Published by:

  • Leadership – Speeches – Workshops
  • Personal Training – Consulting
  • Leadership – Marketing – Strategy

Vol. 5, No. 11
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102 

Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.

© 2007 William A. Cohen, PhD

Interest in The Journal of Leadership Applications has grown among leaders globally, and of all types: corporate, military, political, university, entrepreneurial, medical and more — and in more than 25 countries! It seems only right that we expand the journal and offer additional material. So beginning this month, in addition to my article, I’m going to include a link to a full length book which you can download at no cost. I will provide a “lessons learned” from the book the following month. That is, lessons that we can use from the author’s experience or writing that we can apply today. This is in the tradition of Peter Drucker who said that he read extensively from both fiction and nonfiction and that this helped him immensely in his personal development. In applying Drucker’s ideas, I too have used this technique, and I highly recommend it. This month’s book will be The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.

The Table of Contents for this Month’s Edition of the Journal of Leadership Application

(All will be found below)

This Month’s Topic: Ethics, Honor, Integrity and the Law

This Month’s Thought for Leaders

This Month’s Free Downloadable Book: The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

News for Leaders

Ethics, Honor, Integrity and the Law

I’ve talked about this subject previously — and I’m sure I will again because it is the most important aspect of leadership and it is confusing, complicated, and controversial from a variety of viewpoints. Years ago I research combat leaders who went on to highly successful careers outside of the military. The most significant factor in successful leadership according to these leaders was to maintain absolute integrity. I’m going to start out by telling you that I believe maintaining absolute integrity means doing the right thing. But there is a problem. The problem is that the  “the right thing” is not always so easy to define and may be seen as different by different people..

For example, there can be a cultural dilemma. Blaise Pascal,  a 17th century French mathematician said it this way: “There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees which are falsehoods on the other.” The Father of Modern Management, Peter F. Drucker told this story to illustrate this: “A large Japanese corporation decided to open an American manufacturing plant. This would bring many jobs to the area and many states and city locations vied for the opportunity. After an investigation of various locations in several different states, and considering a number of proposals, a particular site was decided on and after negotiation with local and state officials, the announcement was made. So significant was this event that the president of the Japanese corporation flew in from Japan for the ground breaking. The local government scheduled an elaborate ceremony with attendant publicity. They invited the state’s governor and many other senior state officials as well as company officers and other dignitaries.

“The Japanese president spoke English; however, to ensure that everything he said would be understood, the company hired a Nisei, or second generation American of Japanese descent. This woman held an advanced business degree and was fluent in both Japanese and English. She would translate his speech into English as he spoke.

“With dignity and measured tones, the Japanese president began to speak, noting the great honor it was for his company to be able to locate at this particular locale in the United States. He would speak a couple paragraphs, and then the interpreter would translate his remarks into English. 

“The Japanese executive noted the mutual benefits to his company, to the area’s citizens, to the local economy and to Japanese-American friendship. Then, nodding in the direction of the governor and other state and local officials present, he said: ‘Furthermore, Mr. Governor and high officials, please understand that our company knows its ethical duty. When the time comes that you retire from your honored positions, my corporation will not forget what you have done and will repay you for the efforts which you have expended in our behalf in giving us this opportunity.’

“The Japanese-American interpreter was horrified. She made an instantaneous decision and omitted these remarks in her English translation. The Japanese president, who understood enough English to realize what she had done, but not why, continued his speech as if nothing had happened. Later, when the two were alone, the president asked his interpreter, ‘How could you exclude my reassurances to the governor and other officials regarding our ethical duty? Why did you leave this important statement out of my speech?’ Only then could she explain to his amazement that what is ethical, even a duty, in Japan is considered unethical and even corruption in the United States.”

Professor Drucker told us this in a classroom discussion shortly after a large aircraft scandal of the 1970’s in which several American aerospace executives had been sent to prison for violating recently passed “ethic laws” which prohibited payments to representatives of foreign governments for assistance in gaining foreign business. Drucker used his story to illustrate the fact that the culture in a particular country could define what was considered ethical and what was not. He predicted continuing problems of this type since “baksheesh” has its origins in the Persian word “bakhshish” which means gift — in some countries such “gifts” were not only not illegal, but expected as part of doing business. Other countries had passed laws making such acts illegal, but everyone doing business in those countries knew that such laws were ignored and put on paper only for appearances in doing business with the west. Due to competition in getting business in some countries, Drucker predicted continued problems in enforcement of these laws in this country.

