Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tea Party Rejoice - Rick Channels Patrick Henry

When candidate Rick Santorum said he "'almost threw up' when he read John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech on the separation of church and state," my ears pricked up. Not because I want to discuss, support or trash any candidate, but because he was talking about a speech I remember rather fondly.

According to the Washington Post:
“Mr. Santorum said Kennedy was arguing that 'faith is not allowed in the public square'...
But Mr. Kennedy wasn’t telling people of faith to stay out of public life. He was restating the constitutional principle that has helped make America a great and resilient country: No faith should be able to dictate government policy, and government shouldn’t dictate theology to any faith.”

Tax to Support Christian Teachers

My thoughts immediately returned not to the Kennedy speech of 1960 (responding to accusations that as a Catholic he would consult the Vatican for his policy decisions) but to Virginia in 1784.

In that critical year, after the success of the American Revolution, James Madison was a delegate to the Virginia Assembly and looking forward to a session of modernizing the laws of the state left over from the colonial period. Instead he was confronted almost immediately with an attempt with "a torrent of eloquence from Patrick Henry…to support 'teachers of the Christian religion' by a general tax." Madison was both surprised and appalled.  "Madison thought it 'obnoxious on account of its dishonorable principle and dangerous tendency.'"

Important men such as George Washington, John Marshall, and others as well as Patrick Henry believed the morals of the state were in decline and believed religion had a positive influence on people. In fact, Madison himself was a religious man and member of a church. His horror at the proposed tax was not from distaste for religion. He argued the tax "would neither make religion more vital nor cure the alleged 'moral decay' in Virginia. It would…violate the natural right to liberty of conscience and involve the state in questions of heresy and orthodoxy entirely outside its province."

Madison, the master politician, supported another bill as a delaying tactic and then supported Patrick Henry’s bid for governor, getting him out of the legislature where he had amassed huge power.

Then Madison went to work, gathering every bit of available information, every book, every tract, and every ounce of data and digesting it. The result was his classic Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments. He used it as a petition to gain support against the bill. His 15 points brilliantly argue for the complete separation of church and state.

 Beating Patrick Henry

At the fall 1785 meeting of the Virginia Assembly, Madison was victorious.

The assessment bill of the previous session died silently and Madison quickly proposed adoption of Jefferson’s eloquent 'Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom.' After its enactment, Madison wrote its author that, 'I flatter myself [we] have in this country extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.' Of all his accomplishments as a legislator, Madison took greatest pleasure and pride in this victory.
In fact, religious liberty stands out as the one subject upon which Madison took an extreme, absolute, undeviating position throughout his life. The phrases he proposed for the first amendment to the federal Constitution–-'the full and equal rights of conscience [shall not] be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed,' and 'no State shall violate the equal rights of conscience'—were less equivocal than the language final adopted.

In the Memorial he asserted the rights of both believers and nonbelievers. He later opposed paying for a congressional or military chaplain or presidential proclamations on religious holidays.

Religious liberty, Madison wrote, ought to be defined 'as distinctly as words can admit, and the limits to [religious laws] established with as much solemnity as the forms of legislation express…Every provision for [such laws] short of this principle, will be found to leave crevices at least through which bigotry may introduce persecution; a monster feeding and thriving on its own venom, gradually swells to a size and strength overwhelming all laws human and define.'...complete separation of church and state saved the church from the inevitable corrupting influence of civil authority.
 Original Intent

In my snarky title to this blog I refer to the tea party folks who want to "return to the US Constitution." They often support an ‘originalist’ approach. It’s hard to get more original than James Madison. He was part of a conspiracy to call the Constitutional Convention in 1787, drafted the Virginia Plan kicking off the debates, defeated Patrick Henry’s attempts to stop the new Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, and drafted the Bill of Rights and pushed through it the first Congress.

Over time, his views shifted on other aspects of his creations but never on the separation of Church and State. Of course, he did pay a certain political price at the time. Payback is as much a part of politics in the 18th century as it is today. Under the new Constitution, Senators were appointed by the Governor. Governor Henry blocked Madison’s nomination to the new upper house. He also saw to the gerrymandering of Madison's home congressional district in an attempt to stop him there and supported his opponent, James Monroe. Madison was not thwarted and went into the first Congress as George Washington’s whip to get the president’s agenda through the lower house.

There is no doubt that in the late 18th century there were those who would blur the lines between religion and republican government. However, the victors at the state and federal level, the founders and framers who shaped the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the new government, where staunchly in the camp that Kennedy reiterated.

Whether Mr. Santorum wins or loses is not the point.
Does the Constitution’s wall of separation between church and state stand or fall.
Do we stand with Madison or Henry?

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© Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc.


1-Washington Post

2-All quotes about Madison: Ralph Ketcham, James Madison, University of Virginia, 1990, pages 162-168.

I NEED YOUR HELP: I’m beginning research for my new book on the influence of leaders on their organizations (Washington’s Shadow) and I’m interested in your experiences or ideas for case studies. Drop me a note: 

Learn more about "Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers" (  and visit our Author Page on Amazon. ( )

Sign up for our Conventional Wisdom blog and read this and other leadership stories and tips. 

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, Ph.D., President
Advantage Leadership, Inc.
1835 NE Miami Gardens Drive, Suite 152
North Miami Beach, FL 33179

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Washington casts a long shadow... Do you?

The US celebrated President's Day this week with the usual patriotic events – giant sales at the malls. If you were out in the crush of traffic or just enjoying a day off from work it was easy to forget the holiday put together former February birthday celebrations for Presidents Abe Lincoln and George Washington. Today the holiday has become a generic occasion to honor all the US presidents…including the ubiquitous Abe and George ads hawking flat screen TVs and the latest fashions.

