Former White House Chief of Staff, Congressman, and two-time Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld has chosen to share his “leadership lessons in business, politics, war, and life” with the rest of the world in his new book Rumsfeld’s Rules.
Speaking to an audience at the Heritage Foundation on May 23rd, Rumsfeld shared lessons learned from wrestling in high school to sitting in the Oval Office as a top aide to the president.
Rumsfeld’s Rules apply to more than those working on Capitol Hill. From the DC politicians all the way to their interns and everyone in between, all will find new, applicable lessons to learn from his new “legendary leadership guide.”
Some of the “legendary rules” from the book that Rumsfeld shared with the audience are below:
• Perseverance, effort and success: “If you try, you may lose. But you can know with absolute certainty that if you are unwilling to enter the arena in the first place, you cannot win,” Rumsfeld writes.
• Understand negotiating: “The purpose of negotiating isn’t to get an agreement,” Rumsfeld said. “It’s to get an agreement that works for you.”
• A lesson on time management: “If you’re working off your [e-mail] Inbox, you know you’re working off other peoples’ priorities. Get other people to work off your Outbox,” Rumsfeld said.
• The importance of frugality: Especially in regards to a first job, Rumsfeld advises saving the first 6 months of salary in the bank. “Don’t touch it,” he said. “Then, if a boss ever asks you to do something immoral or you don’t agree with, you can tell him to go to hell.”
• Take a walk in others’ shoes: From business deals to bargaining car prices, “Taking time to consider what the person across from you is thinking, what they want to achieve, what their goals are, what their concerns are, and what issues they face can put you in a considerably better position to achieve your own objectives,” Rumsfeld writes.
• Keep your friends close: High school and college friends are the ones who can “keep you rooted,” Rumsfeld said. “They are able to remember you in a different context and feel fully comfortable telling you you’re full of beans.”
Rumsfeld collected these lessons over time, usually on three-by-five notecards that ended up in
a shoebox until they one day became Rumsfeld’s Rules.
In fact, he still carries a notebook in his front pocket in case any new wisdom needs to be written down, as he showed the audience. And he encourages everyone to do the same.
Who knows, one day those notes could become a bestselling book.
Isabel Mittelstadt is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run jointly by Accuracy in Academia and its sister organization, Accuracy in Media.
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