Chris Kolenda: Unruly Student Protests Show the Price of Double Standards

Unruly Student Protests Show the Price of Double Standards

The universities that enforced progressive orthodoxy for years are seeing the fruits of their labor in unruly student protests. 

These protesters have taken over buildings, forced universities to cancel graduation ceremonies, barred Jewish students from campus areas, and issued threats of physical violence against them. 

One protest leader reportedly said to Columbia University administrators in January, “be glad, be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists.” His outburst was tolerated; he was barred from campus months later when a video from the meeting went viral.  

Emotions are high on both sides of the Gaza conflict, and protests are a natural response to intense dissatisfaction. I’ve put my life on the line to defend America’s cherished right to air your views and protest policies you don’t agree with. I support the students’ rights to protest, and I disagree with how they are exercising them (especially considering the infiltration from professional agitators). Selective enforcement of the rules by university administrators created this disaster.

Many universities have bought into the crude bigotry that judges the worth of a person based on their membership in certain identity groups and created monocultures to enforce conformity. The intentional lack of viewpoint diversity has super-empowered favored groups, who’ve taken their license to its logical conclusion.

Viewpoint diversity is vital for a successful university as well as a successful business. The best companies encourage people to express their disagreements respectfully because you want people to flag problems before they become crises and offer fresh ideas that seize opportunities. If you only let favored people speak their views or shut down ideas you disagree with, you will soon find yourself trapped in a thought bubble, inhaling your own gas. 

The way forward for universities is to make sure protests meet three requirements: 

  1.  you may disagree agreeably – no intimidation or threats of harm to others
  2. you must allow all students to access campus facilities freely
  3. you may not impede university programs or functions

You can set similar rules for your business. Encourage people to disagree agreeably and give people the skills to receive new ideas and reports of problems with an open mind so everyone gets their ideas heard without fear of retribution. Prompt people to orient on your company’s common good (your mission and vision, goals and values, standards and expectations) so their disagreements create rather than impede progress.

These guidelines will help you maintain the healthy conflict that is vital to your company’s growth. 

Do you want to boost your company’s conflict management skills? 

I’ve helped motivate insurgent groups in Afghanistan to stop fighting and switch sides and even prompted the Taliban to write an open letter to the American people requesting peace talks. I’ve helped companies, nonprofits, and first responders move from intractable internal conflict to agreeable disagreement, dramatically improving performance, morale, and well-being.

Let’s set up a time to discuss whether strengthening conflict management skills would help your organization thrive. Simply send me an email or click here to find a time that works best for you. 

Cognitive Diversity: What the best leaders look for in an alter-ego

Cognitive diversity occurs when you bring people together who have complementary natural strengths, a.k.a. Superpowers. For most organizations, ideas – details are the vital complement.

The ideas people tend to be the big picture strategic thinkers, the innovators, and status quo disruptors. 

Some, like Steve Jobs, are hedgehogs: they have a big idea that will change the world. They are the Mavericks in our PROM archetypes®.

Others, like Elon Musk, are foxes: they bring existing ideas and technologies together into new combinations (Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter). These are your Pioneers.

They rarely succeed without support from the executors who can implement their ideas. These are Operators, who nail the details, and Reconcilers who build and maintain consensus.

Google is a classic example. Visionaries Larry Page (Maverick) and Sergei Brin (Pioneer) excited people with their new search engine but they could not run a sustainable business. When the funders threatened to pull out, Google hired Eric Schmidt (Reconciler) and Jon Rosenberg (Operator). The cognitive diversity propelled Google’s success.

Apple succeeded because Steve Jobs had Tim Cook (Operator), Mark Zuckerberg began succeeding at Facebook (now Meta) after Sheryl Sandberg (Operator) came on board. Tesla struggled until Musk hired Zach Kirkhorn (Reconciler).       

The visionaries get into trouble when they lose their alter-ego. Zuckerberg has not replaced Sheryl Sandberg, dividing her role among various executives, which waters-down the vision-execution interplay. Meta is struggling. 

