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December 18, 2018

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Ep. 5: Senator Bob Dole: The Most Optimistic Man In America

December 18, 2018

Former Presidential Nominee and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole sits down with Carly Fiorina to talk about his life, career, humor, role models and why at 95 years old, he still serves others.

About this Episode:

Topic discussed in the podcast include:

  • His upbringing in Kansas and injury in WWII

  • His sense of humor, and Norm Macdonald’s impression of him on SNL

  • Why he maintains a positive outlook on life

  • What inspires his work with the disabilities community

  • His friend and hero John McCain

  • Why he still visits the WWII Memorial every Saturday

  • Who Inspires him

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About the Guest:

Senator Bob Dole

Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole is an attorney and retired United States Senator from Kansas from 1969–1996, serving part of that time as United States Senate Majority Leader, where he set a record as the longest-serving Republican leader. He was the Republican nominee in the 1996 U.S. Presidential election, but lost the election to Bill Clinton. He was the Republican vice presidential nominee in the 1976 U.S. Presidential election, but lost the election to Walter Mondale. In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Dole as a co-chair of the commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, along with Donna Shalala. Dole is married to former cabinet member and former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Hanford Dole of North Carolina.





Today’s example, the “most optimistic man in America” [0:38]

Carly introduces us to today’s example: Senator Bob Dole [0:38]

  • Bob Dole is a former Presidential nominee and Senate Majority Leader

  • More importantly, he is a man who has demonstrated leadership throughout his life by seeing possibilities and through consistent demonstrations of humility and character

What’s coming up on By Example… and our special co-host (and friend of Bob Dole) [5:03]

  • Coming up over the next few weeks, keep your eyes out for:

    • Bonus episode featuring Carly’s conversation with John Kemp (a leader recommended to Carly and the team by Bob Dole) – dropping 12/18!

    • Special Christmas message from Carly - check it out Christmas Day

  • Eric is joining us today in place of Jeffrey; he has a long-standing relationship and friendship with Bob Dole

  • Eric shares that he is excited because this episode features his “two favorite Americans”

  • He first met Bob Dole while interning for John McCain – and during that meeting, he asked Bob Dole for a selfie

The Depression three years in the hospital, and some important titles [6:33]

Eric introduces Bob Dole’s background [6:33]

  • Bob Dole was born in Russell, Kansas in 1923; he’s now 95 years old

  • He grew up in a very poor family during the Depression

  • He was a three-letter athlete at the University of Kansas, where he went to college with the dream of being a doctor

  • He went to WWII and on April 14, 1945, was shot trying to save another man; as a result, he experienced a lifetime of paralysis in his right arm and partial paralysis in his left – and was in the hospital for three years

Bob Dole & Carly’s shared leadership… that has nothing to do with their impressive titles [8:36]

  • Both Bob Dole and Carly have had very important tiles (Chief Executive Officer, Chairman, Senate Majority Leader), but those titles didn’t define them as leaders

  • Throughout the conversation, you’ll hear them both talk about their experiences (and the experiences of others) with empathy and humility

Saving a friend, courage in the face of criticism, keeping the people awake [10:10]

 Bob Dole shares a personal story about his injury [10:10]

Lieutenant, you’ve got to make the most of what you have left
  • Bob Dole’s radio man, Corporal Sims, was shot – and Bob Dole worked very hard to try to save his life

  • In the process, he sustained life-threatening injuries that resulted in a long, difficult recovery

  • Dr. Kelikian operated on Bob Dole and lifted him up when he needed it, encouraging him to focus on what he had – not what he had lost

Making decisions as a leader often requires taking criticism – and collaborating with those who may have different views [12:55]

  • You have to do what’s right – even if it is opposed by your friends; that requires courage

  • As a leader in the Senate, Bob Dole collaborated with people who held very different views - but he recognized that he needed that cooperation

Bob Dole’s leadership style includes an important - but sometimes overlooked - component: humor [15:45]

  • Telling a few stories - especially funny stories - keeps people engaged

  • Too often today, we utilize bombast, outrage, controversy, and conflict to keep people awake; humor is a much healthier way to achieve that goal

  • Bob Dole was able to appreciate the impression that Norm MacDonald did of him on Saturday Night Live

“Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House,” seeing possibilities, and reflecting on the life of a good friend [17:30]

Stanford Business School’s class on humor in business [read more about it here:] [17:30]

  • We haven’t explored humor as a component of leadership on By Example - but there are business leaders and thinkers who have been talking about the benefits of humor in leadership for a long time

  • Leaders who leverage humor are more likely to produce innovative solutions, have a competitive advantage against their peers, have higher retention rates for employees, and have teams that are more resilient to stress

  • We fall off a “humor cliff” around 23 and have to be really thoughtful about how to bring humor back into our day-to-day lives

  • “Punching down” isn’t very effective - but self-deprecating humor has a great track record

  • Bob Dole wrote two books about humor and political history [check out “Great Presidential Wit - I Wish I Was in the Book” here: and “Great Political Wit - Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House” here:]

If you change one life during your life, you’re a winner

The importance of optimism and seeing possibilities [22:15]

  • When faced with challenges, you have to choose to be optimistic - to see the possibilities in front of you and lift up those around you

  • Bob Dole was lifted up by Dr. Kelekian, who helped him see the possibilities in his life beyond his injury

  • Carly started her career as a secretary at a small, nine-person real estate firm - and two men noticed her intelligence and work ethic and invited her to learn more about business; they saw possibilities in her that unlocked her potential

Bob Dole and Carly share a reflection about the life of a good friend and great leader, John McCain [27:27]

  • Bob Dole was randomly given John McCain’s POW bracelet when McCain was a POW during Vietnam; they had an opportunity to talk about that when both men were in the Senate

  • Bob Dole reflects on the fact that: “John was an independent voice and wasn’t any question about where he stood”

  • Bob Dole and Carly both share reflections about his great leadership - but neither person focused on his title

“America’s Veteran” and introducing John Kemp [32:20]

Bob Dole spends many Saturdays visiting with veterans [32:20]

  • Since it was built, Bob Dole has been going to the WWII Memorial every Saturday morning when the weather is nice to greet Veteran Honor Flights

  • Carly reflects on what it must mean to the veterans to meet Bob Dole, but Bob Dole emphasizes he is excited to hear their stories (and is surprised to learn how much they know about him)

  • His service has earned him the title: “America’s Veteran”

Bob Dole introduced us to John Kemp, a man he cites as a a consummate example of courage and leadership [38:50]

  • John Kemp was born without arms and legs and serves as an incredible inspiration and leader in the disability services community

  • He is a reminder that leadership is not about how you look or your circumstances - it is about the characteristics you display, the character you hold, and what you choose to do with those things to help others

  • You can listen to the John Kemp epsiode on iTunes:



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