Presidential Debates On Twitch Highlight New Generation Of Politics

by Elizabeth Haas Edersheim and Lee Igel

Twitch viewers of the debates between United States President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were more engaged in the substance of the matter than those following along through CNN, FOX News, and the New York Times. Despite the headlines in traditional news sources, the big news is that fans of esports and gaming are engaging in the 2020 election in a new way and at a new level. If elected officials are truly serious about focusing on the next generation and its impact on the future, why aren’t they paying attention to where that group is now?

More than 73 million people tuned in to television broadcasts of the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. More than 63 million tuned in for the second round. While many observers were weighing in on the television numbers and viewer reactions, they missed out on the over one-million viewers on live-streaming platforms such as Twitch.

Research conducted for the Mayors ESports Network highlighted a fundamental difference in the conversations and exchanges taking place during the debate among audiences across CNN, FOX News, the New York Times, and Twitch. The research, led by teams from New York University and Shenandoah University, analyzed 1,000 comments posted on each of the outlets’ sites. The differences between them–and, especially, the “mainstream” CNN, FOX News, and the New York Times and the “newstream” Twitch–are clear.

The first thing has to do with what viewers were interested in about the debate. On CNN, FOX News, and the New York Times, the discussion was about the quality, or lack thereof, of the debate and who was perceived to be winning. On Twitch, viewers were concerned about how engaging the debate was–that is, what the candidates were saying. In both debates, Twitch viewers expressed an openness to listening in a markedly different way than the viewers on any of the traditional stations.

The next thing is that a quarter of the users across all channels and platforms were disappointed in the first debate. More of the viewers on CNN, FOX News, and The New York Times showed levels of anger in the first debate and were supportive of the candidate in the second debate.  Twitch viewers, however, weren’t expressing anger or a similar emotion. They were surprised by what was being said by the candidates and supportive of what the candidates are proposing to do should they win election to the White House.  It resembled an audience that cares about tomorrow and wants facts.

There was also a real difference in the content and tone of support. On the CNN, FOX News, and New York Times channels, supportive comments were primarily for and about a preferred candidate. Meanwhile, on Twitch, support comments were primarily for and about primarily the idea being discussed on the debate stage.

For example, when healthcare alternatives were being discussed, the bulk of comments on CNN and The New York Times were supportive of Biden, while comments of FOX News were supportive of Trump. On Twitch, the comments were about the realities and prospects for healthcare plans, such as what kinds of options would be available and who would be covered.

The final thing is to take notice of: the reference points used. Commentators on CNN, FOX News, and The New York Times were trying to prove a point about a candidate or policy matter. On Twitch, commenters were posting links and screenshots of studies from reputable medical journals in an effort to learn with each other. As one member of the Conference of Mayors research team noted about what was happening on Twitch channels, “the sheer amount of information that was put out was more substantial than any other platform.”

As the debates went on, the Twitch audiences were fact-checking at a rate almost two times more, used negative references and name-calling much less, and referenced memes in conversation much more than audiences on CNN, FOX News, or The New York Times. To be sure, the language being used in comments on Twitch was decidedly more vulgar. But it showed up in a way that is a norm on the platform, in a manner that doesn’t take away from–and, to an extent, enhances–the content.

Twitch is often thought of by most people as an island where esports and gaming fanatics find entertainment. But it is actually a much larger community that seeks out engagement. Interestingly, on Twitch, the politics-related conversation is about us, while on traditional channels the conversation is about us versus them.

As the 2020 campaigns make the stretch run to Election Day, there is increasing excitement about efforts aimed at getting Millennials and Gen Z to turn out for the vote. Campaigns interested in attracting voters would do well to pay attention to where what they call “the future” are now and the ways they are engaging.

Elizabeth Haas Edersheim is an adjunct professor and Lee Igel is a professor at New York University’s Tisch Institute for Global Sport. They lead an NYU initiative with the United States Conference of Mayors Professional Sports Alliance that produces new knowledge on sports in cities.

January 1, 2018

This morning, Frances Hesselbein asked me, as she regularly does, the Peter F. Drucker question:

When you look out the window, what do you see that is not yet visible?

