The Power of the Master Mind

I’ve been giving a good deal of consideration to what makes our company such a dynamic and enjoyable place to work and I came across a wonderful post on the Art of Manliness that described in a variety of well-researched ways one of the central keys to building an uncommonly appealing corporate culture: the power of the master mind.

What follows below is an excerpt of Brett and Kate McKay’s excellent post: “Iron Sharpens Iron: The Power of Master Minds”:

The Tennis Cabinet

Theodore Roosevelt and the Tennis Cabinet

When Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency, he became at age 42 the youngest president in the country’s history and brought an unprecedented zest and vitality to the White House. A man who placed a premium on living the strenuous life, he liked to get a couple hours of physical exercise in the afternoons. Accompanying him for these excursions of “vigorous play” were a group of men TR referred to as his “Tennis Cabinet.” As Roosevelt often butted heads with the old curmudgeonly men who filled government office, he preferred to spend time with younger gents and those who brought a fresh enthusiasm to Washington. The Tennis Cabinet included friends from his days in the West, diplomats, comrades in arms like Major-General Leonard Wood, fellow conservationist Gifford Pinchot, Maine guide and Badlands pal Bill Sewell, and young military aides like the grandsons of Generals Lee and Grant. TR and the Tennis Cabinet hiked, climbed cliffs, rode horses, skinny dipped in the Potomac River (even in early spring when there was still ice floating in the water!), and, of course, played tennis. The men exercised their minds as they worked their bodies, discussing and debating the pressing issues of the day and planning out the best way to proceed. As a friend of Roosevelt remembered, “For that once in our history, we had an American salon.”

This group of men was just as beloved to TR as his Rough Riders, and he told Pinchot they were much closer to him than his official cabinet. Roosevelt bid farewell to his time as President by holding a luncheon for members of his Tennis Cabinet. He addressed these indispensable advisers by saying:

“I do not believe this country has ever had an abler or more devoted set of public servants. It is through you and those like you that I have done the major part of what has been accomplished under this administration…The credit has come to me, to the chief of the administration. For exactly as men like to symbolize a battle by the name of the commander, so they like to symbolize an administration by the man at the head, forgetting that the immense majority of his acts can be done only through others and that a really successful administration, successful from the standpoint of advancing the honor and the interests of the country, must be managed as ours has been, in a spirit of the most loyal association and partnership.”

Many members of the audience, overcome with gratitude to have served by TR’s side, openly wept at the dissolution of this one of a kind Master Mind.

To read the full post:

I admire President Roosevelt’s appreciation for and recognition of those who served with him in the accomplishment of the purpose that united them. In my experience, having served on both sides of the equation – responsible to and responsible for – there is little in life that is more gratifying than knowing that your contributions count and matter.

The purpose of building and managing teams is to leverage the experience, knowledge and talents of each individual in the accomplishment of an aim. It follows, then, that each team member should be given stage at the appropriate time. It is unlikely that every person will have equal say and if the teams are managed correctly, the same people won’t do all the thinking, talking or doing all of the time.

I love the idea of exercising the mind while exercising the body and I find that the combination of the two – whether I am on the back of a horse, gliding back and forth on a Pilates Reformer or walking through the woods with my hawk and a group of friends – facilitates creative thought that in turn lead to dynamic solutions.

I look forward to the McKay’s next post on the subject and I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts on the matter. I look forward to hearing yours!

10 thoughts on “The Power of the Master Mind

  1. Ernest

    Napoleon Hill, who authored the inspiring “Think and Grow Rich” in 1937, included “The Master Mind Group” as one of his sixteen laws of success. When he introduced “The Master Mind Group” he indicated that the necessary ingredients for its success are Harmony and Purpose.

    It seems like that is what you are providing for those in your company as well!


  2. Doug

    Every entrepreneur should be a part of a master mind group that include people from the company, clients, vendors that service their industry and business people out side of the industry. The problem I’ve always seen is what to do together. There are CEO clubs, networking groups and industry associations but Teddy Roosevelt’s tennis cabinet is a great example of innovative thinking. Doing something not related to business, a physical activity, seems like win-win. You get the health benefit of the exercise, you’re out of the “office” so thinking can be more reflective, you’re with others who will see things from a different perspective and you have the opportunity to help others.
    Golf is the usual one that comes to mind but the “woods and hawk” sounds really cool.


  3. cinson01

    Amazing story. I honestly hadn’t heard anything like it before and finished your post longing for it to be so! How wonderful to revive this history. Keep up the innovative work with your company!


  4. “…really successful administration, successful from the standpoint of advancing the honor and the interests of the country, must be managed as ours has been, in a spirit of the most loyal association and partnership.”

    I love this! Especially recognizing the benefits of loyalty and partnership. No man or woman , for that matter, does what they do alone. There is always someone in the background that helps them along the way whether they give them credit or not, makes a lot of difference in the depth of loyalty and level of the partnership.

    I love that you suggest everyone one should have their time “on stage”, their moment to shine. Thanks for the thoughts this morning, Jeanne


  5. Colin

    This is a great topic. I have always thought that Teddy Roosevelt was one of our best presidents ever. He definitely was an example of the master mind. He was balanced in mind and body, and he was a prime example of living the strenuous life: he didn’t worry about doing too much or being too tired, he pushed his physical and mental limits. This is another attribute of the master mind. These attributes are all important to have if you want to have a dynamic organization as well. Thanks!


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