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 should be the major issues of the 2008 Election?
Nancy Koehn: In the next presidential election, I think we should be talking about income inequality. John Edwards is talking about it. The Sunday Times this week had a front page story about it in the magazine. It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal that has all kinds of subtle and mostly insidious effects. As a side, we’ve ignored it for 20 years. It’s time to look at it. I think we need to talk about the usual list. I think healthcare matters a great deal. I think education matters as much. But I think there’s one other issue that isn’t yet really on the docket in any kind of way with any kind of grip whatsoever. And that’s this larger issue about what constitutes our lives as Americans. So I spoke earlier about family and the importance of people, you know, living with … with a healthy and nurtured family. Now I’m talking … And I think that’s really important. And with the exception of family values and … The unsheathed ambition of that plan of the far right’s platform. The unsheathed ambition of that plan. The exception to that … There’s been very little discussion about what Americans’ lives with their children, in their communities, in their workplaces, in their homes are like. And I hearken back … And when I say that I hearken back to Lincoln who, in the midst of the Civil War could relate the turbulence of the war and all that that stirred up to what it meant to be an American individually, and what it meant for the future of the country. And so I would like to see in the presidential election a leader unafraid to take on the stuff of our lives with integrity, and dignity, and courage; and to talk about how that relates to where America needs to be going.
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...