Somebody said we were allowed to think out loud. Pardon the mess.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Reading the Signs

Since man's earliest beginnings, people have divined meaning from symbols and events. For instance

God wants Bush to win...

Three-Headed Frog Found
Junkie Judge--no criminal probe

God wants Bush to lose...

U.S. sees cause for concern over gas prices
Unemployment measures understate job slack

God is Agnostic...

Bush Ads Anger 9/11 Families

God is bored...

CNNPresents:Life Inside the Dean Campaign

God is a hack art director...

Nader to Media: "How dare you?"

God is Walt Disney... "...the fight is far from over".

Still waiting on Pat Robertson's interpretations...

[several links dredged from, ahem, Drudge.]

Friday, March 05, 2004

Bush Rogers in the 21st Century

Co-starring John Glenn as the crotchety but sage buzz-killing veteran space explorer.
[CNN] "I think we're voluntarily stopping some of the most unique, cutting-edge research in the history of the whole world. Now we're going to let other nations do it and they'll be able to benefit from it. I just don't think that's right. I think that's a mistake. For a few bucks, we could continue this research," he said.

NASA spokesman Glen Mahone said research aboard the space station will continue but will be limited to the effects of space flight on human physiology.

"We're going to do the research that's important for us to fulfill the president's vision," Mahone said.


"In effect you're making a Cape Canaveral out on the moon. It would be a smaller one, I'm sure, but it would be enormously complex," Glenn said. "It just seems to me the direct-to-Mars [route] is the way to go."

He warned NASA might "use up all our money on the moon and never get to Mars."

One commission member, Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, called Glenn's testimony "refreshing in its candor."
Candor. Sounds French to me. I think it means telling the truth, then getting canned and shown the door.

[link via Catallarchy]
Roy Disney (and Stanley Gold) Skewer Michael Eisner's Fantasia

Howard Dean Politicians Martha Stewart and Dick Grasso Lots of people could learn a lot from Roy and Stanley....

ACT I - March 3, 2004
PHILADELPHIA: Roy Disney's Remarks to Shareholders Annual Meeting of The Walt Disney Co.

First of all, I want to thank everyone for your many letters and emails and all your encouragement in this campaign.

Stanley has talked about why we need to make a change. I want to spend a few minutes talking about what kind of change we need.

The Walt Disney Company is more than just a business. It is an authentic American icon -- which is to say that over the years it has come to stand for something real and meaningful and worthwhile to millions of people of all ages and backgrounds around the world.

This is not something you can describe easily on a balance sheet, but it is tangible enough. Indeed, it is the foundation on which everything we have accomplished as a company -- both artistically and financially -- is based.

I believe our mission has always been to be bringers of joy, to be affirmers of the good in each of us, to be -- in subtle ways -- teachers. To speak, as Walt once put it, "not to children but to the child in each of us."

We do this through great storytelling, by giving our guests a few hours in another world where their cares can be momentarily put aside, by creating memories that will remain with them forever.

This is the core of what we've come to call "Disney," and to my mind, our single biggest need is to get back to that core.

In my view, the essence of who we are lies in the business of film -- especially animation -- and the stories, characters, music, and humor that well-made films generate. This is the engine that drives the train, and everything we do as a company basically flows from it.

You will note that I refer to our film work as a business. Whatever else it may be, it is always that as well -- a business that needs to be run on a sound basis by people who are sensible as well as sensitive.

My Dad was quoted once as saying, "It's easy to make decisions, once you know what your values are." Unfortunately, our corporate values have been compromised in recent years.

In large part, this is the result of a cynical management's belief that, in the absence of ideas, the road to success is to cut back on everyone and everything that once made you successful, that you don't really need to give your guests value for money, that creativity and originality are luxuries you can no longer afford ... that art and artists are commodities to be bought and sold like any other office supply.

To me, the wrong-headedness of these beliefs is self-evident.

The creative process is the lifeblood of the Disney Company. If it is to thrive, we must do everything possible to establish an environment in which it can once again flourish.

Creativity is a funny thing -- difficult to quantify, but obvious when it's missing. It's a living, breathing force with a life of its own, and it tends to flower among individuals or small groups. It doesn't always show up on demand ... or at convenient times or places. And it often gets killed by committees or by something called strategic planning. So we need to always be on the lookout for ways to nurture it, and not let it be trampled by a lowest-common-denominator mentality.