As I looked out the window (literally), my attention was drawn to something very visible: a curled brown leaf dancing over a snow-covered field. That brought to mind an Einstein quote:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

If you don’t know Frances: You should. She rose from a volunteer troop leader to CEO of the Girl Scouts, which she turned around when it was on the brink of failure. She’s a leadership expert , who has taught at West Point and was the first woman on the cover of Business Week.

Anyway. I laughed and told Frances it feels like we are living a “back to the future” moment, like Americans did in the waning horse-and-buggy days. Frances asked, how are you seeing this in organizations? I responded: What is visible and not yet fully noticed is “Charlotte’s web” and “Marvin ear.”

Charlotte’s Web: That’s the power and promise of the connections that defines us now — artificial intelligence meshes; DNA databases, currency platforms, the innovative combinations that follow. These connections are changing our trust compasses, expanding what is possible.

An example: WhileI was staying at a hotel land tossedmy towel on the floor in the morning, I realized if I were staying at an Air BnB, I would never do this. I have an identity in an AirBnB. Charlotte would write “sloppy” in the web

Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who thinks and talks more about sustainability than all his predecessors combined, called on a network of CEOs from institutions growing beans to serving cofee. Together, they ]modified processes to save enough water for a million people every year. When he did the same thing with CEOs in Switzerland, they reduced the collective carbon footprint by a third.

And this: I recently read about the network for collective learning and scaling ideas that Teach for All is operating.

Sometimes I get frightened. Like when I read Scott Galloway’s book, The Four, about Uber paying its top executives almost $1 million an hour and its drivers $7.25 an hour. Or the prediction that Amazon will be sending me my needs every week, with a return box inside, getting smaller and smaller, as Amazon learns my needs better than I know them myself.

To anwer Frances: Looking out the window, I see a force that is changing the game, a force that can be incredibly good. And yet I see the downside: Ideas built for a time when we believed in freedom are upended. No business, no government agency is truly wired for this age. Frances, we are at a crossroads: We can harness the forces out there for humanity, or we can undermine democracy.

Marvin ear: is the cognition associated with everyone in an organization having a voice, creating tomorrow. Marvin Bower, McKinsey & Co’s founder believed that the Great Depression arose in part because employees in organizations failed to tell CEOs what customers were telling them, creating a gap in organization intelligence. Today, too, front-line associates know more about the day-to-day challenges than their bosses The truly responive organizations are embracing this.

For example Ultimate Guitar, based in Moscow, gives every employee two mentors — one in their area, such as software development, and a pitch coach, to work with on translating their ideas into experiments that are tried and from which the organization learns. Ultimate Guitar has pitch meetings once a week; every employee has to pitch at least one idea every six weeks.

Say what you want about Google’s innovations, but here’s what I like: , Employees spend 20% of their time dealing with the next challenge, not today’s routine work; the organizaiton has changed how they hire and develop eployees with an absolute emphasis on building employee voice and teams; Google has rules to help women self-promote and so forth.

Of course, Frances knew how to put all this in perspective: “Jim Collins calls those edgy companies.”

I turned the question to Frances, who was born before World War I. What is visible but not seen? “Millenals are the greatest generation of leaders since the Crucible Generation,” she said, referring to those associated with WWII.” I thought of you. Happy 2018.


On a recent trip up the Hudson Valley, I spent time in the FDR library.

I was taken by the phenomenal displays of rich artifacts and totally struck by the four freedoms.


That phrase, of course, comes from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s final state of the union address, in 1941. He described his dream:   “a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” He added that it was a “ basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”

  • The first:  “freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.”
  • The second: “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.”
  • The third: “freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.”
  • The fourth: “freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments.”  That means, he continued, so fully “that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.”

It is this fourth freedom, freedom from fear that I would phrase a bit differently today. Can you imagine a world where no one is afraid of armament AND no child is afraid of the future.   Amid so much pessimism in the news, let’s think about how far we’ve come since 1941. This better world is attainable in our own time.

Happy July 4th — Celebrate freedom and commit to making it real.

Alan Mulally, Ford, and the 6Cs


When Alan Mulally took over Ford Motor Company in 2006, it was a struggling American icon, a once-great organization that had for too long been living in the past, coasting on its reputation, and avoiding realities.

