05/07/2013 11:51 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Listen: Thomas Jefferson's 'Art of Power'

A Book Review
Anyone who has studied American history knows that Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant thinker who wrote the Declaration of Independence and was our third president, and also founded the University of Virginia. But I learned so much more by reading Jon Meacham's new biography, especially the quiet way Jefferson got things done and practiced the art of power. If more politicians had that skill today, it would help us solve many of our country's problems.

Jon Meacham writes, "He immersed himself in the subtle skills of engaging others, chiefly by offering people what they value most - an attentive audience to listen to their own visions and views."

I've learned that most of us, including politicians, talk too much and listen too little. The best political figures create the impression that everyone they encounter is the most important person on Earth. One of Jefferson's grandsons described him this way: "His powers of conversation were great, yet he always turned to subjects most familiar to those with whom he conversed, whether laborer, mechanic or other."

I believe the same to be true in business leadership. Perhaps the four most important words in business leadership are, "What do you think?" Not only does this show a sense of sincere interest in the other person, but I find that I always learn something.

Meacham also tells us, "Thomas Jefferson endures today because we can see in him all the varied and wondrous possibilities of the human experience - the thirst for knowledge, the capacity to create, the love of family and of friends, the hunger for accomplishment, the applause of the world, the marshaling of power, and the bending of others to one's own vision. His genius lay in his versatility, his larger political legacy in his leadership of thought and of men."

In the last years of his life, Jefferson wrote to a young offspring some sound advice on life, "How to live a virtuous life -- adore god. Revere and cherish your parents, love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than yourself. Be just, be true. If you do this, your life will be the portal to one of eternal bliss."

He also gave advice on living a practical life when he told his grandchildren:

1. Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today.

2. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

3. When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If you're very angry, to 100.

Much of Thomas Jefferson's advice my dad gave to me as I was growing up. I wish I had listened more.

Send me the best advice you've gotten from someone. I'm listening!!

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

This post first appeared on