One of creativity's worst enemies is something I call "Institution Think." This is a very tricky issue. After all, Disney is an institution. But that doesn't mean it has to think like one.

Let me tell you about the danger of Institution Think: It is often said that our company's most valuable asset is the Disney name. You'll get no argument from me. I kind of like the name myself. But, in recent times, there's been a tendency to refer to it as the "Disney brand." To me, this degrades Disney into a "thing" to be bureaucratically managed, rather than a "name" to be creatively championed. And lately I've been seeing Mickey receive this treatment too, as well as Pooh and a lot of others.

As I've said on other occasions, branding is something you do to cows. It makes sense if you're a rancher, since cows do tend to look alike. It's also useful to lots of businessmen, and they brand things like detergents or shoes for almost the same reason as ranchers. Branding is what you do when there's nothing original about your product.

But there is something original about our products. Or at least there used to be. Our name already means something to consumers.

I really believe that if we keep thinking of Disney as a "brand," we will lose all the meaning that has been built into those six letters for more than three-quarters of a century. We need to get back to thinking of it as a "name" that needs to be prized and enhanced, escape the clutches of Institution Think and resume our trajectory of creative and financial success.

How did the Disney Company create enormous shareholder value in the past? Two ways: first by trusting the talents and imagination of its creative people -- and then by supporting them with the resources they required.

I don't care what current management may tell you. The plain fact is, you can't fool all the people all the time. Nor can you succeed in our business by trying to get by on the cheap. Consumers know when they are getting value for their money, and they know when you're trying to sell them second-hand goods.

So what kind of change do we need to make? It's really quite simple. We need to install a new management team, one that understands and believes in the enormously valuable legacy that's been entrusted to us.

Speaking as someone with the last name of "Disney," it is my firm belief that we are not a commodity. As long as we continue to believe in the power of creative ideas, then our best years still lie ahead.

Thank you for your attention.
ACT II - March 4, 2004:
AP WIRE PHILADELPHIA -- Responding to the ire of Disney shareholders, the media giant stripped CEO Michael Eisner of his chairman´s title -- a move some feel is unlikely to quell grumbles from the large number who voted to withhold their support for the embattled leader.
To be continued...

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Lumberjack or Ballerina? Reloaded.

In responding to LumberJack or Ballerina? (still makes me laugh) I think Canadian Headhunter wonders if I thought he was endorsing heartless or martial leadership. Not at all. I think we agree that, as he notes:
...leaders are willing to command and that many want to do so. And, also, that they are willing to take painful action without suffering too much stress, even when the pain is suffered by someone else. Which is something many people would be afraid to do.
Exactly. The problem comes when hard choices are perceived as "game moves" and people are the pawns. Painful truth people can handle, but the consequence must be perceived as broadly affective and, ultimately effective. If not, acquiescence to "painful truth" becomes paralytic distrust. He also notes that
when Bob Woodward's book about George W came out... It was widely reported and with great interest that he lost some sleep over the decision to go to war. As if that was something amazing. It's not what a leader is expected to do. It showed that he was a bit "normal". [Emphasis mine]
Followed by:
These guys [leaders] have guts. And, it's just not possible that their "courage" could manifest itself in this way if it had to struggle against tremendous counter-emotions to see the light of day. They have to have nerves of steel or, perhaps their equivalent, a thick skin.
I don't doubt it a bit. He then adds in a very tight ender: comments and Fouro's make a leader sound, more than anything else, like an extraordinary sales person. He can "show people futures" they didn't see before, knows when to get out of the way, and is not afraid to move ahead even when there is a risk that other people will dislike him, or her, for doing so.
Cool! I like the synthesis of that final graf.

Yes. Great leaders are Great Salespeople, and not in the Willy Loman or P.T. Barnum sense. Oddly enough, the best salespeople aren't perceived as salespeople. Instead of jumping the shark, they jump the broom, as Alex Haley would put it: They become one of Us, and not one of "them" anymore. They stop "selling" and become force multipliers for hire. A nice persona to hold in the mind of a consumer.

As for "these guys have guts", that's operational when one adds in the thought: "Our Guy, or Girl, has guts." Why does this matter? I wrote a piece on Frank Lorenzo a few weeks back--uhh, here. To me he is an example of a failed leader, cubed.

