While in the White House, President Reagan obviously had a Presidential Cabinet: Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Education, etc.
In addition to his Presidential Cabinet, President Reagan had what he affectionately called his Kitchen Cabinet. His Kitchen Cabinet was a group of friends and advisers he counted on for three things:
1) Brutal honesty - President Reagan did not want yes-men to tell him how great he was, how smart he was, how handsome he was. No. He wanted people to tell him when he was wrong. He deliberately placed people in his life to anchor him down because he knew he was going to be pulled one hundred different directions. He had the foresight to understand he needed people to moor him to reality and to his principles of individual liberty and the free society.
2) Shared vision - President Reagan knew he needed a core group of people who had a shared vision for his life. And he knew that he needed to surround himself with people with high standards, standards maybe even higher than his at times, and who weren’t intimidated by him.
3) Success oriented - Meaning not everyone in the President’s Kitchen Cabinet was at his same stage in life. He wanted people ahead of him in life’s journey, behind him in life’s journey, smarter than him in his deficit areas, people who have different perspectives, purviews, and expertise.
The people in President Reagan’s Kitchen Cabinet were not big names to you and me; they were successful in their own right but more importantly President Reagan knew they were reliable to advise him on the important things that not only affected him, but the fate of the country under his watch.
In my life as a leader, because of what I learned from President Reagan, I also have a Kitchen Cabinet. I put these people in my life to give me brutal honesty, who have shared vision, and are success oriented. If I have a major decision to make, if six out of the seven people in my kitchen cabinet tell me not to do something (even if I want to do it), I won’t do it. But if six out of the seven advise me to take a risk, I’ll take the risk and try to make it happen.
So who do you need in your kitchen cabinet? Who would you like to be on that list of people you can count on to build you up and anchor you down to your principles.
Listen to episode 031 of my leadership podcast for more ideas on how to build your own Kitchen Cabinet:
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