Harvard Bookstore Presentation

January 20, 2023 | Events, Leadership

William F. Merck II, Author, Leader, Speaker

by William F. Merck II

Events | Leadership

A fall trip in October to Cambridge, Massachusetts, proved to be an exciting adventure and a wonderful experience for a new author.

Last fall, on October 19, 2022, I had the good fortune to be invited to speak to a group of students and administrators at The Coop Harvard, the fabulous bookstore at Harvard University, for one of their Meet the Author events. Established in 1882, The Coop serves as the campus store for Harvard and MIT and is the official bookstore for these incredible academic communities. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers is currently under contract to operate the stores. The Coop has enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest and largest college bookstore in the United States for many years.

I had a great experience working with Barnes & Noble during my tenure as a vice president at three different universities. This extended to working with wonderful people in that organization, including Jerry MacDonald and Billy Maloney in the early days, and later with Brian Stark and Jennifer Russell. In a way, it felt like an extension of those good times when I arrived and received a warm welcome by The Coop’s general manager, Daniel Mandeau, and the bookstore team. I sincerely thank them for their hospitality and for giving me an opportunity to introduce my leadership book to an attentive and intimate audience.

What did we talk about? One topic concerned one of the most difficult actions a leader sometimes faces: letting an employee go. We talked about various situations that can lead up to such an event and the importance of preparing answers ahead of time for likely questions an employee will be asking when facing job loss. I also provided a candid take on how a leader may feel about themselves under these circumstances. It’s not always easy to deal with your own emotions, which can vary based upon the particulars, when it comes time to bring news of a termination.

On a more positive track, we talked about the importance of situational awareness for career enhancement. First, it’s important to recognize evolving organizational needs. Then, find a way to provide value by meeting those needs for your company. Along with helping someone succeed in their current position, for those seeking to move to another organization, recognizing the prospective employer’s current needs and offering solutions in the interview process is a winning strategy.

An interesting question was asked by the leader from the bookstore at MIT. They wanted to know how to appropriately react to an employee who goes over a leader’s head to upper management to share an opinion they know their leader disagrees with. When discovering this breach in the chain of command, what should a leader do? This led to an intriguing exchange about possible scenarios and various ways it might be dealt with after the fact.

All in, I found the experience to be a valuable one. It’s an honor to be asked to make a presentation and then be challenged with questions I can’t anticipate. I particularly enjoy the moments when conversations take on a life of their own and everyone gets a chance to consider a new point of view.

Afterward, my wife, Ksenia, and I spent a little time across the street on the Harvard campus. We sat in chairs on the lawn, soaking in the environment and enjoying a chat about what we had just experienced at The Coop.

Bill’s book, So, You Want to Be a Leader, is available at Barnes & Noble. Read excerpts from his book and articles on leadership here.

So, You Want to Be a Leader by William F. Merck II

Buy the Book!

So, You Want to Be a Leader: Secrets of a Lifetime of Success is now available in paperback and e-book editions.

Is Generation Z the answer to current recruiting woes?

Bill talks with Will Martin at the Reserve & National Guard Magazine about recent struggles in recruiting and retaining qualified military personnel.

GoDaddy Interview on Achieving Victory

GoDaddy writer Ashley Grant talks with Bill about how to develop a military mindset to advance the trajectory of your career.

Faces of Leadership: Appearance on the Donna Seebo Show

Bill shares his experience and insights into what it takes to become a leader with Donna Seebo on her show, Faces of Leadership.

Afternoon Live Interview on KATU

Bill gives some leadership tips in an interview with KATU host Kara Mack on Afternoon Live.

On Having Confidence: Interview with Kris Kyro on WMPL

Bill and Kris discuss the pros and cons of having overconfidence or lack of confidence in yourself in this in-depth discussion on leadership and philosophy.

5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees

A Q&A with Jake Frankel of Authority Magazine on how every business needs programs that address mental wellness.

The Art of Using Storytelling in Leadership

Read Bill’s guest column for USA Wire on using engaging storytelling techniques for effective presentations.

Tribal Boundaries

I believe that people are inherently good with exceptions. I strive to appreciate people for who they are, not what they appear to be.

The Unspoken Bias: Ageism in the Workplace Interview

Dive into a thought-provoking discussion that explores not just the definition, but the subtle ways ageism infiltrates our everyday lives and particularly, our workplaces.

The Perfect Leader Myth

Searching for and selecting the leadership team for an organization is a crucial exercise for organizational success.

Knowing Yourself: Tips and Questions Worth Pondering

Bill’s guest article for Ms. Career Girl on knowing why you are who you are is a critical ingredient for success in life and in the workplace.


How anyone sees life is complex and can rarely be expressed in an answer that fits on a bumper sticker. My views on life cannot be summarized in one sentence.

Meet Bill

William F. Merck has a lifetime of experiences in the working world that contributed to his success in a variety of leadership roles.

Coming Soon!

BREADCRUMBS: Finding a Philosophy of Life

In this work, slated for publication in March 2023, the author uses stories from his life’s journey to illustrate points in time that helped form his view of the world and his place in it.

Available on Amazon

So, You Want to Be a LEADER

Being a leader is not easy for anyone. Thankfully, this book transforms more than a half-century of leadership experiences into a practical handbook for those looking to excel in leadership roles. In candid fashion, So, You Want to Be a Leader: Secrets of a Lifetime of Success, reveals what works—along with an unvarnished examination of what doesn’t—in a myriad of work-related situations.

On Leadership



BREADCRUMBS: Finding a Philosophy of Life

In Bill’s new book released on March 14, 2023, the author uses stories from his life’s journey to illustrate points in time that helped form his view of the world and his place in it. From growing up in Southern Georgia in the 1940s, to becoming a military officer and a corporate leader, he discovers a nexus between early feelings and subsequent notions and beliefs.

On Philosophy