Dan Hurley has had an incredible career, and after retirement, he continues to do so. He was a teacher, historian, the Director of Leadership for Leadership Cincinnati, the Interim CEO for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and a producer and reporter for WKRC TV. Currently, Dan is the founder of a company and host of a local NPR radio show. Dan says he failed at retirement, but those lives of the people he touches are glad he did.
- Dan’s career began with teaching high school history, and he planned to be a college professor, but after grad school, he had different ideas. He realized that to be a historian, he needed to work with people who have experience, so Dan chose to educate adults. And that was what landed him at the Cincinnati Museum Center, and eventually, on television.
- Eventually, Dan worked with a university with his eye on a museum director position, but he spent a lot of time working with the business school which was setting up their entrepreneurial center. Dan developed a love for it and set up his own business, a public history consulting. He figured he could find work for a year, but the business endured for 20 years. After learning how to be an entrepreneur, Dan decided he wanted to see if he could lead a staff, and after one stint leading a team of 4 departments, he found a home as the Director of Leadership for Leadership Cincinnati.
- Dan retired, but it didn’t last. He was asked to become the Interim CEO for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and he couldn’t turn it down. And as that was ending, the local NPR radio station offered Dan a radio show. Dan talks about why it’s important to ‘follow your gut.’ With such a rich and varied career, Dan has some amazing insights on leadership that he shares.
- Dan says there are three keys to great leadership. The first is a leader is someone who sees how they can improve something and will act on it. Second, leaders are people who really know how to listen and respect the people they work with. Finally, great leaders are patient, something we, as a culture, don’t place a lot of value on.
- Dan pulls from Aristotle: you can’t be fully human until you’ve stepped into the public arena. Taking that risk allows you to test out, to find out, who you are. There are many ways of doing that, low to high risk. Dan talks about his own experience working with politicians. They’re on the forefront of the public arena, and Dan shares why he has a more positive opinion of politicians than the general public.
- Not all politicians are worthy of Dan’s praise, and he shares his experience working with a congressman whose only concern was where the next vote was coming from. And now, in his radio show, he interviews politicians all the time, and he’s got one simple rule: don’t lie to my face.
- Mike shifts gears and turns the conversation to small to medium-sized business leaders who haven’t really stepped into the public arena. Dan shares the story of a bank vice president who had a 180-degree turnaround after working with a nonprofit, and how it changed not just his professional career, but also his personal values. It all comes from being around and working with people who have very different experiences. This is what changes people.
- Dan has a lot of experience as in interim leader, and the one stand-out thing about that is how tenuous the position is. You don’t know how long you’ll be there, you can’t make any long-term commitments, hiring is a challenge, and your job isn’t to ‘clean house.’ Dan shares how he succeeded as an interim, and there are a lot of lessons you can take from it if you ever find yourself in that position.
- One of the topics we cover often is early childhood education and with very good reason. The right education early on helps children achieve so much more, and Dan is a firm believer in that. Dan shares his thoughts on reaching kids early and helping provide them with equal opportunities. He also loves working with the cutest people on the planet. He would know; he’s a grandfather. In all seriousness, though, Dan talks about the need to figure out how to change the economic structure so that low and middle-income families can not just survive, but also give their children the best opportunity to thrive.
- You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘history repeats itself.’ As a historian, Dan doesn’t believe it. Human nature, on the other hand, doesn’t tend to advance as quickly. Dan shares his own thoughts on how we can learn from the past – not from the chronology, but from the significance of human experience. It’s about unseeing the world from others’ eyes and becoming fully human.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center