The Unexpected Lesson of Ted Kennedy's Success

Last Updated Aug 31, 2009 10:40 AM EDT

Today's managers are taught to identify and groom "high-potential" leaders. By doing so they would have missed Ted Kennedy early in his career.

You already know Kennedy's personal story, marred by tragedy and recklessness. Even when he ran for president in 1979, he fumbled reporter Roger Mudd's question about why he wanted the job and shortly dropped out of the race.

But the rest is history. Starting in his late 40s, Kennedy reinvented himself and became one of the greatest U.S. senators in history.

In an excellent post on Harvard Business Publishing, Sarah Green takes comfort in this lesson.

"Ted Kennedy's life is a reminder that much can be achieved by late bloomers; that you don't have to have your career all figured out by the time you're 25, 35, or even 45."

Read her entire post.

UPDATE: Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has added her own thoughts on leadership lessons from Kennedy's life:

  • Performance is everything.
  • Find a higher purpose.
  • Keep going.
  • Never forget family.
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.