He was, for a while, vaunted in boardrooms for his confidence and numerical facility, but doomed also, because he forgot his base as they say in politics. That base was the people delivering and maintaining Lorenzo's products--Eastern, then Continental Airlines--which themselves were only enablers to his REAL product: Helping people see and meet and reunite with other people. He made moves that people disliked, which is inevitable for a Leader. But his people also distrusted the moves. Which is Death for a leader.

Lorenzo never perceived that he had much of an obligation to Machinists, Luggage Handlers, Pilots, FAs or anybody except his board peers, and perhaps, his shareholders. He was a Number leader, and everybody knew it. He was not "everybody's guy" and they knew it. Tick tock. The man is history.

I know Candian Headhunter's reference was to military and political leaders as much as business, but in my view it's really all the same. Dubya, for instance, swings at the "decisiveness" metaphor that many are hungry for in this filibustering and parsing age. But the higher up the command chain you get, the less impressive his simplistic understanding becomes. Good rah-rah for grunts and maybe your average voter, but not very sustaining for subordinate-leaders who have to answer, in a more HR-focused and results-oriented environment, a simple question: "Why are we doing this?" Viewed in this way, Bush is a Rice Cake, not Prime Rib, to people who know food.

Woodward's "losing sleep" revelation, while perhaps true, was politically necessary in that Americans do want their leaders to have pause before asking for sacrifice. It is culturally dissonant to act otherwise. (Witness the negative response to his "Go shopping" answer to the WTC attacks.) I'd say the "losing sleep" thing was character development for the administration's desired narrative. Which brings up the question: Is Bush "playing" a leader, rather than actually being one?

I think you know my answer.

[edited 3-5-04 p.m. for goofy grammar]
No, it's not my father's !#$%@&! Oldsmobile

BusinessPundit is shepherding an interesting debate on branding with links and nodes in all directions, go here for the collection.

Among the conversations, Business Evolutionist poses this conundrum, quoting Al Ries of Positioning fame
Every customer relationship has a "life" - if I can use that as an analogy... the first exposure or purchase might be thought of as "birth"... but how do you determine "death"? A customer leaving might be beyond your control, regardless of how great the experience is. For instance, consider this quote by Al Ries:

"When a guy gets promoted, he doesn't get a more expensive Chevy, He buys a BMW."

At first, I took that quote at face value. It makes sense. But, just because the person buys a BMW instead of a more expensive Chevy, does that mean that he is no longer a customer of Chevy? Might that guy buy a Chevy for his kid when they're old enough? Perhaps he tells others how much he loved his Chevy?
I'd say yes, to the "Chevy for my kid?" hypothetical, leaving aside the fact that we're talking about "Chevy" here. But elsewhere, the conversation advances to the moving target audience question relative to Volkswagen's new luxury drive, the Phaeton.

Tom Asacker commenting at BrandMantra:
But I believe that the Ries' quote is meant to convey his dated idea (my opinion) of positioning. In Ries' opinion, the word Chevy doesn't mean successful to his hypothetical car buyer. And Ries doesn't believe it ever could, because it already occupies a well-established place in the buyer's mind.

In my humble opinion, that's rubbish. Tell me: what position does VW own in the buyer's mind? Small, funky, youthful? Keep an eye on VW's new $80,000 luxury sedan - Phaeton. If it sells - and I obviously believe that it will - then I rest my case. If it doesn't sell, I'll send my apologies to Mr. Ries. ;-)
(In other words, Chevy thought they were selling "Cars." Chevy was wrong.)

Jon Strande - Business Evolutionist replies to Tom:

Do you really think positioning is dated? I think it is still a valid concept - owning a place in the persons mind, it makes sense. Perhaps the VW position allows them to sell that car... I don't see it happening, but there are plenty of people out there driving a Passat, so who knows. Why would someone pay that much for the Phaeton when they can get a really nice Mercedes or BMW? I don't buy that it will sell. I also think that they are now trying to appeal to too many people... but, I'm not a marketing or branding person, so who knows.
Phew. Was that enough context for you?

It is an Interesting debate. But I haven't seen one specific and important point raised yet.

VW's market is a subtle "up", but "anti-market". Jettas and Passats compete with Toyotas and Hondas. Even though VW's been around since Dr Porsche was still frisky, since the 60s it's been positioned in America (with some stumbles) as a thinking person's alternative.

To what?

To what everybody else pours themselves into and blobs along in. Who's doing the blobbing? And in what?

