Former U.S. President George W. Bush was one of the keynote speakers at Pershing's INSITE 2011 conference I attended this week in Hollywood, Fla. Here are a few lessons for advisors I gathered:
- "If you listen to other people and listen to what they say to you, you can get a lot of insights." When Vladimir Putin came to visit Bush at the White House, Putin made a comment about how his dog was bigger than Bush's. George learned a valuable lesson there about how to deal with Russia.
- If you're the head of an organization and there's a crisis, "Project calm." This is what Bush tried to do following the 9/11 attacks and the start of the financial crisis. His take on 9/11: the first plane was likely an accident; the second plane was an attack; and the third was "a declaration of war."
- To succeed, a leader of an organization needs clearly stated principles that other leaders on your team cannot change. "Self pity is not a leadership trait, and it's unbecoming."
- In selecting members of your team, find people who know what you don't know. This involves some self examination to fill voids. Team members should believe in the same principles and resist the temptation to tell the leader that he/she looks beautiful. Other things to look for: loyalty, sense of humor, and access to power. "Access to power gives people a sense of participation."
Although Bush blatantly took the opportunity at the beginning of his speech to plug his book, his speech was littered with very poignant anecdotes from his time as president, and it was interesting to get an inside look into some of those high-profile events. And in a room full of Wall Streeters, he seemed to try to be nice: "I wouldn't call me anti-Wall Street. I'd call me a west Texas skeptic!"