Thursday, May 27, 2010

223 years -- good enough track record?

223 years ago in May 1787, the U.S. Constitutional Convention opened on May 25 and began its debates. They were wrestling with how to form an effective republican government. They were responding to crises of huge proportions; a national legislature unable to act because of deep divisions, massive government debt, widespread foreclosures, foreign enemies prepared to strike, and extensive domestic strife.

Sound familiar?

On May 29, Edmund Randolph put forth the Virginia Plan -- authored by James Madison -- as an outline for the constitutional debates. Deliberations raged for four long months in the Philadelphia heat. At the end the produced the U.S. Constitution that was ratified the following year after extensive, rancorous debate in state ratifying conventions. This historic document is a strategic plan that has stood the test of time.

A few years ago, author David McCullough gave a speech at a leadership seminar entitled, "Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are." In it he quoted Daniel Boorstin, the late Librarian of Congress, saying 'trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.' McCullough continued, "We're raising a lot of cut flowers and trying to plant them...One of the truths of that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened...We just don't know how things are going to turn out for us, they [the revolutionary generation] didn't either...[John Adams in a letter to his wife wrote,] 'We can't guarantee success in this war, but we can do something better. We can deserve it.' Think how different that is from the attitude today when all that matters is success."

McCullough goes on to decry our lack of knowledge, much less understanding, of history and concludes, "History isn't just something that ought to be taught...or encouraged because it's going to make us a better citizen." [It will make us a better citizen, a more thoughtful and understanding human being, and will cause us to behave better.] History "should be taught for pleasure: The pleasure of history, like art or music or literature, consists of an expansion of the experience of being alive, which is what education is largely about."

What pleasure, guidance or understanding can you gain from the history of the making of the U.S. Constitution? What pragmatic lessons are there for your leadership efforts? According to many contemporary executives, there is a lot to learn. I interviewed 20 of them as well as poured over the records of the Constitutional Convention. I discovered the common strategic approaches of historic and modern leaders as they work to deserve success.

Here's what former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had to say:

Thank you for sharing with me your new book Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. Your research into the planning sessions of the Constitutional Convention and the struggles that our framers of the Constitution faced has been cleverly weaved into the strategies of modern business. I am pleased to have your book.

I have been persuaded to reopen a "secret" webpage for a limited time so you can take advantage of a special offer and improve your own performance and learn from these historic and modern mentors. I did it myself. The very process of writing the book was a major learning experience. The insights I gained and applied helped me survive the economic downturn and thrive now that things are improving. You can do the same.
Discover your own conventional wisdom... Click here for the special offer.

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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, Ph.D., President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.

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