Criticism as praise

My old boss, SECDEF Rumsfeld was fond of saying, “If you’re not being criticized, you may not be doing much.” If you are a man of action (MOA), you are bound to upset some folks. Providing constructive criticism is an art form in and of itself. How do you practice the art?

Rumsfeldisms – some favorites of mine

“I tend to be impatient, so there’s no question but that from time to time I help people understand the difference between good work and poor work.”

“The idea that because you can’t do everything you shouldn’t try to do anything is really not a very persuasive argument, it seems to me.”

My Guy on The Mat

“Wrestling is a terrific sport. It requires discipline and application. Success results from a great deal of individual hard work, which is a good lesson, regardless of the field of activity. I can’t think of anything I would change from my high school and college years. Back in those days, the development of the sport of wrestling was far from what it is today. Today wrestling programs are much more rigorous and the coaching greatly advanced. As a result, competition today is considerably greater, which makes all competitors better.”

“I suppose the toughest wrestler I wrestled was Tom Evans of Oklahoma in 1956. He was, as I recall, second in the Olympics in 1952.”

“Wrestling has made a big difference in my life. You don’t do something for that many years – four years in high school, four years in college, three-plus years in the Navy, and a year or two after I left the Navy in the AAU and YMCA tournaments – and not have it have a big impact on your life.”

Donald Rumsfeld
All American

Six Core Strategic Leadership Traits

In 1988, Donald H. Rumsfeld described six core traits he thought were necessary to be a successful strategic leader.

– Must be able to set priorities.
– Know the importance of selecting the right people for key jobs.
– Must lead by consent, not command (emphasizing his ability to persuade, not order).
– Have a moral compass.
– Have guts at important moments.
– Have a small gap between what he thinks of himself and what his subordinates think of him.

Photo is from November 2004 when I was the Secretary of Defense’s Staff Director for the Detainee Task Force working issues related to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo terrorist detention facilities.

Rumsfeld changed the military for the better

You took over from Donald Rumsfeld

“One of the things that annoys me is that everyone is always trying to contrast everything I do with everything Secretary Rumsfeld did. But the transformation that he started has totally changed the American military, and, I believe, for the better.”

Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense, NEWSWEEK Magazine,

25 October 2008

Personal note: I spent my last two years on active duty (2004-2006) as a Navy Captain working alongside a superb Presidential Management Intern (Ms. Sarah Nagelmann – Now SOUTHCOM’s Director of Strategic Communications) for Secretary Rumsfeld on the Detainee Task Force (formed on 14 May 2004 by the DEPSECDEF following the revelations of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq). I found the Secretary to be infinitely forgiving, patient and magnanimous. In two years I can honestly say, that despite the horrific nature of the issues he was dealing with, he was never ‘short’ or ‘ill tempered’ as some have characterized him. He admonition to us was always – “We will go where the truth leads us.” One investigation led to another, which led to another – all said and told, he ordered 14 major investigations that we were responsible for tracking. He never tried to cover up a single thing. His view was that it was probably worse than any of us could imagine. And, of course, that is how it turned out to be. In my mind, Secretary Rumsfeld is an American patriot with very few peers.


You can check out my website at I enjoyed a great career in the Navy. I have: served in a submarine, aboard ship, had a couple of tours flying in electronic reconnaissance aircraft, been in command of a Navy shore site, several Flag staff tours, a stint on the Joint Staff and was Secretary Rumsfeld’s Staff Director for the Detainee Task Force following the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.