Nancy F. Koehn, an authority on entrepreneurial history, is the James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Koehn's research focuses on leading in turbulent times and the social and economic impact of entrepreneurship.
She is currently working on a book about the most important leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln and another on social entrepreneurs. Her upcoming book, The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times (2009), sketches some of the most important people and moments from the last 150 years of U.S. business history. Koehn's most recent book, Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell (2001) examined six entrepreneurial visionaries who have created powerful brands and best-of-class companies in moments of great change.
Koehn consults with many companies on a range of issues including leadership development, effective brand stewardship, and customer relationship management.
Question: What is America's place in the world?
Nancy Koehn: I go back to a couple of major chords, if you will, in the symphony playing in my head. One is this country, America, as the most powerful economic and military power in the world, it's simply not picking up the gauntlet. The gauntlet of leadership; the gauntlet of responsibility; the gauntlet of diplomacy; the gauntlet of lighting the way for a large number of countries trying to find their way toward industrialization Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and in many cases toward democracy … or towards some kind of democratic form of government. And the gauntlet was dropped, and you know unlike Henry V's soldier in the fourth act of the play, we're not picking it up. Not as a people, and not in terms of our political leadership. So I sigh in a kind of Jovian way every day about that. Because when you're a historian who has looked at as many empires rise and fall as I have over 20 years, you see an inflection point there for this country. You see the cost of that.
Recorded On: 6/12/07
Lincoln's emotional awareness, that kind of explicit, reflective, conversation with himself is how he used all the adverse classrooms, from his mother’s death when he was nine to all those lost elections, to...