At its core, this was an organization constrained by bureaucracy and bad habits. Mulally’s leadership transformed Ford’s culture, enabling it to not only pull itself out of the mud but to get back on the road and take off.

How did he do it? Whether he realized it or not, Alan Mulally employed and fostered the 6Cs in his leadership:

  1. Returning to the founding values. Mulally restored the values—watered down by previous chief executives—that had made Ford a trailblazer in its early years. This created a basis for fresh, purposeful, and honest collaboration.
  2. Making Ford “one” company. Tearing down Ford’s independent, isolated functional silos helped set the stage for dialogue and open communications.
  3. De-bureaucratizing through accountability. He recognized that bureaucracy-driven paralysis was a barrier to employee confidence and critical thinking that had to be removed.
  4. Rewriting the model for Ford’s way of doing business. The old model passively relied on relating to customers through brands and dealers; the new model actively connects employees to customers—building on content to drive creative innovation delivering the very best cars to customers.

Mulally and Ford: The stories and the challenges

In 2006, when Bill Ford tapped Alan Mulally to be his company’s CEO, Ford was looking for an outsider who would challenge the way things had always been done. Ford was losing nearly $6 billion a quarter. Its debt had been classified as junk; analysts whispered about bankruptcy.

After his first day at Ford, Mulally wrote, “We just need to act on the reality. Then we’ll be back making the best cars in the world.”

Mulally had heard the same comment from both executives and customers: Ford had let itself go. Although the company made good cars and crossovers in Europe, in the United States, consumers thought of Fords as unreliable gas-guzzlers, disparaged them as “Fix Or Repair Dailies,” or didn’t think about them at all. This was the reality Mulally knew Ford had to act on.

Mulally also studied the company’s history. Everything Mulally was learning, concluding, and planning evidenced his own inherent 6Cs skills—with confidence driving the other five.

Returning to founding values: Collaboration

As Mulally examined Ford’s history, he saw that the company Henry Ford founded had changed the world and created prosperity for generations.

He found an ad Henry Ford had placed in 1925, depicting a young couple standing next to their Model T. The caption read, “Opening the highways to all mankind.” Beneath it, Henry Ford outlined his vision:

An organization, to render any service so widely useful, must be large in scope as well as great in purpose. To conquer the high cost of motoring and to stabilize the factors of production— this is a great purpose.

In accomplishing its aims the Ford institution has never been daunted by the size or difficulty of any task. It has spared no toil in finding the way of doing each task best. It has dared to try out the untried with conspicuous success.

At the next board meeting, Mulally presented a slide with the old Ford logo’s blue oval at its center marked “Vision.”  He defined this as “People working together as a lean, global enterprise for automotive leadership.” By leadership, he said, he meant all being viewed as second to none.

And leading by example, Mulally lived collaboratively—he ate with employees in the cafeteria and regularly conversed with secretaries and assembly line workers.

De-bureaucratizing and creating One Ford through communication

Mulally made difficult decisions. He sold off glitzy and high-profile makes of cars, including Land Rover, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Volvo. He brought back the Taurus — and focused on One Ford.

He also restructured the fragmented organization, integrating the regions and functions making each business unit fully accountable, while ensuring that each key function—from purchasing to product development—was managed globally. This structure facilitated critical and integrated thinking. Mulally wanted to create One Ford to have one team communicating and working together while serving each market in a unique fashion.

Every Thursday, Mulally held his “business plan review,” or BPR. Attendance was mandatory for all senior executives. Each was expected to communicate succinct status reports with a distilled set of tables and charts updating each other on progress toward the company’s goals.

In his first BPR, Mulally stopped the meeting halfway through. “We’re going to lose billions of dollars this year,” he said, eyeing each executive in turn. “Why is every line green? Isn’t there anything that’s not going well here?” The executives later admitted they hadn’t believed Mulally when he’d promised that honesty would not be penalized. That’s why all their lines were green.

Mark Fields, president of Ford Americas at that time, stared at the line for the new Ford Edge, as he prepared his slides for the second BPR meeting. Production had already begun on the car, but a grinding noise coming from the suspension had been reported.