About once a decade, C-SPAN conducts a survey amonghistorians and presidential experts and ranks all the presidents. The 2009 survey findings are relevant and interesting for anyone anywhere who is a leader. Scholars use these leadership traits to rank the presidents:
  • Public Persuasion
  • Crisis Leadership
  • Economic Management
  • Moral Authority
  • International Relations
  • Administrative Skills
  • Relations with Congress
  • Vision/Setting An Agenda
  • Pursued Equal Justice For All
  • Performance Within Context of Times
Moving from the political to the organizational realm, you might want to exchange Relations with Congress for something like Relations with Stakeholders and you might want to add some other topics. For the most part, these are a good list of critical leadership traits.

How would you stack up? 

Would you be able to come close to the sort of scores George Washington racks up survey after survey? Washington's stature has grown and shrunk over the years. In his own time he was worshiped and vilified. Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin commented recently that she would find it difficult to really get to know him and he has certainly eluded most biographers.

Yet Washington was a personification of the American dream of the self-made man. As a teenager he began jotting down advice about how to conduct himself. He did not have the formal education of many of the other founders and often felt he lacked their polish with language. He engaged Alexander Hamilton and James Madison as ghost writers to turn his thoughts into the acceptable style of the day.

Yet, when army officers threatened rebellion in the 1783 Newburgh Conspiracy, he was eloquent enough on his own. Richard Norton Smith describes it this way…

None of this had much effect until the general retrieved from his pocket a congressional message promising early redress of legitimate complaints. He fumbled with the paper for a few seconds, then reached again into his coat to fetch a pair of eyeglasses. Begging the indulgence of his men, he explained to a stunned audience, "I have already grown gray in the service of my country. I am now going blind." Instantly, rebellion melted into tears.

Examine the areas where Washington rated number 1 with the scholars:
Economic Management
Moral Authority
International Relations
Administrative Skills
Are any of these areas where you excel? The international relations category may not be germane if your organization is not working globally. However, the other three are critical for any successful leader whom we would want to follow.

Economic management: Whether for-profit or not, in today’s economic climate, you must manage the finances of the organization prudently. You must invest in areas that will help you continue to grow and develop while eliminating inefficiency and eliminating unnecessary expenses.

Moral Authority: This is the essence of the Leader’s shadow. Who are you as a person? Do you perform with integrity? Are you trustworthy? Reliable? Do you care about people? Do you inspire people to be their best selves?

Administrative Skills: Can you manage people, processes, and priorities? Do you delegate, motivate, and coach people? Do you turn vision and mission into reality? Do you create a working environment where employees are fully engaged?

I suggest you spend a little time looking through the lists and see where your favorites (and not so favorites) score on each of the issues. Try to remove your ideological and political blinders and consider each president in his leadership role. No matter what country you call home, these attributes make a good checklist for leadership. What can you learn from them? How would your employees or peers rate you?

What shadow are you casting?

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© Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc.

(note: quote from Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation. Richard Norton Smith. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.)

I NEED YOUR HELP: I'm beginning research for my new book on the influence of leaders on their organizations (Washington's Shadow) and I'm interested in your experiences or ideas for case studies. Drop me a note:  

Learn more about Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers (  and visit our Author Page on Amazon. ( )

Sign up for our Conventional Wisdom blog and read this and other leadership stories and tips.  

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, Ph.D., President
Advantage Leadership, Inc.
1835 NE Miami Gardens Drive, Suite 152
North Miami Beach, FL 33179

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why does Asia keep eating US lunch?

I've just returned from a wonderful week working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you've been there, you know its charms...if not, put it on your bucket list. My trip there was not just to revisit a favorite city or to purchase some lovely batik paintings from 2 artists I met there in 2009 or to eat too much great food or even to enjoy the 100+ bear statues contributed by every country in the world.

No, I was there to work with 14 CIOs and IT executives representing Malaysia's major economic sectors; banking and finance, oil and gas, government. These 5 men and 9 women were there to learn how to initiate and implement successful major changes in their companies. (The vast majority of such initiatives fail primarily because folks focus on technology and not on culture and people.)

These leaders were sent by their companies to make sure they were growing and developing their capabilities. And this is where the lunch eating comes in...Their companies were growing and developing their capabilities.

Meanwhile back in the States and Europe the usual scenario is continuing to play out...tough economy? Training and travel are the first things to go in the corporate budget...after all, they are overhead. Forget all the data about the real ROI for investing in training and professional conferences, just cut them out and save a couple of bucks.

I spent most of November in Korea, China, and Singapore -- economies are booming -- just walk down the street and feel the energy -- and seminars are also full of people eager to learn to enhance their management skills.

Oh, and another any public seminar or even those conducted for companies on site, people end up not showing at the last minute - busy or boss told them they had to stay and work on a project. In all 4 3-day seminars, only 2 partial absentees. And one more thing, people in the US always leave early, especially the last day. They blow off the last half day. In Asia (where I've been working since 1996) they want you to go beyond the scheduled end time...even on the last day.

The point I'm trying to make is this: Asian companies and governments are investing in their people. They are promoting growth and development. They're bringing in external experts and exposing employees to the best practices in the market place. They understand they must expand their company cultures and embrace change and encourage innovation and creativity. They know if you want people to "do more with less" you must train them and support them to do it.

In the US the opposite is the norm.

When I was first beginning my career, my department head was asked to train us on the latest management practices and technology. His response? "Why train 'em, they'll only leave!" Well, of course people did leave...because they couldn't get any training and couldn't develop.

Lunch anyone?

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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.
The founding fathers were all great believers in are today's strategic leaders
Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers