Michael J. Kerrigan



In an earlier post I noted the truly great lobbyist and perhaps great leaders are skilled at building healthy relationships. The qualities of character that enable great lobbyist and leaders to build influential relationships are building blocks or habits that they have developed and nurtured over time.

Aristotle would agree as he is credited with the following quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.“ Positive psychologists like Mike Matthews, Rich Lerner and Paul Stoltz would also agree with the classic model of individual learning, that is, before we acquire any skill there are stages of learning, or competence, that we go through.

It is probably no surprise to anyone that character development entails becoming skilled at various positive habits like accountability, discipline, commitment and honesty. Everything we do requires awareness first, then learning and application, and then… Continue reading

To illustrate the sad state of leadership in corporate America, I have listed just five of the many “leaders” who seemly fail because they repeat their mistakes. Rather than having the self-awareness to learn from their failures, these flawed leaders seem to me to be arrogant, tragically stubborn and compulsively repeat their mistakes.

Jeff Immelt GE CEO whose shares have vastly underperformed the stock  market during his 16year tenure

Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial who had to pay $67.5 million in penalty and reparations

James Cayne, former CEO of Bear Stearns who appeared clueless as his company collapsed

Jerry Yang who presided over the decline of Yahoo

Tony Hayward, CEO of BP who was forced out after his part in the worst  environmental disaster in U.S. History

Your list of flawed CEOs would likely contain convicted executives of Enron such as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and… Continue reading

In a recent post I offered my view that “one can have both inspiration and insight by studying the wit and wisdom of one America’s most beloved Presidents.” Trusting we can hone our leadership skills by becoming students of the 16th President of the United States, I have excerpted below several of Lincoln’s principles from Donald Phillips, Lincoln On Leadership.


Wage only one war at a time.

Try ballots first; when ballots don’t work, use bullets.

Seize the initiative and never relinquish it.

A good leader avoids issuing orders, preferring to request, imply or make suggestions.

Be your organization’s best stump- speaker, with droll ways and dry jokes.

Choose as your chief subordinates those people who crave responsibility and take risks.

Stand with anybody who stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

The probability that you may fall… Continue reading

Many remember well Doctor Martin Luther King Jr’s. “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on 23 August 1963. One wonder’s whether our nation today has come closer to his vision of judging our fellow citizens not by the color of one’s skin but by the content of one’s character.

In my first book, Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character I profiled ten politicians who not only were real characters but also possessed character. Understanding a series of personality traits they possessed, I could see what they had in common was they are all character-based leaders.

In my second book, Courage in America: Warriors with Character, Rich Tedesci, a psychologist at UNC Charlotte, helped me better understand the patience, perseverance, grit and other character traits the seven warriors I profiled in this book, either innately possessed our developed in response to traumatic injuries.… Continue reading



Recently, I asked my friend and author of The Heroic Heart, Tod Lindberg,  how the study of heroism might lead to the development of character, leadership and other virtues? Here is Tod’s answer…

I think one of he most useful aspects of the lens of heroism is that it draws people in to broader topics. For instance, it’s one thing to hear a lecture on how Rome established a Republic. It’s another thing altogether, far more vivid, to tell the story of Lucretia and her suicide to prove her accusation of rape against the son of the Roman king, leading to the fall of the monarchy. Likewise, in discussing political order and the danger of disruption, the personal story of Julius Caesar, or of the row between Agamemnon and Achilles, brings the subject to life, especially for students, who are often the victims these days of very dry,… Continue reading


Many believe the topic of heroism is critically important to our politics, culture and needs to be properly taught in our educational system. That is why I am studying the path of ordinary Americans, heroically overcoming adversity.

Some time ago I reacted to the growth of “extreme egalitarianism” and the “self-esteem” movement, then and now, infiltrating our educational system. As a reaction, I was motivated to launch The Character Building project site. Our mission is to foster character building strengths in a rising generation of citizens by sharing the stories of ethical leaders who presently serve or have served others.

My vision to enhance character development is by writing, researching, teaching, speaking about leadership that illustrates the relationship between character development and the individual’s reasoning skills, moral will and self-discipline.

The reaction to my first book, Politics with Principle was positive inside the beltway but outside the beltway not so… Continue reading


Lessons of Hope is likely to be read by most educators, but it should also be read by all reformers of the status quo. I say that because this is a story of one man leading the charge for change against a bevy of ardent status quo defenders.

Imagine the courage it took to take over the nation’s largest school district–one that was already suffering from low graduation rates, gang violence bleeding into the classrooms, and faculty close to their breaking point. Joel Klein accepted that challenge from Mayor Bloomberg, and took on the education of over one million kids. He was charged by the Mayor to reform NYC schools and transform the dysfunctional ones in high poverty areas into a nationwide model for improved public education.

In his eight years as Chancellor of NYC schools, Joel Klein not only demonstrated perseverance, but proved radical reform could succeed amidst formidable… Continue reading

Following our Thanksgiving post on General Patrick Henry Brady and Charles Kelly, I have had several requests to provide more information on both men as well as expand on General Brady’s views of courage.

My preference is to quote the subjects I profile, “in their own words” as much as possible. Therefore, the following quotes from General Brady recent book “Dead Men Flying” share the General’s opinion of his mentor Charles Kelly as well as further report on Brady’s views of courage and faith.

“Kelly was a man of humble beginnings and humility is a constant mark of great leaders. Loss of humility also marks the disintegration of leadership. Kelly was a humble man who drove home for me the incredible treasure that is courage. In many ways, we are not born equal; certainly in terms of ability and opportunity, we are not equal, In fact there may be only… Continue reading

In discussing courage and its role in leadership with my warrior pals, I have come to agree with Todd Nicely in his claim that “there are all kinds of courage.” Steve Baskis ranks courage almost at the top of the qualities needed in a good leader, and Chad Ellinger concurs with its importance. However, Chad also highly rates other leadership qualities such as integrity, decisiveness, and faith as equally important for effectiveness. Sam Angert emphasizes the mental aspects of courage by describing a good leader as one who can boldly anticipate next moves as if he were virtually playing out a game of chess. Chase mentions that military leaders must show both mental and physical courage by overcoming the fact that all soldiers have a “spirit of fear.” For Chase, focusing upon an important goal helps warriors to overcome fear. It empowers them to place themselves in danger for the… Continue reading


MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Thirteen executives from industries such as national security, telecommunications and an international beverage conglomerate, went through simulated ethics training here at TBS on Jan. 5. The participants came to The Basic School to learn how the Marine Corps teaches ethics in everything they do, using honor, courage, and commitment as the pillars to their foundation of decision making.

Continue reading

This Veterans Day, The Mission Continues proudly honors those who have served our country, and we salute those who continue their service as citizen leaders here at home. Today, through The Mission Continues, our veterans will lead dozens of service projects involving thousands of their fellow citizens at homeless shelters, food banks, parks, and elementary schools around the country.  Continue reading

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Courage in America has been aurally transcribed for the visually impaired, thanks to Volunteers of Vacaville, California. Tel: 704.448.6841 ext 2044.