Skip to comments.'Rumsfeld's Rules' Worked For Him
Posted on 04/29/2002 8:04:43 AM PDT by LavaDog
Donald Rumsfeld has always been a man on a mission, and he surely got one handed to him on Sept. 11.
The 69-year-old secretary of Defense rules the "Rummy Show," as his press briefings have become known to TV viewers. He has been the face and voice of the war on terrorism.
Rumsfeld long has been articulate about leadership. He has developed a list of 100-plus insights on how to thrive in politics, business and the world at large, called Rumsfeld's Rules.
He started writing the rules in the mid-1970s when he took on the job as head of the presidential transition team for Gerald Ford. (The rules are posted online at: www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2001/rumsfeldsrules.pdf.)
In The Rumsfeld Way, Jeffrey Krames, vice president and editor-in-chief of McGraw-Hill's trade division, writes about the leadership ways of this prickly, gruff guy who has spent four decades in public and private life trying to make a difference.
"The strength that matters most is not the strength of arms, but the strength of character; character expressed in service to something larger than ourselves," Rumsfeld is quoted as saying.
There's scant biographical data beyond where he was born Chicago, July 9, 1932. We find out he went to Princeton (class of 1954), where wrestling and football were his fortes.
There is nothing to learn about his family (he's married with three children and is a grandfather) or his hobbies (if any).
The mission here is to tell what this tough backroom operator and aging politician has to reveal about being a leader in these times. The book does this.
Chapters end with a sum of the "Rumsfeld Way." You'll find such thoughts as: "Articulate a vision. Don't coast; there isn't a moment to lose."
We learn that Rumsfeld is a true Washington insider, having served as a congressman and as a secretary of Defense and chief of staff in the Ford White House. He then went into the private sector at pharmaceutical maker G.D. Searle in Illinois, a firm that was on a downward spiral.
He championed the artificial sweetener NutraSweet and led a turnaround in the company's fortunes.
His reputation was as the ax man. At Searle, he was merciless in trimming "what he perceived to be deadwood," Krames writes. He'd reportedly fire employees by calling them at home or even paging them in airports.
He's a worker bee, at the office by 6:30 a.m. and working 14-hour days without hesitation.
When a part of the Pentagon was destroyed on Sept. 11, he rushed straight from his office to the scene, through rubble and burning debris.
Henry Kissinger once thought of Rumsfeld as a "formidable new arrival" at the White House in the 1970s.
His opinion now: "I don't consider being ruthless incompatible with being a great statesman."
Rumsfeld prides himself on being outspoken and blunt.
"Be yourself," he encourages others. "Speak your mind, even if it makes other people uncomfortable."
Rumsfeld, by this account, is a pragmatic, charismatic and determined leader who persists at all costs. The lessons here are worth learning.
One thing readers will come away with, beyond the leadership message, is that the world of Washington politics is amazingly interwoven. For example: Vice President Cheney was his protégé in the White House during the Ford administration.
You won't leave this book feeling that you have any sense of Rumsfeld in a personal way. But the hundreds of books, articles and speeches that Krames researched give readers an intimate, clear picture of how Rumsfeld acts in public and, lately, with the media.
Rumsfeld follows his own counsel when dealing with the press and it seems to work:
"Don't be afraid to say, 'I don't know' and use humor in tough times."
Seems he's pretty good at pleasing them, keeping them feeling good about themselves.
It's hard to do.
He's got a real gift, I think.
Jeffrey Krames writes about the Defense secretary's leadership style in The Rumsfeld Way.
Why waste their time coming into work?