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Kitchen Cabinets Work Wonders

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A group of “masterminds” recently held a seminar in New York City on what makes them work. One of the panelists shared a story. Now a fabulously successful and wealthy entrepreneur, he said he had participated in several “mastermind” groups through the years with little benefit.


His business shot into the stratosphere only after he joined one whose members included 1) Others who were highly successful in diverse professional fields; 2) others who were willing to speak, and critique his work product with total candor; 3) others whose sole interest was sharing their expertise rather than currying favor with him.

What was said in that seminar should be heard by any president—particularly this one.

Presidents live in a bubble. They are surrounded by those who serve at their pleasure. And it is only natural that those who work on the White House staff eventually become reluctant to challenge and disagree with the boss. Ditto for cabinet secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the President, and can quickly be undermined by any flea who happens to be in the west wing.

Presidents need to hear voices outside of that bubble. From experts in their chosen field, those willing to critique with total candor, those who have no self-interest or financial stake in licking the president’s boots.

Lincoln famously had his “team of rivals” that offered conflicting counsel but ultimately brought clarity for him. Reagan created a Kitchen Cabinet of trusted friends, but more importantly successful private sector winners who were asked to share unfiltered opinions about all aspects of his presidency. He didn’t always follow their advice, but that vital connection to the outside world was his oxygen.


President Trump will be more likely to succeed if he can bring himself to tee up a Reagan-esque kitchen cabinet…composed of people who owe him nothing and simply want to advance the Republic.

Like the ideal mastermind group of the aforementioned NYC seminar, they should come from a diverse professional field…industry leaders who have been in the trenches. People who in their own way have already made their marks and seek no government job or reward. People who would like nothing more than to bring their experiential wisdom to bear to serve their country and their president. Most of all, people Trump can simply respect based upon their track records.

Peter Thiel and Carl Icahn come to mind –they are already in Trump’s orbit.

I’ll suggest a few more from other sectors who the president would do well to hear:

Life Sciences: Brent Saunders, Chairman & CEO, Allergan: The guy has been evangelizing for months about reform in his industry, is offering serious ideas via recent columns in Forbes, appearances on Fox Business, CNBC, etc. The first Pharma CEO to extend a hand of friendship to the new administration. Also one of the few who did not endorse or help the Hillary campaign.

National Security: Commander Kirk S. Lippold, USN (Ret.), was the Commanding Officer of the USS Cole (DDG-67) on October 12, 2000 when the ship was attacked and bombed by Al-Qaeda terrorists during a refueling stop in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors, some of which he personally pulled from the water. Has since been a thoughtful critic of what we are missing in terms of our national security thinking. Big fan of Trump, hasn’t received a call.


Civil Liberties: Former CIA official, US Attorney, and Member of Congress Bob Barr stunned DC when he went partnered with the ACLU a few years ago on privacy issues. The guy knows his stuff, is passionate about individual liberty, and is a pretty good hang as well.

Economy: Former WSJ Editorial Board Member and current Heritage Foundation Chief Economist Steve Moore always has something interesting to say.

Agriculture: Dr. Robert Thompson: Former Dean of Agriculture, Purdue University, Senior Fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, former Chairman, International Food and Ag Trade Policy Council. Dr. Thompson would have some useful thoughts to offer about the impact of a trade war on commodity prices, and the dangers of a recession such would cause in the farm sector.

There are others that merit inclusion in this list. Who would you suggest? Leave a comment.

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