Leadership Lesson: How to Turn a Liability into an Asset

Ken Adelman: It certainly is that it . . . two overall that we even talked about this morning as we did a session here for young scholars on this . . . that what comes out of Henry V is that Henry had this genius at leadership of firstly bringing the future into the present. He paints the picture of how he wants the world to work, or this situation to work, or this condition to work, or this relationship to work. He paints it out there, and then he works backwards to make it happen. So bring the future into the present is the first thing. And secondly, he has a genius approach of looking at what the assets of the French are – because he was in the ________ – and turning all their assets into liabilities. And taking his own liabilities where he’s weak, and turning them into assets. And that is something that businesses have now started to use. And it really comes out of Shakespeare in a genius way.

I’ll give you one simple example. The 3M Company had a very big project to have a new kind of glue. And the glue worked very poorly. It didn’t really stick. It kind of stuck, but it wasn’t a real good glue. And they turned that liability – because they’d spent millions of dollars on it – into a great asset, which was the Post-It Notes. And so . . . but lots of companies have done that in lots of places, and it’s worked very well.

Recorded on: 7/2/07


Just like great leaders in Shakespearean dramas are able to turn liabilities into assets, companies like 3M were able to transform a liability--glue that didn't stick so well--into an asset: Post-It Notes.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

The culprit of increased depression among teens? Smartphones, new research suggests.

A new study, led by psychologist Jean Twenge, points to the screen as the problem.

A teenager eyes her smartphone as people enjoy a warm day on the day of silence, one day prior to the presidential elections, when candidates and political parties are not allowed to voice their political meaning on April 14, 2018 in Kotor, Montenegro. Citizens from Montenegro, the youngest NATO member, will vote for a new president on Sunday 15 2018. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • In a new study, adolescents and young adults are experiencing increased rates of depression and suicide attempts.
  • The data cover the years 2005–2017, tracking perfectly with the introduction of the iPhone and widespread dissemination of smartphones.
  • Interestingly, the highest increase in depressive incidents was among individuals in the top income bracket.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less