"Drivers wanted" was resonance not a job offer. Benz, Lexus, Acura, Infinity, Cadillac (Ugh) are maturing brands of soon-to-be grandparents. The Phaeton has potential with younger professional trade-ups precisely because it's not the car their parents traded up to. Why? That's a tired old path, there are no new statements to be made there, the flags are all planted. It's the nation of Mom and Dadville.

Secondly, their target knows that a "luxury car-maker" resume means bupkis (see the above Cadillac.) That old "who'd pay 80 grand for a VW?" thing doesn't work because it's not a VW, it's "their car", one that expresses what "they feel." It also happens to be from the company that well-expressed what they felt about themselves as 25-year old broke graphic designers or office drones. And that just rationalizes the check-writing even more--although, by this point, the buyer doesn't need much more of that.

Britain's Rover (Not Land Rovers) had this problem in the seventies. What was a move-up, status car when you traded in your Ford Estate or Vauxhall Viva became the stodgy car, the one whose drivers invariably wore tweed hats, and drove at 45 MPH in the passing lane with their blinkers (turn signals) perpetually on. This was almost empirically true if you were observant... "Slow car ahead?" Must be a Rover? Yep. Mercedes had the same trouble in the early 90s. (I helped slightly, advertising-wise, on the earlier redefinition to where they are now.)

Tribal ethnography; generation-shift. I'm sure this is the strategy and sensibility behind the Phaeton. Let's just hope they don't tag it:
Unconventionaly-minded, financially-ascendant, won't drive what their parents wanted.®
Given their marketing history, that shouldn't be a problem.

Um, okayyy. Now tell us what you really think.

From bad attitudes, comes this:
Yoshi Tsurumi (Professor of International Business, Baruch College, the City University of New York)

...At Harvard Business School, thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine. I still vividly remember him. In my class, he declared that "people are poor because they are lazy." He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to "free market competition." To him, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was "socialism." ...President Bush and his brain, Karl Rove, are leading a radical revolution of destroying all the democratic political, social, judiciary, and economic institutions that both Democrats and moderate Republicans had built together since Roosevelt's New Deal.
Oh dear. 30-years gone and Tsurumi's memory of Bush is still vivid? Wonder if George remembers the difference between Effective Annual Rate and APR? Something tells me Paul O'Neill isn't betting the farm on it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Donald! And to think we thought you only did verbal jiu-jitsu...

From White Knight(?), through Poe News, via Brand Mantra and, just maybe, courtesy of somebody's cousin in Poughkeepsie, comes....
Rumsfeld Fighting Technique!

Observe. Breathe deeply. And Rummify your Chi, grasshopper:

Twin Cobra Fist!

Grimace Palm!

Viper Fang!

Swan's Nest Technique!

And my personal fave....

Drunken Temple Boxing!
There's more! Check 'em all out here: Poe News.

Lumberjack or a Ballerina?

In response to the post yesterday about Citrin & Smith's ideas on leaders, reader Canadian Headhunter comments:
Leaders are people who aren't overly sensitive. They don't mind telling other people what to do or even bossing other people around. And, they don't mind making mistakes. They can send young guys into battle and have them die, sometimes stupidly and maybe lose a few nights sleep over it.

It's probably good that we're not all like that but there are lessons in their examples from which we can all learn.
I think he's got something there. But that something brings to mind a meeting with a potential client some ways back. His company had lavish offices and offered perks--soft and hard--commensurate with the upper circles they did business in. Yet he was fond of reminding managers and staff who didn't agree with him that "the elevator goes both ways." This is true, we said. But after enough up-down cycles, you may be at the top, but you'll be alone. And you'll be shackled not with resourceful thinkers, but with drones who only hook up to you for life support--A paycheck. This CEO was hoping to perpetuate his company as one that offered unconventional, high-return solutions, and one that "values people". After leaving our intial meeting, when asked "What did you think?", one of our group joked:

"He's a lumberjack who thinks he's a ballerina."

A lumberjack. Or a ballerina. A lot of leaders think they have to be either. Some are one, but try to come off as the other, hence the joke. Many executives will go for the squishy stuff but don't understand the dynamic at play and muff it because it's not "them". Truth is, powerful strategic leadership is a natural derivation of your assembled assets, organizational and otherwise-, matched with your personal ambition and real personality, warts-and-all. The result is real and attractive, not wimpy as most assume. Yet many adopt the Attilla or John Wayne Model, because they were leaders, quote, unquote. Or, just as bad, some try to be as nurturing as Mr. Rogers. Neither is long-term useful or particulary satisfying.