Fields knew that delaying the launch might bring down the as-yet-unfathomed wrath of their new CEO. It was the end of the year, when Ford executives traditionally pulled out all the stops and cut whatever corners necessary to hit their sales targets. But, that was the old Ford.

At the second BPR, Fields’s slide showed red. There was dead silence. “Dead man walking,” thought one of his peers. “I wonder who’ll get the Americas,” another mused. Suddenly, someone started clapping. It was Mulally. “Mark, that’s great visibility,” he said, beaming. “Who can help Mark with this?”

Thus was born new collaboration at Ford, born of honest communication.

When that meeting ended with Fields still in charge of the Americas, most of his peers had reached the same conclusion: They needed to communicate honestly. A week later, everyone’s slides were splattered with more red than a crime scene. Mulally thought, “Now I know why we’re losing so much money! But, they trust me. They trust the process. We finally have it all out in the open. Now we can start fixing it.”

From this point, confidence bloomed, communication flowed, collaboration grew, and critical thinking was unleashed.

Rewriting the model for doing business

Mulally understands that people truly want to come to work at a company they can believe in. He’s given Ford’s employees more reasons to feel good about themselves and proud of their company. He defined a straightforward mission: Build higher quality, safer, more fuel-efficient cars—that employees can rally around. “The more each of us knows what we’re really contributing to, the more motivated and excited and inspired we are,” he says.

The 6Cs and business success

Allan Mulally transformed a dying, hide-bound company into a tougher, more nimble player that embraced the world economy.

The means of achieving this transformation are also simple sounding: collaboration; communication; content; critical thinking; creative innovation; and confidence. These 6Cs may seem obvious ingredients of success, but without a business leader who practices them and facilitates and supports them in others, they are surprisingly difficult to employ. Alan Mulally is one such leader from whom others— from students to teachers to organization members and their leaders—can learn.

What Andy Grove Taught Me


Since Monday, when I learned that Andrew Grove had passed away, two lessons that Andy had role-modeled have been rolling over in my head.

The first lesson:  Pursue life with a tenacious focus and never stop challenging assumptions

The stories of Andy challenging assumptions begins with the reinvention of Intel, a company he co-founded and took from being the big gorilla in memory chips into being the big gorilla of microprocessors – challenging assumptions like he was starting from scratch and encouraging cannibalization within the company he’d built.  I’ve never seen or heard of another founder who reinvented a giant enterprise like Andy Grove did.  He challenged assumptions when he found out he had cancer and ignored what doctors told him, instead studying on his own and choosing the unproven treatment that would in fact prove to prolong his life.

I had the good fortune of watching him in action in 2010 in a meeting at the Grove foundation.  Scott Johnson, founder of the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF) – which I was advising – was sharing with Andy how they were connecting research across academic institutions and accelerating the launching of drugs, with a focus on results.  We anticipated that Andy would want to learn how he could take the accelerated launching approach to specific areas related to Parkinson’s disease.  In fact, much of the meeting was about the particular challenges The Grove Foundation was dealing with regarding Parkinson’s:

  1. Had MRF created standards industry wide?
    Andy discussed that there were no common measurements or standards related to Parkinson’s and its progression.   He showed us a peg-board-like unit that Intel had built and used for developing standard measurements – a tool that he was encouraging doctors everywhere to use.   He wanted to learn of any standard measurement scheme in place so that those of us involved with MRF could learn collectively.   We spent about an hour on this issue and the challenges the MRF had faced.   Andy Grove was building tools  that would let a problem be understood and solved collectively around the world.
  2. Had MRF interfaced with the National Health Service — NHS – or international health organizations, e.g., WHO, NHS, other country-specific organizations, and what lessons could they share?
    Andy described the piecemeal nature he felt and saw in how the issues associated with Parkinson’s disease were being addressed. He wanted to learn from everyone in the room how these issues had been addressed, and about who from where was open to integrated solutions, etc.

