Former President George W. Bush revealed on Monday that during his eight-year term, he had in tow the same words of wisdom that Pastor Rick Warren may be famous for: It's not about you.
"A leader's got to understand the culture that you develop is not about you," Bush said at Saddleback Church in Southern California. "Organizations fail too often when the leader becomes the center of the whole organization. Your church succeeds because you recognize you're serving something greater than yourself."
Thousands of people packed the megachurch Monday night for the more than hour-long discussion between Bush and Warren. The interview was also broadcast live online and being shown in 164 nations to leaders that are part of Warren's Purpose Driven Network.
The Saddleback Church pastor tried to veer away from the political talk that dominated the interviews the former president did with the media just weeks earlier. Bush had visited all the major media outlets and talk shows to talk about his newly released memoir, Decision Points.
Monday's interview was more personal and a discussion about leadership principles. There were also plenty of laughs as the talk displayed what Warren called Bush's "wicked wit" as well as fist bumps between the two well-known leaders.
Leaders, Bush outlined, have to know where they're going and must have a vision. They also must have a set of principles that are inviolate, that they won't back down from.
For Bush, his principles were developed through his parents and his Christian faith. Some of the principles he held onto during his presidency were "all life is precious" and "to whom much is given, much is required."
Those are the principles that compelled him during the 9/11 tragedy and to set up the much lauded PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).
Despite a tough term laden with war, Katrina and a slowing economy, Bush asserted on Monday that "everyday was joyous in the White House."
"There's nothing worse than trying to lead an organization and be full of self-pity. 'Why me?' It just doesn't work. People don't want to follow somebody. What they want to do is follow somebody that says no matter how high the hill we're going to go up it," the 64-year-old said.
"There's all kinds of ways to learn not to be full of self-pity," he continued. "One, the good book teaches you. You think you got it tough, imagine the risen Lord, how he felt."
Another way is to read a lot of history, he added.
"I read a lot about Abraham Lincoln," he said. "If you're president and you start feeling sorry for yourself, all you got to do is read about Abraham Lincoln. He had the toughest presidency ever on all fronts. And he turns out to be a great president. ... A nation at war, a White House that was miserable, his wife was miserable. Mine (his wife) was awesome, by the way."
Bush read as many as 92 books a year. He also disciplined himself to read the Bible every day. It was the first thing he read in the morning, he said.
He emphasized the importance of discipline, which he feels is being lost among leaders.
"I think you have to be disciplined particularly in a day and age in which your senses are getting bombarded with all kinds of stuff," he noted. "And for me the discipline of being in the good book everyday was very important. Others can do it in different ways."
When asked to give advice to young leaders on how to let go of the agenda they started, as presidents often have to, Bush stressed, "If you can't let go and let somebody else finish it, it means it's all about you."
The event on Monday drew some protesters, with a few shouting during the interview. But throughout the night, Bush mainly drew applause and standing ovations from the thousands of attendees. Warren also lauded him for keeping America safe.
The Bush interview was part of Saddleback Church's Civil Forum.