Leadership in Action: Lessons Great and Small



The first half of the course draws major lessons from the lives of leading figures of the 20th century in the United States and abroad who had to overcome obstacles of various kinds on their way to leadership.

These include (in part) Franklin Roosevelt, dealing with physical disability through solid determination; Eleanor Roosevelt, conquering shyness and self-doubt by forcing herself to do the things she feared; Lyndon Johnson, escaping poverty and powerlessness by creating his own opportunities and using mentors; Winston Churchill, surviving disaster and defeat by refusing to give in; Barack Obama, leaping ahead of older and better-known rivals by a willingness to take risks; Margaret Thatcher, achieving power by steadfastly “ignoring facts”; T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), fulfilling his mission by deftly “leading from behind”; and Katharine Graham, assuming major leadership suddenly thrust upon her by simple concentration on the job at hand.

The second half presents a totally different focus, revealing numerous small but effective techniques on how to look and act in public: At receptions, banquets, sitting on stage, taking a tour, running a meeting, giving a talk, and more, down to attending a funeral and handing out awards. All these tips come from the instructor’s book How Important People Act, a tool he has used in corporate training.


None, though prior leadership experience, even at a junior level, is welcome in order to share lessons learned with the class.




Chase Untermeyer, Former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Chairman, Qatar-America Institute

Chase Untermeyer served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He has been a Texas state representative; an assistant secretary of the Navy under President Reagan; director of Presidential Personnel and director of the Voice of America under the first President Bush; and U.S. ambassador to Qatar under the second President Bush. He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of Humanities Texas, the state humanities council. A 1968 graduate of Harvard College, Ambassador Untermeyer is the author of three volumes of diary-based memoirs of the Reagan-Bush era and the book How Important People Act.


First Half:

  1. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Overcoming Disability.
  2. Eleanor Roosevelt: Conquering Shyness and Self-Doubt.
  3. Lyndon Johnson: Seizing Opportunities and Using Mentors.
  4. Winston Churchill: Surviving Disaster and Defeat.
  5. Margaret Thatcher: Ignoring Facts.
  6. Mahatma Gandhi: One Person Making a Difference.
  7. Barack Obama: Taking Risks.
  8. T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”): Leading from Behind.
  9. Katharine Graham: Responding to Sudden Leadership.
  10. Managing People: FDR, LBJ, George H.W. Bush.
  11. Summary and conclusions.

Second Half:

  1. Anyone can be important – sometimes suddenly.
  2. When this happens, you are no longer invisible.
  3. The 4 C’s, the 3 Always, and the 3 Nevers.
  4. How you look (clothes, grooming).
  5. Meeting people (conversation, introductions, names).
  6. Eating and drinking in public.
  7. Being photographed.
  8. On stage (sitting, listening, presenting an award or certificate).
  9. Speaking in public.
  10. Special circumstances (taking a tour, attending a funeral, unfamiliar religious services).
  11. Running a meeting.
  12. Dealing with the press.
  13. Appearing alert, even when you’re not.
  14. Overseas travel on business.
  15. Summary and conclusions.


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CONTACT US: Gary Randazzo, Director:, 713-743-4754 | Jennifer Coppock, Program Manager: 713-743-4702