Power: The Lessons of Leadership

Once I have the data, I like hearing at least two viewpoints aggressively advocated. I grew up on the case method in law school and business school, where people are arguing different views. If a cabinet secretary comes in with a consensus view, and there’s no opposition, I refuse to proceed. I insist on there being an opposition view. And sometimes, if other people can’t supply one, I will.

On important issues, I also take time to sleep on it. Don’t know why it is, but it seems that the subconscious mind, and time, allows the mind to identify flaws or gaps.

The man I call my wingman is this guy named Bob White. Bob and I have worked together for a couple decades. First at Bain & Company, then Bain Capital, and then he helped me in the Olympics. He helped me in my campaign against Ted Kennedy, and he helped me again in my campaign for governor. He has no government position. He’s just a good friend. And I talk to Bob on some of the most difficult issues that I face — personnel issues, organization structure, life choices.

The most important leadership role I’ve ever had is as a father. Because if leadership is affecting the lives of others for good, in some respects, that’s where one does it in most abundance. I was well prepared by my own parents, but highly inexperienced. My children forgave my weaknesses, turned out remarkably well, and now that I have it down pat, I can spoil my grandchildren. —As told to James Burnett