In researching my book, A Class with Drucker,  I discovered that his prediction had come true. A 2002 article in World pointed out that the U.S. government ignored a record of bribery connected to defense contracts in the Middle East, when by its own policy it should not be dealing with U.S. defense contractors with a record of bribery. It reported:  “The Washington-based Project On Government Oversight said the government has violated its policies that contracts be awarded only to responsible contractors that have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics. But the report said 16 of the top 43 contractors chosen during fiscal 1999 have been fined billions of dollars for violations.” 1 With such a high percentage, one wonders whether there weren’t more violators that were not caught. All were major U.S. corporations.


However, culture is only one element which complicates this issue. Some are accused of lacking, ethics, honor, or integrity if someone else disagrees with an action taken. It frequently depends on the viewpoint of what is right and one’s definition. So let’s first look at the dictionary definition of some of these important descriptions having to do with “doing the right thing.”


   Professional Ethics – A system of principles having to do with doing the right thing in one’s particular profession


   Honor – Demonstrated integrity in one’s beliefs or actions


   Integrity –  Adherence to a strict moral or ethical  code
   The Law – A punishable rule of authority

We know that professional ethics differ by professions. It used to be that doctors and lawyers could not advertise. Now they can, but there are still significant restrictions on this element in their professions. Other professions allow more or less total freedom in advertising, except that they must be truthful. In fact, most professions contain some code regarding telling the truth. But the profession of intelligence puts certain caveats on always telling the truth. For example, spies lie all the time. Yet even the fictional spy “James Bond” isn’t thought to be unethical. We poke fun at politicians for not telling the truth, but I believe many politicians that can be found guilty could be excused — at least if in office and depending on the circumstances of their falsehood.


President Dwight Eisenhower was considered a highly honorable man. His alma mater, West Point, probably has the strictest honor code in the country, if not the world. It even incorporates the concept into its central motto: Duty – Honor – Country. West Point awarded Eisenhower its highest award in 1961. But a year earlier Eisenhower lied to the world when Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane was shot down over Russia by a missile and before it was known that Powers had survived. Eisenhower announced that this plane had only been gathering weather information and must have mistakenly flown off course. Few attacked Eisenhower for his fabrication of the truth. Most must have thought that he had demonstrated integrity in his beliefs by his actions. It was expected that he protect the secrets of overflight surveillance which was designed not for President Eisenhower’s personal benefit, but to protect the United States from a missile age “Pearl Harbor” surprise attack by our then adversary, the Soviet Union. In the same way, in the darkest days of World War II when England stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany, and everything that could go wrong, was in fact going wrong for England, Churchill had a smile on his face as he emerged from his residence at number 10 Downing Street and announced that everything was just fine. No one felt his lie to be unethical.


Drucker felt that the way in which many bandied about terms like “professional ethics,” “honor,” and “integrity” did not help to improve adherence to any of these concepts. For example, he thought that corporations giving money or establishing foundations for worthwhile causes was admirable, but that this had nothing to do with their “ethical duty” or “integrity.” He thought that there was a great deal of confusion between the  concepts of ethics, honor, and integrity and the law. Violating a law had nothing to do with any of the three, even though violation of the law could result in going to jail. .


One could pass unjust laws such that obeying them was not the right thing to do. He pointed out that slavery was once constitutionally legal and escaped slaves, by law, had to be returned to their owners. He pointed out that Germany’s Nuremberg laws stripped German Jews of any rights would land violators in prison or worse. He concluded that you could be a real sleaze and not be in violation of any laws and might be a totally honorable person and could be in jail.


Obviously Drucker did not recommend violating the law, but he did note that even though many things which were reprehensible, they did not necessarily violate official definitions of ethics, honor, or integrity. “Obtaining prostitutes for visiting executives does not violate your professional integrity” he said. “It merely makes you a pimp.”Drucker knew that there was no perfect answer to all of this. He concluded that  “Ethics and integrity should be measured primarily by the oath of the Greek physician Hippocrates: “Primum non nocere – First, do no harm.”  Of course even Drucker knew that there is no perfect solution. One might need to cause harm to a single individual, for example, to avoid harm to many others. I haven’t a perfect solution either. It seems to me that all any of us can and should do is to aim at doing what we believe to be the right thing. As a cadet at West Point, we were taught not to lie, cheat, or steal, or to tolerate anyone who did.As an ethical code, this isn’t a bad place to start. Such a personal code should include keeping our word, being truthful in our personal dealings, choosing the harder right over the easier wrong and developing principles of honor concerning what we value and believe and to which we will remain true no matter what. This will not necessarily protect us from accusations of lack of integrity, ethics, or honor by others as happened to General Petraeus in an advertisement by regarding his testimony before Congress on the war in Iraq. And it certainly won’t protect us from being in violation of the law. However, it will protect us from being untrue to ourselves and that every morning when we look in the mirror, we will know that we have done everything possible to maintain this critical element of leadership.

