Michael J. Kerrigan



Last post I suggested ethics and effectiveness were two criteria of good leadership. Also discussed was the impact of Machiavelli on leadership. Probing deeper into another insight of Machiavelli, in this instance, his endorsement of the art of deception… (”You must be a great liar… a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived,” *) how then do leadership scholars deal with lying in the context of their ethics criteria?

While lying may be useful to get ahead and is commonplace in today’s culture, one would think lying is a point of divergence between leadership and character scholars. Recently, I came across a study that may tell it all, namely: “Nobody Likes a Rat, On the Willingness to Report Lies and the Consequences Thereof.”**

Do you think we would need the Securities and Exchange Commission if corporations never misstated their financial statements? As… Continue reading

Scanning the daily news confirms widespread pessimism that we are suffering from a crisis of confidence in those who are charged with leading our nation’s political, business and cultural institutions. Levels of trust in our leaders are at an all time low perhaps because many of today’s leaders may place self-interest ahead of the public interest.

In studying character development I have discovered leadership development has much the same aims. Leadership development implies developing good leaders that are both ethical and effective. I agree with the view that leadership is judged on only two criteria: ethics and effectiveness. Perhaps character development should be judged in a similar fashion?

I have sadly concluded that after 30 plus years of lobbying in Washington D.C., many Members adhere to Machiavelli’s The Prince, one of the more famous books on politics and leadership. In my view, the influence of leaders has been diminished… Continue reading

As a Washington lobbyist I was in the advice business for 32 years. Often I counseled my clients that one can better understand the actions of Members of Congress knowing they are acting on the basis of their own self-interest, i.e. getting re-elected.

In the past, I have noted that it was the Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith who best articulated the principle of self-interest. In politics as well as economics, both systems are designed on this normative principle.

Yet in studying the large leadership industry with an almost limitless number of books, articles, speeches, workshops, blogs, conferences storytelling, training sessions are filled with good intentions, inspirational stories, fables and myths. It is my observation, much of the leadership industry seems to emphasize feel good leadership over evidence-based science.

The Machiavelli school of politics as taught in The Prince, describe politics as an arena where following virtue often leads… Continue reading


I first read an article by Tod Lindberg in the Weekly Standard titled: From Hero-Worship to Celebrity-Adulation, in this piece Lindberg addressed the problem of greatness in an age of equality. I already shared Lindberg’s concern that excessive egalitarianism is today leveling out heroism and that we have lost our regard for achievement and individual greatness. Worrying that no deed can be heroic and no achievement truly great, I was excited to see what Lindberg had to say in his newly published The Heroic Heart.

Tod Linberg’s Heroic Heart is a literary tour de force, grounding his study of heroes with Achilles, the ancient Greek, then the less known heroine Lucretia, through the well known Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, all of who’s deeds are dealing with their mortality. That is a willingness to risk one’s life not as a demonstration of personal glory or seeking honor bestowed by others… Continue reading

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