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What Business Executives Can Learn From Sen. Reid’s Leadership Skills And Style
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Saturday, January 15, 2022


Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Author Of The Award-Winning Book Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey)

It is ironic that former NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently died on the same day.

Reid was majority leader from 2006 to 2014 before retiring from politics in 2017, according The Hill, "as one of the most influential and powerful Democratic leaders ever to serve in Washington."

Despite their different professions, Madden and Reid had a lot in common.

  • Both were coaches—one in sports, the other in politics—trying to score real or symbolic touchdowns.
  • Both tried to move footballs—one made of cowhide leather and the other legislation—down the field.
  • Both dealt with difficult personalities: Reid with members of the U.S. Senate, and Madden with members of the Oakland Raiders football team.
  • Both had athletic backgrounds. Madden played football with the Philadelphia Eagles until a knee injury ended his playing career. Reid was an amateur pugilist in high school.

'A Fearless Advocate'

Marc Morial is the president CEO of the National Urban League and worked with Reid several times over the years. Morial recalled that, "Senator Reid was a fearless advocate, a brilliant political strategist and a dedicated public servant who was a champion in politics and business for working families and communities of color.

"A boxer in his youth, Senator Reid was never one to back down from a fight, and he used those instincts to pass landmark legislation including the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of Americans," he said.

"I always enjoyed meeting with him and was proud to present him with our Congressional Leadership award in 2016. He will be missed, but his legacy of tenacity in politics and business lives on," Morial observed.

Reid's Leadership Skills And Style

The bipartisan tributes from Reid's former colleagues provided insights into his leadership skills and style.

Keep Your Word

President Joe Biden said that, ""During the two decades we served together in the United States Senate, and the eight years we worked together while I served as Vice President, Harry met the marker for what I've always believed is the most important thing by which you can measure a person—their action and their word.

"If Harry said he would do something, he did it. If he gave you his word, you could bank on it. That's how he got things done for the good of the country for decades."

Encourage Others

In lieu of a statement, former President Barack Obama released the text of a letter he sent Reid a few months ago in which he said, "Here's what I want you to know. You were a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect. I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn't have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination," Obama said.

Make A Difference

Vice President Kamala Harris observed that Reid, "...never forgot his humble beginnings in Searchlight, Nevada—and he always fought for working families and the poor. Leader Reid also got things done: from expanding access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, to getting economic relief to families and businesses through the Recovery Act, and much more, he made a meaningful difference in people's lives."

Do What's Right

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Reid's longtime Republican counterpart, praised Reid, despite their past disagreements.

"The nature of Harry's and my jobs brought us into frequent and sometimes intense conflict over politics and policy," McConnell wrote in a statement. "But I never doubted that Harry was always doing what he earnestly, deeply felt was right for Nevada and our country. He will rightly go down in history as a crucial, pivotal figure in the development and history of his beloved home state."

Advice For Business Leaders

Trial attorney David E. Christensen said that, "regardless of one's political leanings, [Reid] should be admired for his convictions and indefatigable pursuit of his goals.

Strategic Planning

"He may have been unapologetically demanding, and occasionally abrasive, but [Reid] firm to his purpose and was a consummate planner— and those skills in strategic planning served him well throughout his career. That, in business today, is a must. Success is a long game, and you have to put in the time and exacting detail in your planning to reach the desired result," he advised.

Commitment And Compromise

"Reid was neither afraid or too self-absorbed to do the 'grunt work,' nor did he take the easiest path forward. Leadership requires not only commitment, but also compromise in the face of differences, especially when you need to avert an unacceptable outcome. Reid was no stranger to bipartisan "collaboration" when it served his purpose," Christensen observed.

Promote Others

"Reid believed in promoting the voices of others as a means of achieving progress, and as a leader, I concur. While we may sit at the helm of a company or industry and provide a livelihood for our employees, we are not omnipotent. Listening to those with a different, greater, supplemental, or even dissenting wisdom can afford one a much-improved perspective and clarity," Christensen concluded.


Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). He is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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