Ronald Reagan on Project Leadership
Learning from other leaders in 2011
Right about now, all across the country, people are remembering Pres. Ronald Reagan and celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. As with all great leaders, and most American presidents, a love-hate relationship among the citizenry usually exists. Some love everything about the leader, while some hate everything the leader ever did or said. Most are somewhere in the middle, appreciating the positive things accomplished. In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess to being much closer to “love” when it comes to this particular figure, and you can figure that this column is colored that way.
Reagan was elected to office in 1980, and this is what the country’s economic landscape looked like: double-digit inflation, home mortgages in the high-teens, an oil crisis and a hostage crisis in the Middle East. Hey, change the mortgage rates for unemployment rates, and things look remarkably similar to today, don’t they?
The top marginal tax rate was 70 percent. Let me spell that out: seventy. What a joy it was back then, as a contractor, to take all of that risk, and then give 70 percent of my profit to the Uncle. Yikes!
Pres. Reagan cut income taxes – yet revenues to the Federal government increased substantially – something we seem to forget today. He also rebuilt the U.S. military, was a staunch supporter of the “Star Wars” missile defense idea – which ultimately resulted in the old Soviet Union giving up on the idea of world domination, and resulted in its breakup into the several republics we see now.
That’s a synopsis from my viewpoint, though I’m not really here to talk about or argue political points, but leadership style. Pres. Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator” and was effective at delivering his messages to other world leaders and to the American people.
One of his very memorable speeches occurred at the Berlin Wall. We forget that Germany was once divided (since the end of WWII) into East and West Germany, and the city of Berlin into East and West Berlin. Over the years, people from the East were shot by border guards as they attempted to reach the freedom available in the West. Reagan came to Berlin on June 12, 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate, and said:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”In fact, the Wall did come down shortly thereafter, in 1989.
On Jan. 28, 1986, most of America, including millions of schoolchildren, watched on television as the space shuttle Challenger was launched. Moments into the flight, it exploded, all seven astronauts were killed. All of America mourned. Later that evening, Pres. Reagan addressed the nation:
“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”Well before he became president, on Oct. 27, 1964, in a campaign speech he gave in support of a losing presidential candidate, he reminded us of American greatness,with this:
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”And, at a Dec. 8, 1987, joint press conference with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, when discussing the outcome of a nuclear arms limitation treaty, Reagan came right to the point:
“Trust – but verify!”Gorbachev then reminded Reagan, “You repeat that at every meeting!”
Finally, there is a take-away from today’s lesson, and it is two-fold. First, in the midst of all of the economic carnage we see today, lack of work, crew layoffs and zero-profit bids, many of us may be tempted to wonder what the use is. For many of us, business stinks right now, and this is why I urge that you take to heart the encouraging words of our 40th President. Other people have experienced misery – the same and worse – and came out of it. Our mission these days may simply be to hang in there another month, and then another, and then another.
Resolve that, especially in this crisis, regarding developers, clients, homeowners, agencies, construction managers and general contractors who ask us to “take care of” their problems by providing that which initially was never in the plans and specs, promising to see that we get paid for it in the end, remember to “Trust – but verify!”
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.