[1] Author unknown, “U.S.Ignores Bribes for Mideast Defense Contracts,”  (June 13, 2002) assessed at October 12, 2006



” This above all to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.” –

                                                                                                Shakespeare: Hamlet I.iii

Free Downloadable Book: The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

The Personal Memoirs of. U.S. Grant is known as one of the best autobiographies ever written by an American. But it is much more. It tells the story of an extraordinary time in American history where brother fought against brother and friend against friend. For during our Civil war of 1861 to 1865 combatants were of the same background, spoke the same language, and many opposing officers on both sides knew each other intimately.

For example, Lieutenant General James “Pete” Longstreet, was General Robert E. Lee’s right hand man. As Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, and later Commander-in-Chief of all Confederate armies, Lee was Grant’s main nemesis. Longstreet not only was Grant’s personal friend, but was best man at his wedding.

Tradition has it that when Grant was promoted to command all union armies Lee commented to Longstreet: “You know, I do not remember this man (Grant) from our days together in the war with Mexico. You are his friend. What do you think?” It is said that Longstreet responded, ”We’re in for big trouble. Grant just won’t quit.”

Grant’s memoirs are a great leadership story, but they are much more. First, it was nothing short of miraculous that Grant ever reached such a lofty position as General-in-Chief of the Federal Army, and then later after the war becoming President of the United States.

Although he performed gallantly during the war with Mexico, after the war, separation from his wife depressed him to such an extent that he began to drink and he became an alcoholic. After several chances at rehabilitation failed he was discharged from the army. He was a failure at all that he did in civilian life over the next few years. It appeared that he would end his life as a complete washout.

When the war came, he volunteered and though others of his class at West Point who had left the army were quickly given commissions, many as general officers, no one wanted Grant. Finally, he gained a commission as a colonel from his state governor. From then on, although there were set backs in his career, his successes far outweighed his failures and he was promoted in command. After Lincoln was disappointed by many more glamorous and brilliant predecessors, in 1864 he promoted Grant, who was by then a major general to the rank of lieutenant general and made him General-in-Chief. He was the first U.S. general to hold that rank since George Washington. After victory he was elevated to full general, becoming the first four star general in our history.

Although Grant was a great military leader, he was unable to apply his abilities fully to his service as president. He served two terms as president and successfully implemented many innovations and policies to elevate all American citizens to equal status as citizens. However, his administrations were also arguably the most corrupt of any president. Although Grant personally was a man of high honor and integrity, he trusted others to such an extent that many on who he relied took graft and otherwise betrayed his trust. His innocence in dealing with others carried over after he left office.

On the advice of supposed friends he made investments that were fraudulent and he lost all his savings. By the 1880’s, this man, who had risen to the highest post in the land and had been offered immense sums by corporations eager to use his name, was a virtual pauper and could not even support his family. Then he was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer. He went on contract to do his autobiography while dying in order to leave money for his family. Even here his trusting nature almost did him in, for the initial literary contract which he was about to sign was ruinous. Fortunately his friend, the world famous writer Mark Twain, got wind of it and shamed the publishing house into doing the right thing. Though in great pain, Grant penned this remarkable autobiography in his own hand. He finished and died a few days after its completion.

He left us the amazing story of a great man and great leader, but one that had real weaknesses, but from who we can learn great lessons.

Here, through the courtesy of the Gutenberg Project is the link to this book: The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant.