The reverse is also true: people naturally inclined toward the details need the ideas people to push the envelope and avoid complacency. Tim Cook’s innovative subordinates keep Apple thriving. Eisenhower (Reconciler) needed Montgomery (Maverick) and Patton (Pioneer) to win the war in North Africa and Europe. Lincoln (Reconciler) needed Seward (Pionerr) and Grant (Maverick) to win the Civil War.

Finding the right alter-ego can be challenging. People tend to seek out others who think and act similarly, which is known as affinity bias. You get the comfort of surrounding yourself with people exactly like you, but you don’t grow, you develop blind spots, and you’re at high risk of making bad decisions as you inhale your own fumes.

To help you identify your natural strengths and determine your best alter egos, I developed the simple PROM archetypes® quiz.  

Cognitive diversity is vital to selecting the right alter-egos. You also need someone who wants what’s best for the organization and is willing to tell you the truth. 

Combine those three qualities and you have a powerful senior leadership team that will propel your business to new heights.

Take the PROM archetypes® quiz and then send Chris an email to discuss your results!


What the Collapse of FTX tells us about Diversity; and shows Leaders where they can do Better


Samuel Bankman-Fried, by work standards, had a diverse inner circle, but groupthink and lack of perspective sank his company, FTX, and cost people billions. Skin-deep diversity is a fast track to failure.


Diversity, Shallow and Deep

The head of a Milwaukee consulting firm that trains women for participation in corporate governance told an audience last week that having two women on a board of directors leads to better decisions. A (male) spectator noted that the speaker’s board of directors consisted of women only and wondered if the presence of two men would be helpful.

The NASDAQ stock exchange has directed its participating companies to have two diverse board directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+,” or explain to shareholders why they’ve fallen short.

As I’ll discuss below, physical diversity is important for legitimacy. Tokenism is shallow, and so is having the deck stacked against you because of your chromosomes.

FTX’s collapse shows that skin-deep diversity is insufficient, and this HBR study shows why it could damage your company.

Courageous leaders broaden participation and recognize that unisex, monochrome boards lack legitimacy. They surround themselves with people who look and think differently and have different life experiences.

Diversity is an iceberg; what you see above the waterline represents a fraction of its mass. Below the surface lies the iceberg’s bulk. Ignore that and wind up like the Titanic.

Physical diversity — what you can see — is the tip; cognitive and experiential diversity occupy the depths.


Cognitive diversity occurs when you surround yourself with people who think differently. Their natural contributions provide you with alternative capacities. Some are tactical innovators willing to rock the boat, while others build consensus and keep people on board. Big-picture strategists help you solve complex challenges, but somebody’s got to manage the details. My PROM Archetypes® give you a framework for cognitive diversity. You can take the self-assessment here.

Experiential diversity includes education, development, and life experiences that provide perspective. Math and science nerds who’ve lived their entire lives in leafy suburbs, regardless of their chromosomes, are likely to have monochrome views. In contrast, people who might look the same but have varied socio-economic backgrounds, experiences, and education will enrich discussion and decision-making.

You Need All Three

Physical, cognitive, and experiential diversity gives you the capacity for good governance. Without physical diversity, your organization lacks legitimacy in the eyes of your stakeholders. If you don’t have cognitive diversity, you’ll get groupthink. Inadequate experiential diversity undermines the perspective you need to deal with complexity and uncertainty.

FTX had only tip-of-the-iceberg diversity.

Diversity in-depth, combined with a commitment to the common good, creates a board of directors or leadership team that will take your organization to new heights.

Back on Track

  • Our board looks very different than our stakeholders; what perspectives are we missing?
  • We’ve got fantastic ideas, but we keep falling short on execution. Do we have the cognitive diversity we need to be successful?
  • I feel a natural connection with everyone on this all-Ivy-Leaguer board, but we’ve missed the points of view of the people we’re serving.   
  • We agree on everything. When everyone thinks alike, it means that no one is thinking. Let’s bring in the fresh air.

