Mentorship and Problem Solving with Secretary George Shultz

Joe Lonsdale
Jul 18, 2016 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Secretary George Shultz, born 1920, great American economist, statesman, and businessman.

Secretary Shultz is one of the great men of our age, and I am lucky to have gotten to know him over the past several years during his time at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. Born in 1920, he has lived an extraordinary life and is still actively working on some of the most important problems of our time including nuclear non-proliferation and mentorship of government leaders.

Shultz hardly needs an introduction — an economist, statesman, and businessman, he has served in four Presidential administrations in a variety of roles including Secretary of Labor, Director of the OMB, Secretary of Treasury, and Secretary of State. He is an extraordinary polymath; a man admired by many leaders from all backgrounds.

Zac Bookman — my co-founder of OpenGov and the company’s CEO — and I visited him at his office recently to show off the progress at OpenGov and to get his advice in other areas. The Secretary is an advisor to OpenGov and we are excited to hear he plans to visit our team again soon. We were proud to show him that we have deployed the technology to over 1000 cities and districts, from 0 when we first discussed the idea with him, and to see his excitement about programs we are rolling out to make government work better. Although OpenGov was one topic, I was so inspired by other parts of our conversation and by the Secretary’s stories that I thought it would be fitting on America’s Independence Day this year to share some of this great American’s wisdom.

When Ideologies Clash, Focus on Problem Solving vs. Principals

“People are great problem solvers — it’s what we do,” he told us. By applying his leadership and persuasion and getting people to agree on a problem and work together to solve it, versus arguing about principles, groups overcame their differences and successfully eliminated segregation in many of the most stubborn parts of the southern US.

Make It Their Idea, and Work Behind the Scenes

The reform lowered the tax rate in the top tax brackets for corporations but was revenue-neutral as it eliminated a lot of loopholes. Rather than take credit for the idea, which he knew would lead to opposition by the Secretary of Treasury and others in the White House, he convinced President Reagan to make it his idea. Then he worked behind the scenes with leaders on the left, found what was important to them, and got them to propose something similar. By having dialogue with both sides and empowering each to push forward what they wanted, his leadership and the trust he had from all sides enabled him to guide the reform through with nearly unanimous support.

Secretary Shultz never got credit for much of what he did, but he did earn great respect from many people on the inside. This is what true leadership looks like, and we can’t help but wish we had more men like him in government today.

Not Bi-Partisan, Mr. President — Non-Partisan

The perspective of non-partisan goals and accomplishments is a refreshing paradigm; one that is emblematic of an older style of American leadership that would be very welcome in today’s hyper-polarized political environment.

The Shultz Rule

Image for post
Image for post
The Shultz Rule on hole 16 at Cypress Point speaks to the Secretary’s personality.

He asked how I did on hole 16, which is either played as an easy par 4, or else a particularly challenging 230-yard par 3 over a beautiful stretch of California ocean and cliffs. I went for it twice in a row, and the first ball bounced off the cliffs 220 yards away, but the second one ended up on the green. The Shultz Rule, created amongst his friends, says that if you take the risky and daring shot and go for the green, you get a mulligan (one free do-over) if you miss. By his logic, I was on in 1! His rule encapsulated a few things about the great man — both his bold nature and playful spirit… as well as his sense of diplomacy. It’s worth trying for greatness — and it’s worth having fun!

We are really lucky to have a man like Secretary George Shultz in our lives, and his lessons are particularly apt for today’s leaders.

8VC News

8VC seeks to enable industry transformation.

Joe Lonsdale

Written by

Joe Lonsdale is a founding partner at 8VC, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund.

8VC News

8VC News

8VC seeks to enable industry transformation. In a wave of creative destruction, we believe emerging platforms will replace the decades old technology infrastructure behind many industries, promoting greater innovation and global prosperity.

Joe Lonsdale

Written by

Joe Lonsdale is a founding partner at 8VC, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund.

8VC News

8VC News

8VC seeks to enable industry transformation. In a wave of creative destruction, we believe emerging platforms will replace the decades old technology infrastructure behind many industries, promoting greater innovation and global prosperity.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store