We left that meeting knowing that Andy Grove was not interested in MRF’s accelerated approach for a drug release. Rather, he was breaking apart everything needed to address Parkinson’s disease and bring all the resources together to find solutions – and we had just been part of his amazing and eye-opening problem-solving approach.   There was no assumption that Andy wouldn’t challenge, and he was totally focused and persistent.  Or as he often said, “Only the Paranoid survive.”

I left that meeting with a treasure – an acquaintanceship with Andy Grove. Over the next six months, he was so engaged and energized about the MRF, its challenges, and what he could learn and take back to Parkinson’s disesase that he thought nothing of calling me at any point with an idea or a question – even once at 4:00 in the morning.

The second lesson: Mentoring is part of who I am.

Intel was built into the company and culture Andy Grove built – starting with when he bought cubicles from the discount place for the first employees of the company that would become to the center of the high-tech world.  I saw the strength of the culture Andy had built when I was working with a supplier who had hired a VP from Intel, who six months later quit his new job, saying, “I didn’t appreciate the strength of support and pride I had every day when I went home from Intel.  I am returning there for a 25 percent cut in salary.   It is the place I want to be.”

When I was a new associate at McKinsey, I received a letter from Andy Grove. The president and chairman of Intel had taken time out of his busy day to tell me that the editorial I had published in the Wall Street Journal had taken courage to write and was good.  He didn’t know me then, and yet he mentored me.

I would go so far as to say that part of why Silicon Valley is so special is because Andy Grove built it to be a place of mentorship.

When I see an article of his I drop everything else and read it on the spot Here is an article by Andy Grove that I would encourage everyone to read – both as a great illustration of the value of challenging our assumptions, and as a way to let Andy mentor each of us.

Sports = or ≠ Social Responsibility?


This week, NYU’s Tisch Institute for Sports Management hosted what it called the first-ever conference on Sports and Social Responsibility.  When I heard that it was the first ever, I thought “no way” and then googled to find that, sure enough, that’s correct. Noting but articles on the subject dating back to 2006.  Executives across the multimillion and multibillion dollar sports leagues – MLS, NBA, WNBA, NFL, NASCAR, MLB, LPGA, PGA, and NHL – are hungry to address this topic. They turned out to pay rapt attention, alongside corporate and foundation leaders.

The conference opened with a challenge to the leadership and involvement of iconic figures in sports.  It turned to a discussion that concluded:

  • Sports figures are highly visible, often watched more closely than movie stars
  • Every sports organization should encourage sports figures to be socially engaged
  • Some may be too young or not quite ready. In that case, organizations should make social engagement available without forcing it.

The most memorable moment came when Dikembe Mutombo, global ambassador of the NBA (and a hero of my husband’s), passionately echoed the main premise of the day.

“If a player does not want to be engaged socially, they should not be part of the organization,” he remarked. “Social responsibility is part of the equation.”

Mutombo, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and gives generously to charities there, added,  “It is every organization’s responsibility to help players get there, and if they can’t, then get them off the team.”

He then went on to describe his sense of the NBA:

“The NBA recognizes the power to serve as part of our culture.  That means every player, retired player, coach, and employee of the NBA has ridden an elevator up and needs to be committed to sending an elevator back down to someone else who needs it.

“There are people all over the world who need a lift. Social responsibility and giving back is at the heart of everything we do at the NBA.  We tell every new player, ‘I hope you want to be part of an organization that takes this seriously and cares so deeply.’

“There is enough of a program that when you take the elevator to the top we help everyone send it back down.”

His closing line:. “If you don’t think you have some moral responsibility to the community, that is ridiculous.’ ”

How many organizations that call themselves socially responsible have a culture that helps people engage socially, builds a consciousness that recognizes the power and importance of social responsibility in everyone in the organization? How many of them get rid of the people who don’t follow these simple rules?

Or, put differently, how many of our sports leagues, companies, and even schools can learn from this standard?

That day, on the NYU campus, my husband’s hero became my hero.

Dikembe Mutombo: Georgetown graduate; 18-season player with the National Basketball Association, and thought to be one of the greatest defensive players of all time – a four-time defensive player of the year AND an eight-time All-Star champion. Retired from the Houston Rockets at the end of the 2009 season.  Built a hospital, dedicated to his mother and focused on preventing people from needlessly dying at a young age, in his home country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Personally invested $25 million and years of his life to the hospital, which is now a self-sustaining medical facility. The hospital has served more than 180,000 patients. Heads the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation and is a global ambassador for the NBA.