Are you okay with shallow diversity?

Accountability Masterclass

This complementary masterclass on December 7 at 3:30 pm U.S. Central focuses on accountability. By the end of this masterclass, you will be able to:

* Provide feedback that improves performance and reduces awkwardness.

* Use proactive accountability to improve success dramatically.

* Enact a 3-level accountability system that increases buy-in and lowers your burden.

* Avoid common pitfalls that erode accountability and increase tension while leaving you feeling like you are the only one vested in success.

Here is the link to the masterclass on December 7 at 3:30 pm U.S. Central

Share this opportunity with one or two others you think would benefit from the discussion.


Why Thought Diversity is Essential and How To Get It

Surround yourself with thought diversity to innovate, build consensus, solve wicked problems, and manage the details.


Have you ever looked around and thought, “Wow, I’m surrounding myself with people who are just like me.” Our affinity bias, otherwise known as our implicit egotism, has a way of attracting us to people who think, look, and act like we do. 

As leaders and well-rounded individuals it is important to surround ourselves with thought diversity. Imagine if everyone on your Team were big-thinkers (Mavericks and Pioneers). Who would handle the fine details and keep the organization grounded while the big-thinkers and innovators come up with the next best thing?

Conversely, what happens if you only have detail-oriented individuals (Reconcilers and Operators) and no one around to innovate and think into the future? Chances are, both of these organizations are going to drift and eventually fail.

The servant-leader archetypes—Pioneer, Reconciler, Operator, and Maverick—are observable contributions each member of the Team provides to an organization. A well-balanced organization has individuals who embody each of these archetypes.

In the quad-chart below, you can see that leaders are either introverted or extroverted; they are energized by being alone (introvert) or they get their energy from socializing (extrovert). Both leaders are great leaders, they simply recharge their batteries in different ways. Then you have the big-idea individuals and the detail-oriented individuals; neither designation is better than the other. 

Great leaders can fit anywhere on this quad chart. The secret is that they need to surround themselves with the other archetypes and avoid turning everyone on their Team into their mini-mes.

Just like Mark Zuckerberg, Pioneers innovate, while Reconcilers such as Abraham Lincoln build consensus. Operators implement to a high standard and care about the details as Queen Elizabeth II does and Mavericks, like Oprah Winfrey, think strategically and solve wicked problems.

I’m a Pioneer. As a principal, I was grateful for my Team Leaders who were Operators. They were able to bring me down from the clouds, ask me technical questions that I hadn’t thought of, and allowed me to be a stronger leader for the whole school. I valued them more than they could possibly know.

Action steps to create more thought diversity within your organization:

  • Take the Servant-Leader Archetype 2-minute quiz with your Team and evaluate your thought diversity.  Knowing your archetype helps you be the best version of yourself by building the healthy habits that make the most of your superpowers and pruning away average or unhealthy habits that hold you back.
  • Be aware of your gaps in thought-diversity when hiring. Don’t fall prey to the trap of hiring people that you’re attracted to simply because they remind you of yourself. 
  • Allow each voice at the table to have equal bearing. Open yourself up to diverse-thinking instead of closing it off and seeing it as conflict. 
  • Value and be receptive to those that think differently than you. Chances are, you will be a more well-rounded leader when you surround yourself with the right people who help you grow as opposed to “yes” people who do what you say and allow you to drift.

Looking to Broaden your Thought Diversity?

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW!

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

cognitive diversity

We have a Cognitive Diversity Problem

How can I better integrate cognitive diversity in business and in life

Affinity bias is the subconscious tendency to favor people who look, think, and act as we do. Attitudinal bias, on the other hand, is conscious bigotry.

I find that most people, outside of traditional bigots and woke bigots, recognize the benefits of diversity and take steps to reduce the impact of affinity bias.