News for Leaders

First Seminar on A Class with Drucker: The Lost Wisdom of the Greatest Management Teacher in the World. I had the honor to teach the first full  seminar on Drucker on September 18th in Los Angeles. The seminar was sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development – Los Angeles Chapter and it covered many of the topics covered in the book. These included:

  • How I Became the Student of the Father of Modern Management
  • Drucker in the Classroom
  • What Everybody Knows is Frequently Wrong
  • Self Confidence Must Be Built Step-by-Step
  • If You Keep Doing What Worked in the Past You will Eventually Fail 
  • Approach Problems with Your Ignorance –  not Your Experience
  • Develop Expertise Outside Your Field to be an Effective Manager
  • Outstanding Performance is Inconsistent with Fear of Failure
  • The Objective of Marketing is to Make Selling Unnecessary
  • Ethics, Honor, Integrity and the Law
  • You Can’t Predict the Future, But You Can Create It
  • We’re All Accountable
  • You Must Know Your People to Lead Them
  • People Have No Limits, Even After Failure
  • A Model Organization Which Drucker Greatly Admired
  • The Management Control Panel
  • Base Your Strategy on the Situation, not a Formula
  • How to Motivate the Knowledge Worker
  • Drucker’s Principles of Self Development

Attendees flew in from as far away as Texas and Mexico. I thought that I wouldn’t be giving the seminar again until next summer in Asia. But I was wrong. I was contacted by the University del Rosario in Bogota, Colombia, and I will be giving the seminar again right after the first of the year and a shortened one-hour web cast version on the 7th of November, sponsored by the American Management Association. Stay tuned for details.

Radio Advertising and Sponsorship Deal. Over the years I’ve given quite a few radio and television interviews. Three of my favorites were with Sharmai and Keith Amber who live out in Hawaii. Originally their shows were broadcast only locally and they were taped. However they now have national syndication so they are heard all over the U.S.. Sharmai and Keith are unique in that they saw the link between the spirituality to which they are actively committed and promote and leadership. They do not promote a particular religion, nor is spirituality as they see it necessarily about any religion. However there is clearly an element of the spirit and the mind which great leaders are able to focus to help others achieve great things. They saw this in a book I wrote several years ago, Secrets of Special Ops Leadership: Dare the Impossible; Achieve the Extraordinary and requested an interviewFrankly, I was a little hesitant. I never thought of myself as spiritual in this sense, and I wondered what we would have to talk about. How wrong I was! That interview was an hour long and the time flew by. We barely got an opportunity to talk about some of the lessons in the book. We’ve had two hour-long interviews since, and they are always like that. So I have no problem recommending their web sitewww.MasteringOurselves.comMoreover because their radio program is now nationally syndicated, they are seeking advertising sponsors, and they are offering a special deal until the end of the month. So for entrepreneurial leaders, the full details are at the following link: Sharmai & Keith Amber.

Presentation on Strategic Leadership at the Canadian Forces Staff College in Toronto. On the 31st of August I was in Toronto at the invitation of the Canadian Forces Staff College to give a presentation to the 100 Canadian Forces officers plus the 40 or so officers from other countries on strategic leadership. All were attending the senior staff officers course. Strategic leadership is a concept developed by Owen Jacobs at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the United States and others to counter an unfortunate phenomenon noted in the armed forces. That is, outstanding tactical leaders at lower levels would frequently fail when promoted into senior level military positions. I was asked to examine this issue and make a presentation to several hundred military leaders by those running the leadership development program for senior officers at the Air War College in Montgomery Alabama. In my research I found that this problem not only existed in the military, but civilian organizations as well. Brilliant lower level leaders promoted into top level management frequently were not be able to make the transition in any organization. This led to more work for a number of civilian companies. I found the solution to this problem in a good deal of Peter Drucker’s work. I can’t go into a lot of detail here, but the solution involves that managers begin to prepare themselves for senior positions by increased focus in six different areas. These are:

  1. Developing expertise in an area entirely separate from a leader’s vocation. For example, not many know it, but Peter Drucker was not only a management professor and author, but also a professor of Japanese art and he co-authored a book on this subject
  2. Thinking and writing about relevant issues
  3. Increased focus on organizational vision

  4. Extensively reading outside of a leader’s primary specialty, both fiction and non-fiction

  5. Taking responsibility for one’s own professional growth and development

  6. Relying more on influence strategies and knowing when and how to apply them


You may notice that this issue of the Journal of Leadership Applications is about a week early. That’s because I’ll be on the road for a couple weeks.  Meanwhile, that’s it for now – have a great month!


William A. Cohen, PhD, Major General, USAFR, Ret.



(626) 794-5998/791-8973

FAX (626) 791-8973


Please reply back to this email with ‘UNSUBSCRIBE’ in the subject line if you’d liked to be removed from this distributions list.