2016 – New Forces; New Frames


Mid-December, 2015

Listening to the Spirio Piano play itself at Steinway’s headquarters, I imagined I could see the musician on the bench and feel the emotions as the keys were softly “stroked” and then “pounded.”  But, no one was there.

(For those of you who haven’t followed this remarkable development: A few months ago, Steinway introduced the Spirio, a high-resolution player piano that uses software and a current-carrying coil of wire to activate the hammers and hence the notes. The result: concert-quality music with no concert artist.)

I thought about how Peter Drucker, who loved change, would have delighted in the Spirio. I also flashed back to my first visit to Disney Land, when realistic “ghosts” appeared in an elevator.  Bernard, the French horn player from the Canadian Brass put it best: “I’m glad I don’t play the piano.”

Late December

A friend was visiting from Europe and our conversation turned to Microsoft.  He was very positive about the new leadership.  Then I asked my son, do you think it is a good time to invest in Microsoft?   Will it soar the way Apple did over the past decades?  My son—who wasn’t bullish on Microsoft just last year — replied, “Microsoft is doing some things right now.   It will very much depend on how they handle the migration to Virtual Reality.  Virtual Reality is now real: Everything will change.”    He gave me his gaming magazine, with a section describing Virtual Reality and 2016. I began thinking about teaching a class with all my students virtually there, seeing their hands as they raise and so on.

So much is changing so fast. The rules, the assumptions of much of the world, are crumbling, so no one knows the new rules. The gatekeepers are being tossed aside, the gates are vanishing.   In business, the distribution channels that people built are in flux.  Country borders are not borders (except maybe to Donald Trump). I talked to people at the top of food chain and no one knows what the landscape will look like two years from now. The one theme that was prevalent — never before have people in their organizations been asking for leadership so loudly and never before has it been as difficult to provide a real vision and adjust it rapidly as the world you know changes.

It is intimidating. It is immensely liberating.

It is difficult to have bearings, much less a vision right now. And we must.

What would Peter Drucker, the master of questions, ask to help himself and others orient themselves and think with vision?   He might ask and we might begin a conversation with:

  1. When you look out the window, what do you see that is visible and not yet seen?  
    We are at something of an inflection point with capitalism and the industrial enterprise with a rising creative class, a new trust-belt, and hybrid communist-capitalists emerging with some wins.
  2. What needs to be done?
    We have to take care of this earth in a new way. Expectations of what we do when we grow up have to be shifted. Robin Chase, founder of Zip-car, goes so far as to say, if we have a stronger social network, expect to spend more time with our family, and build on platforms, are we not better off?
  3. What role can you play in addressing the needs?
    Help the millennials ask questions not about what they want to be but about how can they contribute, and help my clients ask questions about how they can build millennials in this new world. When servant-leaders are in the majority, there will be Peace on Earth.
  4. How do you want to be remembered?
    Today, my answer is different than six months ago. As a servant-leader – serving first and leading only when it helps me serve.
  5. What is your action plan?
    To write blogs this year updating and fleshing out these perspectives – building on your ideas.

Happy birthday Frances*

November 1st, 2015 – The day time changes

hbfI will share with you three quick stories and postulate a mathematical definition for us to toast on France’s birthday.

It was the summer of 1976. I was a math grad student, researching the potential impact of the 26th Amendment with four other nerds for my senator Birch Bayh. The amendment changed the voting age to match the age when one could be drafted. At the end of the summer, Senator Bayh and his wife, Marvella, took us to a dinner in Indianapolis honoring him. Listening to the speaker that night was, as Frances would say, a defining moment in my life.

Robert Greenleaf defined the difference between the servant-leader and the leader-servant.

“The servant-leader is servant first. . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead—leading so one can better serve.

“That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. . . .

“The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”

Senator Bayh asked how can you identify a servant-first leader.
Robert Greenleaf replied: “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest-priority needs are being served.