The CEOs and leaders in this community (I admit there’s a selection bias of good people here) want a physically diverse workforce, so that race, gender, and other demographics reflect the community they are serving. The differences tend to be whether you hire to a particular outcome or look at representation and broaden your inputs as necessary.

Correcting for biological diversity is relatively straightforward, and decent people don’t need punitive and demeaning programming to figure it out.

Cognitive diversity (bringing together people who think differently) is a more daunting challenge because it’s difficult to see and recognize. A subconscious disdain toward people who think differently is commonplace because there’s comfort in the status quo, and leaders tend not to like boat-rockers.

Complacency is often the consequence of doing the same things repeatedly and expecting the same results. This problem affects businesses, governments, militaries, and nonprofits.

Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln valued cognitive diversity. His so-called team of rivals was a cognitively diverse crew. George Washington built his cabinet the same way, and Dwight Eisenhower picked people of varied observable contributions to be on his staff. Cognitive diversity plus buy-in for the common good made the whole more significant than the sum of its parts.

OK. I get why cognitive diversity is essential. How do I make it happen?

We created the PROM Archetypes TM to give you a helpful framework. Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks have distinct and observable contributions when using their natural talents. Representation from all four provides you with powerful advantages over organizations where everyone thinks alike. Google, Facebook, Apple, and others have cultivated cognitive diversity alongside other forms.

The PROM Archetypes TM gives you ways to recognize these distinct and observable contributions and help people be their best selves. Leaders not attuned to cognitive diversity will tend to select and promote people who think and act as they do — the mini-me syndrome (as my mentor Michele Flournoy calls it). This affinity bias turns off people who aren’t like you, and before long, they vote with their feet, and only the clones remain.

You can start building cognitive diversity by taking our PROM Archetypes TM quiz and having your team do the same. SLA’s content will help you make the best use of this information, and I or any SLA team member will be delighted to help you gain the cognitive diversity that’s right for you.

What action steps are you taking to promote cognitive diversity?

Building your Chest

Growth Programs

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CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

The Global CEO Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can possibly be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me. I’m limiting the group to 8. Reply to me for more details.


Break the Bias in Business: Pay attention to your inner voice and check your initial judgments

Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.”


Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.” This theme resonates with me on so many levels. I have always positioned myself in more male-dominated roles as a physical education teacher, a military police officer, and a school administrator. My life’s underlying mission is to thrive in every capacity, regardless of my gender. I have had to prove myself time and time again and sometimes work harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same level of respect and understanding. Through it all, I’ve dealt with countless biases, microaggressions, and harassment. This article includes a few of the many times I’ve observed biases.

“Did you serve in a women’s war?” A question I was asked when I told someone that I was a veteran, which was soon followed by, “did you carry a gun?”

“Wow, you’re young for a principal.” A comment often made even though my same-age male counterparts never received this comment.

Business leadership is still vastly lopsided, with many more male than female leaders. We have a lot of work to do to close the gender divide. Until then, we need to do our best to break through our own biases and create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. There are many systemic changes that need to occur such as better maternity leave, a deeper understanding of the constraints of nursing moms, and more family-oriented business models, to name a few.

Until then, here are a few immediate steps to break the bias in business:

  1. Eliminate the use of “you guys” – There are so many other terms of inclusion that one can use: Team, everyone, you all or y’all, folks, friends, etc.
  1. Eliminate calling women “girls” – If we don’t call men “boys,” why do we call women “girls?” This affects everyone on a subconscious level by labeling women as children instead of adults. 
  1. Stop calling women bossy – Assertive women are not bossy. They are leaders. If their leadership style is not desirable, talk to them as an individual, not as a woman who comes across too strong. Additionally, ask yourself if this behavior would be noteworthy if a man exhibited the same assertiveness. Chances are, we wouldn’t think twice about the assertiveness of a man. 

Most importantly, pay attention to your inner voice, your initial judgment, and check what your subconscious may be trying to tell you. I have been guilty of pre-judging women or assuming a man holds the leadership position over the woman. It’s in our nature. If we are aware of our actions and work to change our inner dialogue, it will impact how we think. As the famous saying goes, “our thoughts become our actions.”

