable not just for authors, but also for all of us.  Here are a few success tips that I gleaned from Diana Gabaldon:

Room for One More

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/azndc.

Hanging in the family room of my childhood home was a needlepoint that my oldest sister carefully crafted. It was a picture of eight owls on a tree limb, and underneath had the words “there’s always room for one more.” That saying was almost a family mission statement. My parents decided to open the family home to anyone who had a need. Some people would live with us for years and became as close as another sibling. Others would stay a night or two, needing help with a problem or a place to sleep. I have many interesting stories and experiences from this unique way to grow up. I learned more about people and perspective than I could have imagined. I learned to respect individuals as they were. The problem that brought someone to our doorstep didn’t define them, and neither did their race or religion.