The best test is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Senator Bayh then asked Robert Greenleaf if he ever met anyone who is the at either extreme and totally a servant-leader or leader-servent. (100%)

Robert laughed and said we all know 100% leaders first.

He then thought a moment and carefully spoke about the ONE person he had met in his life that he believed was the 100% servant-leader. It was the new CEO of the Girl Scouts, Frances Hesselbein.

Fast-forward 25 years: In Peter F. Drucker’s living room, I was busy writing down the names of the people Peter Drucker thought I should interview as I wrote about him. When he said, “Frances Hesselbein,” a chill went down my spine. I flashed back to that summer day in 1976.

I put my pen down and asked Peter to describe Frances after he explained she was CEO of the Girl Scouts and the first woman on the cover of Business Week. … He went on to describe Frances as wearing a magical set of spectacles (two circles):

  • She sees differently and helps others see differently.
  • She sees good and what is possible.
  • She elevates what others are capable of seeing and doing.
  • There are no bounds to what Frances sees.
  • She sees and creates results: the least privileged and all of society benefit from Frances. We are all better off.

Frances helps the helping and the helped find more connections and commonality than the differences between them.

Peter then went on to link the root of the word spectacles to spectacular and the discussed the history of the words.

He circled back and said, “if you put two Hesselbein circles together, you have infinity.”

2008: My daughter was tutoring middle-school kids at Harlem Children Zone’s after-school program, four days a week. On occasion I would pick her up, and we would drive home together. One day she described her day as taking some donors on a tour. One donor asked if she gave one of their schools a few computers, would that help the kids?

Violet’s response: Frances would ask the teachers what tools and support they needed to better serve the students.

That morphed into a conversation where the donor asked who was Frances and subsequently contacted teachers at multiple schools to ask the Frances question and better serve the students.

The result was glasses for fourth graders who could not read the blackboard in two schools. Spectacles.

Frances’s spectacles had gone through my hands to my daughter’s eyes—and to the eyes of the donors to the teachers to serve the students.


Every circle has no beginning and no end.

What are the properties that characterize the Hesselbein Circle?

  1. Every point is equidistant from every other point, meaning each member is equally important.
  2. The center, FRANCES, is everywhere.
  3. The circumference of the circle is greater than the sum of the members.
  4. There are no negative forces inside the circle—all forces are positive.
  5. Around every Hesselbein circle another can be drawn.

Let us toast to Frances Hesselbein and all Hesselbein circles.

* Many people have requested copy of my comments from a celebration of Frances Hesselbein on October 29th, 2015

The Peter-Doris Duet: A Model Partnership


While working with Peter F. Drucker in the last years of his life, I had the opportunity to observe a model partnership – one of respect, play, and dialogue. While he’d worked successfully with the CEOs of GE, Proctor and Gamble, and many others from the largest companies in the world to leading heads of countries, his true partner was his wife, Doris.

I n June of 2005, I was riding with Peter and Doris, both then in their 90s, to an HBR event honoring Peter. As they sat back, Doris asked Peter, “Why were you in and out of bed so much last night?” Peter replied, “I had a nightmare. I was trying to explain to Socrates what an elevator was. It was impossible!”

Doris shot back, “Can you imagine trying to explain to him a cell phone?” Peter then came back with, “That would not have been a problem, because there was not any kind of phone in Socrates’ lifetime. It is easier to explain something new than to convince someone that the staircase is not the best alternative.” Doris’s expression was puzzlement. But she said nothing.

When we arrived at the event, Peter asked Doris if he could have a glass of wine. She said, “After you talk.” Once he’d received his award, he asked Doris again and she handed him his glass of wine. He looked over at me and whispered, “She could have explained that elevator to Socrates.”

I was with Peter on April 2, 2004. When I arrived, he told me that the night before Doris had sown the hems of his pajama pants closed. He said she did that every April Fools Day. He still laughed at it.

The following spring, as I was driving Peter home from his office one day, he insisted that we stop at a store so he could buy Doris the largest card he could find for Mother’s Day. Doris later told me that their four children were born in the years Peter wrote his first four books. After the fourth, she told Peter no more kids, but that she would continue to proof and read his books. He wrote 36 more.