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs

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Additional Offerings: 

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Biden’s Supreme Court pick shows that Diversity is more Than Skin Deep

Physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

I am proud of President Biden for announcing that he will nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court (he torpedoed President George W. Bush’s 2003 effort to appoint a Black woman). Organizations tend to be more legitimate when they reflect the demographics of the communities they serve, and there are plenty of Black women who will be superb justices in America’s highest court.

I hope he picks a truly diverse candidate — one from outside the Ivy League bubble. Diversity is more than skin deep. Physical diversity is only one element of a powerful triad. Like an iceberg, physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

People’s hardwiring affects how they lead organizations, solve problems, and deal with risk

The PROM archetypes(TM) illustrate the differences.

Like Malcolm X and General George Patton, Pioneers are tactical innovators who rally people behind new ideas and changes. 

Reconcilers (like Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower) manage consensus and keep people on board. 

Operators (George Washington and Indra Nooyi, for example) make the trains run on time and get things done – like Steve Jobs and Alexander Hamilton.

Mavericks are your strategic innovators who solve complex, wicked problems. (Get your PROM Archetype here).

Many large organizations show the dangers of homogeneity. The military and government, for instance, love detail-oriented people and tend to resist idea-centric people. By the time a year-group reaches senior ranks, most of the Pioneers and Mavericks have gotten drummed out or left in frustration, leaving a disproportionate number of Reconcilers and Operators. The latter self-perpetuate by selecting and promoting people who think and act like them, a problem called affinity bias. Poor strategic innovation in recent wars shows the consequences of poor cognitive diversity.

Personal experiences matter

John McWhorter shows that socio-economic circumstances are far more potent in shaping perspectives than race or gender. People tend to share worldviews with people raised and educated in similar situations. Veterans who’ve experienced intense combat have points of view different from citizens who have not. If you’ve fought your way from poverty to the middle class, you are likely to have different outlooks than colleagues who’ve been middle-class suburbanites their whole lives.

When making policies or strategies that affect people of varying circumstances, these perspectives matter. Ideas that seem sound within an elite bubble can come across as condescending or ham-fisted to those outside of it. Some progressives cannot fathom why people view “woke” as revenge racism that’s ripping society apart. Even San Franciscans seem to have had enough, recalling three uber-woke school board members. At the same time, some conservatives don’t get the outrage after calling the January 6th riot legitimate political discourse. They cannot seem to resist stepping on the 2020 election rake. Experiential diversity helps you avoid inhaling your own gas.

It’s time to get beyond the view that diversity only involves chromosomes. Leaders like you perform best when people among all parts of the diversity triad work together toward the common good.

What’s the next step in building your diversity triad?

Building your Chest – Exclusive Events

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

The Hudson Valley in the Revolution (July 27-30) focuses on people-centric innovation. We’ll travel to Fort Ticonderoga on beautiful Lake Champlain, the famous Saratoga battlefield, the majestic garrison at West Point, and the Stony Point battlefield. Most threats to an organization’s success come from within, and this challenge was true for the Continental Army. We’ll use the history to discuss practical ways to address toxic workplace behaviors, engage and retain your top talent, inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success, and many others. You’ll build new thought leadership that will be game-changers for your clients and employees.

Leading in the Middle: Assessing your Team

Imagine the candid conversations you can have where you focus on the employee, and the team.

Okay, leaders, you are wrapping another year. It was a challenging year filled with hybrid work adaptation, vaccinate or not, economic uncertainty, the great resignation, and the continued fight for social justice. With that backdrop, how do you feel? How does your Team feel? Was it a successful year for you, for your Team?

This is a common time for periodic or annual counseling. What do you have to say to your individual Team members? Is it the same old stuff about how they performed against company attributes? A few lines about their potential? When you look in the mirror, what do you say to you? Are your affinities and skills aligned? Christopher Kolenda, Ph.D., and Strategic Leaders Academy created a simple yet powerful way to look at your employees and yourself and so that you can raise the level of those important conversations.

