Leadership Lesson: How to Turn a Liability into an Asset
Ken Adelman is currently vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which conducts executive training through leadership lessons from Shakespeare. Ambassador Adelman began teaching Shakespeare in 1977 at Georgetown University, and later with honors students at George Washington University.
During the Reagan Administration, Ken Adelman was an Ambassador to the United Nations and then Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, accompanying President Reagan on his superpower summits with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Adelman was a philosophy major at Grinnell College and then attended Georgetown University, where he received a Masters in Foreign Service Studies and Doctorate in Political Theory.
He is the author of five books -- including co-author of Shakespeare in Charge -- and hundreds of articles, was for 20 years national editor of Washingtonian magazine, and for six years a member of the Defense Policy Board.
While living in Africa from 1972 to 1975, Adelman translated for Mohammed Ali during “The Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship fight in Zaire, and participated in the Zaire River Expedition, venturing down the Congo River on the 100th Anniversary of Stanley’s exploration.
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.
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