One mark of a good leader is the ability to deal with surprises as they come. Indeed, how an individual copes with surprise in his or her personal life, in business, or in government can make the difference between success and failure. Surprises come in many forms. They are rarely pleasant. In the business setting, Eastman Kodak and Polaroid were sent to the bankruptcy courts after the rapid rise of digital photography. The collapse of the housing market in 2008 threatened to bring down a number of major financial institutions in the United States. Government service, as I would learn, offers a good number of surprises as well.

I was in my office in the Nixon White House on a Monday morning in June 1972 when ...

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