Leadership Lessons from Dean Kamen – An Exceptionally Bright Man Intent on Helping Save the World

Dean Kamen is a highly successful inventor and visionary who not only wants to save the world, he and his company are working hard every day in order to make it happen.  They are making good things happen!  How does Kamen lead with such a huge, seemingly impossible and daunting dream and vision?


1.  He focuses on ideas and applications that really matter – on only those with high potential to truly make a positive difference in the lives of people throughout the world.

2.  He is not afraid of failure.  Kamen is a smart risk-taker who consistently encourages his team to ‘shoot for the moon.’

3.  Failure is never punished.  Learn from failure, leverage failure, but never punish failure.

4.  He is creating effective, long term partnerships with excellent, highly successful leaders and companies such as Coca-Cola and global pharmaceutical companies, who desire to do good while doing well.  Kamen understands the importance of his inventions being accessible and affordable for the masses.

5.  He is using his resources (in Kamen’s case, a highly successful inventor-for-hire) to fund his fantasies.  Kamen’s fantasies are nothing less than to supply clean water and power to the world!

6.  He is enthusiastic about solving big problems, and he understands that such change takes time and group effort.


You can learn more about Dean Kamen in the May 3, 2010 issue of Fortune magazine.  Among Kamen’s inventions is the one of the most famous commercial flops thus far in the 21st century…. that would be the Segway.  Kamen and his investors believed, and very publicly promoted the Segway as an alternative to cars that would transform the way people move around cities and towns.  Kamen and his investors spent more than $100 million to commercialize the Segway.  Unfortunately (I admit, I love the Segway) that particular invention was too expensive and impractical for the mass market.


Kamen and his team of 300 or so engineers continue to ‘shoot for the moon’ and churn out inventions and ideas that have the potential to transform the lives of millions of people for the better – much better.  One of Kamen’s latest creations is the DEKA Arm, which has revolutionized the artificial limb industry and effectiveness of artificial limbs.  This invention has dramatically increased the quality of life, motor control and mobility of thousands of people, including hundreds of very deserving soldiers who were injured serving their country.


Another Kamen invention is the Stirling engine, which makes electricity from cow dung, grass clippings, and other waste.  This invention may someday power cars, scooters, and even water-purification systems for the developing world.  In addition to these and many other invention projects, Kamen has a highly lucrative day job producing devices for the medical industry.  For example, syringes that deliver a precise dose of insulin exactly when a diabetic patient needs it.  Kamen inventions have been acquired or licensed by companies such as Baxter International, Johnson & Johnson and Davol.


So, what about your leadership style and effectiveness?  What leadership lessons can you learn, reinforce or recommit to as a result of learning more about the life, success and leadership of Dean Kamen?


1.  Do you focus on ideas and applications that really matter, those with high potential to truly make a positive difference in the lives of other people?

2.  Are you afraid of failure?  Or are you a smart risk-taker who consistently encourages your team to ‘shoot for the moon?’

3.  Do you punish failure?  Don’t answer too fast here… think about this one carefully!  Do you learn from failure and leverage failure, but never punish failure?

4.  Are you creating effective, long term partnerships with excellent, highly successful leaders and companies who desire to do good while doing well?

5.  Are you using your resources to fund worthwhile fantasies, fantasies that can help others and change the world for the better?

6.  Are you enthusiastic about solving big problems, and do you understand that such change takes time and group effort?


Take a few minutes to seriously think about and answer these critical leadership questions.  I am betting that your time, wisely invested to seriously and honestly answer these questions, will change your life and your leadership… for the better!


And now it’s up to you! 

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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