After Peter passed away, Doris shared many more stories. One was that she was certain he had taken up ice-skating at the age of 40 because Camille Berra, Yogi’s wife, had invited him skating with her. Camille is a fantastic ice skater and Yogi would not skate with her, yet he did play tennis with Doris until she and Peter moved to the West Coast. Such was life with the Drucker duet.

During my last meeting with Doris, four months ago, over tea, she encouraged me to update my book on Peter, saying the stories needed to be more current. With a twinkle in her eye, Doris was challenging me. She would hold a party for the book when it was done, she said – but I’d better hurry.

The Time: 2014


Each year at Frances Hesselbein’s holiday party, I find three of the youngest people in the room and try to learn from them. This year felt like a great inflection point, a return to enthusiasm and optimism, illuminated by the life trajectories of three young leaders:

Ruthie graduated summa cum laude in Anthropology from Princeton three years ago. She worked at an advertising firm and wasn’t happy. She recently quit and spent four months focused on learning basic programming and big data skills in a training course.   Ruthie just landed a job with a start-up. She’s thrilled by the team she is joining and its’ enthusiasm in the office every day.

Travis is a senior at Columbia, studying social philosophy.  He yearns to work for a non-profit, but is putting that dream on the back burner for a couple of years.  “My dad and mom live in Detroit,” he told me. “They are in their 60s and working hard.   My father works in an automobile plant.   Every morning he gets up and is in pain, but he knows he has to go to work.   My mom works for H&R Block.  I want to make money so they can retire.”   He explained his plan:  He’s taken three courses in computer coding. Software engineers are making $150,000 or so a year.  Travis expects to work for a company like Yahoo or Google for three to five years, pay down his parents’ mortgage, and then move on to the social sector job he really wants.

Rafael quit a job in Brooklyn to begin his own venture. He has a part-time job to pay for food and is sleeping on a friend’s couch. As he told me about the idea he is building, Rafael’s excitement was palpable. He took me through the history of portraits, how artifacts were added, how heads were turned, how three poses were superimposed, and so on. He then explained his concept for future portraits:  one-minute “videolages composed of video clips from a person’s life, at different moments, in different poses, with different people.  By the time he finished his explanation, I believed in his business.

These are tracks which few people in my generation would have followed, or even imagined. Everywhere I go I’m inspired by twenty-somethings, by their excitement and sense of freedom, balanced with a keen sense of responsibility. Their abilities enhance their confidence and capability to take risks and to vision the future.

My talks with Ruthie, Travis, and Rafael echo recent conversations with my clients, who are trying to both serve them as customers and engage them as employees or partners in this “age of transparency:”

  1. Are we able to keep up and service customers’ hunger to provide and receive immediate feedback?  When we reinvent this business for tomorrow, what are the services we must provide?  For example, what data, feedback, and service are appropriate for a customer who buys a piano? How about a toothbrush?  Should a company send reports to the customer or wait for the customer’s request?  And how should these duties be split between computers and humans?
  2. How can we create organizations that are not only transparent and flexible but truly cohesive? How can we best build platforms or communities that attract and nurture entrepreneurs, keep our unique identities, and link with other players? How do we keep our values and fulfill our missions and make certain our business will be viable tomorrow…while everything around us is changing?

The organization must first be agile and smart so that it’s ready to serve the customer.  Peter Drucker said, “An institution is like a tune; it is not constituted by individual sounds but by the relations between them.”   These days, we are experiencing symphonies, and cacophonies, that have never before been heard.  Listen, enjoy, and contribute.   Shape the harmonies as the emerging leaders hidden among us are doing.  We meet them in all kinds of places.

2014 promises to be a great year.  I look forward to learning and growing with you.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

Liz Haas Edersheim

PS:  My favorite reads from last year:

  • Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley’s  Playing to Win. A great how-to book on strategy. It builds on foundations:  Michael Porter’s five forces, Chris Argyris’ double-loop learning, Peter Drucker’s managing for results, and Martin’s integrative thinking and takes the whole further.  It’s now the frame I use every time I am working with a client on strategic issues.
  • Eric Schmidt’s The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The ideas and possibilities here are very edgy.
  • Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs. This book keeps me smiling.