Daniel Mulhern (KNFP 14), Leadership Consultant and First Gentleman of Michigan.
This article was published in the January 2008 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
As the first gentleman of Michigan, Dan Mulhern considers his primary roles are supporting his wife, Governor Jennifer Granholm, and creating a sane life for their three children. Dan's work as an executive coach and business consultant has taken a back seat, although his recently published book, Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics, and Life, provided an outlet for his messages. As first gentleman, he declines all work for pay in Michigan. "I've shifted to public speaking because I can no longer be answerable to a client," he says. Now, with several weekly speaking engagements and a daily radio show, he recognizes, "It's great to have a voice and get my message out." Dan's message must be carefully crafted. "People have attacked me for influencing my wife. I've had to lay low and stay out of many policy conversations." With tongue in cheek, he likens being a first gentleman to "being a good caddy or bus boy, if you do your job well, no one sees it." In earnest, he adds, "If I'm doing a good job in supporting Jennifer as governor, or in listening to someone in the administration who feels she or he is not being heard, it all makes a difference, but is not visible." Dan has carved out a role in Michigan's state government that is in line with his passion to "create a world where people see and bring out the greatness in each other." He chairs the Michigan Community Service Commission, which encompasses Mentor Michigan, a program his wife started when she was Michigan's Attorney General to help kids at risk and reduce crime. A mentor himself, Dan explains, "I took over the mentors program when she became governor. Jennifer campaigned on increasing the number of mentors statewide to 10,000. We've surpassed that." Dan also chairs the Next Great Companies Project in Michigan to promote quality work environments that can attract and retain a quality workforce, and produce great results. He says, "I've worked hard to create a great workplace culture around the governor's office. I believe we have a great team and have improved morale and productivity." In much of his work, Dan taps the learnings from his Kellogg Fellowship. "Diversity was a huge gift that the Kellogg Fellowship gave to me, helping me to have the hard conversations. It provided a hospitable space for people to speak in a more candid way. It taught me to shut up and listen. I've tried to take that way of hearing into the context of state government." He also claims, "The fellowship got me into meditation, which helped me to slow down, to be intentional, and to keep my ego in check." Asked if he is a better leader than he was five years ago, Dan states, "Yes, because I am immersed in it constantly. Jen and I are always in our leadership roles. People never see us as anything but the governor and the first gentleman." Upon reflection, he adds, "I believe we teach best what we most need to learn. I teach that true leaders must have great vision and positive energy. I constantly ask myself: 'Am I modeling leadership; am I walking the walk?'" Fellows can engage with Dan by joining in his lively blog community or enrolling in his weekly e-column, Reading for Leading, by going to www.danmulhern.com.