As the quad chart shows, you have affinity on the north-south axis and skills on the east-west axis.

The resultant quads tell you and the employee where they are on affinity/skills alignment. During their counseling session, use this quad chart to show your employee how you view their performance. Then ask them how they feel and watch the realization set in. 

– Mismatch (Low skills, low affinity) – those in this quad may be in the wrong job. The chances are that they are struggling with the work, and if you ask them, they do not enjoy the work. Ask them difficult questions about how they feel.

– Burnout (High skills, low affinity) – high performers who do great work but are not happy. They can make things work for a short period but know that they are likely looking for something else. If you don’t address misalignment, disruptive behavior can manifest itself. Job and company satisfaction is waning.

– Growth (High affinity, low skills) – great attitude, enjoys the work but needs more experience. You can see and feel their excitement about their work. They will do what it takes to get the job done. Focus on their growth and development. 

– Empowered (High affinity, high skills) – great attitude, enjoys the work, and good at what they do. Has the experience and enjoys the confidence of others. The alignment of affinity and skills taps into their superpowers.

On two recent occasions, leaders I know used this approach to help them begin the difficult conversation of reorienting employees to other career choices. While difficult at first, the employees felt a burden was lifted, and they eventually appreciated their new direction and the leader’s honesty. The opposite is also true where you can boost an employee’s confidence and commitment as you discuss their good work and great potential.

Imagine the candid conversations you can have where you focus on the employee. Your self-assessment may be quite revealing too. Are you ready? 


This Cognitive Diversity Boost can make President Biden (and you) Invincible


When under stress, Reconcilers, like President Biden, tend to give excessive weight to the loudest and most pious voices in the room.

I’ve admired President Biden since he visited our remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2008 and praised our paratroopers in a National VFW speech. I found his sincerity and open-mindedness refreshing, and he quickly got the importance of our relationship-building efforts to Afghans. Biden agreed that accumulating allies was more helpful than aggregating your enemies. He talks about that visit when he mentions the Kunar River Valley in his Afghanistan speeches.

I’m having difficulty reconciling his words in 2008 with his recent speech that branded half or more of his citizens as treasonous racists (here’s a favorable view of the speech). He deserves credit for building the most physically diverse cabinet in history and could benefit from boosting cognitive diversity among his advisers.

Just because people look different does not mean they think differently. Cognitive uniformity puts you in an echo chamber that leads to poor decisions. Confirmation bias is like freebasing your own gunpowder. When under stress, Reconcilers, like President Biden, tend to give excessive weight to the loudest and most pious voices in the room. [Stressed Pioneers, like Biden’s predecessor, often surround themselves with sycophants and become louder and more outrageous.]

Civil War General William Rosecrans, also a Reconciler, won a string of victories in Tennessee as his army captured Chattanooga. Battlelines drew together at Chickamauga. The Union generals nagged Rosecrans for particular places and reinforcements. The Confederates attacked when Rosecrans shifted forces to please a subordinate. The mass confusion led to a defeat that sent Union forces back to Chattanooga, and Rosecrans lost his job.

Lincoln and Eisenhower were Reconcilers, too, and valued cognitive diversity. They surrounded themselves with people committed to the common good who presented different points of view, respected each other, and challenged the leader’s thinking. This practice helped them to avoid super empowering the loudest and most pious. Their decisions weren’t always perfect, but they tended to avoid self-inflicted disasters.

Lincoln held the Union together, gained buy-in for the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment, and won the war. Eisenhower amassed consensus to end the Korean War and build the interstate system, a large standing military, and a robust nuclear deterrent.

