“The best way to make your way in the world is to be a leader,” says investor, philanthropist and television host David Rubenstein, who co-founded The Carlyle Group in 1987 and built it into one of the world’s leading private investment firms.
“And how do people become leaders?…By persuading people to do what we want,” Rubenstein explained in a recent episode of Talks at GS. In his new book, The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians, Rubenstein explores that theme and others that have shaped the course of American history.
“I think the really great presidents are people that can persuade other people,” said Rubenstein, who also serves as chairman of the Smithsonian Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations. “If you can’t persuade other people, Congress isn’t going to do what you want, the American people aren’t going to do what you want…The powers of persuasion that [President Lyndon B.] Johnson had were legendary because he would get close to you, and he’d make you feel like the whole world depended on you.”
Persuading others through written and spoken words is key in any sphere of life, Rubenstein said, but the most effective form of persuasion is through action.
“It’s leading by example, doing something,” Rubenstein said. “If you say to people, ‘you’ve got to work hard’—do it yourself. You say to people, ‘pick up the trash’—do it yourself. That’s what really great leaders do.”