- Don't accept the post or stay unless you have an understanding with the President that you're free to tell him what you think "with the bark off" and you have the courage to do it.
- In the execution of Presidential decisions work to be true to his views, in fact and tone.
- Learn to say "I don't know." If used when appropriate, it will be often.
- In our system leadership is by consent, not command...
- Don't divide the world into "them" and "us." Avoid infatuation with or resentment of the press, the Congress, rivals, or opponents. Accept them as facts. They have their jobs and you have yours.
- Don't automatically obey Presidential directives if you disagree or if you suspect he hasn't considered key aspects of the issue.
- Let your family, staff, and friends know that you're still the same person, despite all the publicity and notoriety that accompanies your position.
- Most of the 50 or so invitations you receive each week come from people inviting the President's Chief of Staff, not you. If you doubt that, ask your predecessor how many he received last week.
- When you raise issues with the President, try to come away with both that decision and also a precedent. Pose issues so as to evoke broader policy guidance. This can help to answer a range of similar issues likely to arise later.
- "Every government looking at the actions of another government and trying to explain them always exaggerates rationality and conspiracy, and underestimates incompetency and fortuity." (Silberman's Law of Diplomacy, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman)
- If you try to please everybody, somebody's not going to like it.
- "No plan survives contact with the enemy." (Old military axiom)
- "In unanimity there may well be either cowardice or uncritical thinking." (Unknown)
If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
Rumsfeld's Rules by Donald Rumsfeld [PDF version]: 14 pages of bulleted wisdom that have kept Mr. Rumsfeld alive and well in the White House and on the Hill for three decades. He compiled it during his first stint as Secretary of Defence in the late 1970s. It gives some insight into the man, his actions, and the actions of others in similar positions (as well as some points about business, politics and life in general), though I'm sure there are plenty of people who'll claim that the man isn't following his own rules (to them I'd like to point out the last rule). It also highlights some of the broader attitudes of our governmental system and how it differs from other systems... Some examples: