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Even top dogs need sound advice

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

When you rise to the top of your organization, you may think you’re infallible. But just because you run the show doesn’t mean you know it all.

The 43 American presidents can attest to that.

When Harry Truman suddenly became president in 1945 upon Franklin Roosevelt’s death, he was not prepared for the colossal decisions he faced. Because Roosevelt did not confide in his vice president, Truman was greeted by a series of hugely important dilemmas such as whether to drop the atomic bomb.

Truman contacted someone who could identify with the enormity of his job: former president Herbert Hoover.

Out of office since 1933, Hoover advised Truman on a range of issues and offered strategies to address organizational challenges. Hoover became Truman’s closest advisor and friend.

Some presidents come into office thinking they don’t need help from their predecessors. Then they change their mind.

John Kennedy swept into the White House on a wave of self-confidence. But after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, he solicited advice from Dwight Eisenhower. Ike effectively counseled Kennedy to handle the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he became Kennedy’s mentor.

An underlying trust brought these men together despite their opposing political parties. But they transcended their differences.

As you climb the ladder, seek out trusted advisors. Retired executives—or others who’ve succeeded in your position—can offer invaluable experience.

— Adapted from The Presidents Club, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, Simon & Schuster.

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