Cognitive diversity was also vital in the success of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. I highly recommend The Sword and the Shield (which is on my 2022 reading list) in which Peniel E. Joseph discusses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Maverick) and Malcolm X (a Pioneer).\

Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks — our PROM archetypes — have distinct superpowers and different reactions when under significant stress (you tend to be your most extreme version). When you know this about yourself, you can sense the warning signs and avoid surrounding yourself with subordinates who egg you on to extremes. When you know your subordinates’ archetypes, you can recognize their stress reactions and take steps that bring them back to their best selves.

The value of history is not in teaching you what to think but in how it heightens your critical thinking skills, aids self-examination, and highlights the importance of gaining diverse perspectives from trusted sources. Freebasing gunpowder tends to create bad outcomes. Whose bringing in the fresh air for you?

Are you interested in using history to take your critical thinking skills to new heights and develop practical action steps that accelerate your success? Join me and seven others on March 15-18 for the Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive. When you have meaningful discussions with other extraordinary people at powerful venues, you gain perspective that pays dividends for life. There are three places still open.

My mission is to help successful people like you gain new heights by being the best version of yourself and inspiring people to contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success.

What an Afghan Hero Taught Me about Thanksgiving 2021

I’m dedicating this Thanksgiving to the exemplars in my life.

I’m thankful for Iqbal.

He and his family arrived in America with only the clothes on their backs. A group of us visited him in Seattle this weekend.

Iqbal worked his way from being a day-laborer on our outpost in Afghanistan to a cultural advisor and then an interpreter because he taught himself English (Iqbal speaks 5 languages). He helped Nate Springer (below, right) and I build bridges to local communities by letting us know about decades-long blood feuds, ways people tried to manipulate us, and behind-the-scenes issues that helped us understand why people were doing what they were doing. His support saved American lives. Iqbal never used his position for illicit gain.

He applied for a Special Immigrant Visa in 2014. A bureaucratic error from a human resources officer at a government contractor resulted in the State Department denying the application. I threw up in my mouth when I read the letter. Several of us, spearheaded by Dan Wilson (2nd from right), helped him re-apply.

He tried to start a business, but the corruption costs were too high. He enlisted to serve in a special operations force. Despite having no formal schooling, Iqbal rose in the ranks quickly to become an officer. By 2021, he was a lieutenant colonel in charge of 1000 soldiers.

His bosses expected him to use his position to move money into their pockets. Iqbal refused. His integrity earned him spite from those officials and dangerous assignments. The last of those was defending the Kandahar airfield in August as the Afghan state was disintegrating. Nearly out of food, water, and ammunition, Iqbal’s unit fended off Taliban attacks as hundreds of Afghans evacuated to Kabul. Iqbal made certain that two American reporters made their way out safely.

When he discovered that not all his soldiers had gotten out, Iqbal flew back to Kandahar to get them. The plane returned to Kabul, stranding Iqbal and about 100 others. He delayed the Taliban through skillful negotiations. Miraculously, a final aircraft returned to Kandahar to pick up Iqbal and his men.

Iqbal and his family made their way to America during the chaotic evacuation and just arrived in Seattle. Josh Rodriguez (seated between me and Iqbal), who Iqbal advised in 2008, started a fundraiser. Thanks to boosts from people like CNN’s Jake Tapper, the fundraiser amassed over $104,000. Iqbal had no idea.


As we gathered around the carpet in his new apartment, Iqbal (in the corner to my left) told us how thankful he was. “I’ve never had formal schooling,” he said, “but you taught me how to lead, to live a life of integrity, to do what’s right, and to take care of the people on my team.”

“When you came to my country, I was very grateful. You left behind your families to help us. When I arrived in America, I became even more thankful.”

What do you mean by that, one of us asked?

“Being here has allowed me to see what you left behind to come to Afghanistan.”

Tears welled in his eyes when Josh told him about the fundraiser. He could not believe that Americans could be so generous.

He plans to build a business and employ as many of his former soldiers as possible. They stood their ground in Kandahar because Iqbal was their exemplar of courage, integrity, and caring.

I’m dedicating this Thanksgiving to the exemplars in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.