They don't teach us the power of emotions and aspirations in business school and so, many leadership courses are stale and surface because of it. Too bad. Because these are real factors--the 90% of the iceberg you don't see, in marketing, labor negotiation, management and most visibly, customer service. They are real, but they don't often factor. And that's what Citrin & Smith's are trying to say. It's what Jim Collins and Jon Katzenbach and Watts Wacker are trying to say: "Wow! I want some of that!" is an emotional response, not a formula Boston Consulting Group or McKinsey came up with. TCO or WACC won't get people to throw themselves on a metaphorical hand grenade or suffer the climb of any mountain worth tackling. And Wow is not a best practice you get off the rack. Nor are employees or customers who covet a brand or a company like a tiger protecting her cubs.

But before Wow! comes, you have to believe in something. Something besides how necessary it is to meet next quarter's numbers. Executives will invariaby fail this test, as measured by employee retention and magnetic cultures, because they're trying to execute a "best practice" that's "best" for someone else, but is a shoehorn-fit for them and their companies. They're trying to emulate rather than create something authentic and uniquely leverageable. CFO magazine even points out here that from a margin and marketshare perspective, Best Practices are an operational tool at best, a long term loser and often an express elevator to the parity basement. Yet many allow BPs to substitute for a corporate philosophy. That's like making salad with rocks. So best intentions fail. Smart executives fail. And they lose patience and incorrectly say, ahh, that stuff doesn't work, having never known fully what they were really trying to create.

In my experience, real, sustainable leaders believe something almost metaphysical about business or their companies that's attractive to wide groups of people. That doesn't mean they're freaked-out arm wavers or gurus. They just show people futures they didn't realize they had, even if their sole contribution is to just get out of their people's way and enable them to create those futures. Again, what Citrin & Smith are saying.

What Canadian Headhunter notes about tough, steely-eyed decision makers is true. Sometimes you have to put people on point or sacrifice groups of tehm, although it's very rare that that is a first, second or even third resort, unless you've been very derelict in your duties. Still, if and when it has to happen, people will assent to being asked to suffer. And do it willingly. But only if it's in aid of an abstract shared ideal that they're serving, rather than provable cold hard facts of say, a balance sheet.

This "Abstract" trumping of "Fact" is only counter-intuitive to people who view leadership as a job description instead of what it is: An expansive opportunity, and a noble obligation. And as Citrin & Smith are saying, in a sometimes sideways fashion, helping your fellow man pays dividends. For both of you.

[update: forgot to include a link to Canadian Headhunter

Mars Rover Finds Signs of Ancient Water
Link NASA scientists said yesterday that the robot explorer Opportunity has discovered evidence that liquid water once soaked part of Mars for some period of time, increasing the possibility that the planet might once have supported life as it is known on Earth.

"The puzzle pieces have been falling into place, and the last puzzle piece fell into place a few days ago," said Cornell University astronomer Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. "We have concluded that the rocks here were once soaked in liquid water."
President Bush comments:
ROSE GARDEN: Our heroic and industriable scientificists at NASA have informed us that there is firm evidence that Mars has waters--the fountain of God's most precious gift, possible life. In additional, my chief scientologist, Sean O'Keefe here, tells me that Martian water contains the compound H-twenty, the necessary ingredient in the creation of Hydrogen powered cars, a personal dream of mine for some time in the future.

Yes, I have a dream also.

My fellow Americans, this is the fruit of the loins of spacial entrepreneurship, uniquely spacial, uniquely American loins. It is historical-making. In light of this, I am significantly accellerating our plans to go to the Red Soggy planet, and place before you, an ambitious and boldly emboldering plan:

And that is, by the end of the month of October of this very year, an American will be distillerating Hydrogen on Mars. And furthermore, that before my next Inauguration, and with God's grace, Mars will have become a peaceful, democratic, H20-exporting member of the family of freedom-loving planets. Thank you, and may God Bless America. And Mars.
Okay, that wasn't Bush. Give it time, he hasn't held any press conferences on this yet, as far as I can tell. Still, any bets on when the first bottle of "Mars Water" shows up on E-bay? (My labels are printing as I type this.)

[Update: A few typos cleaned up, not that you'd know which.]

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

“The hallmark of our age is the tension between aspirations and sluggish institutions.”
John W. Gardner, Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society 1995

Too true. The late, great Gardner should know (he died in 2002.) He was a Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, World War II Marine officer, President of the Carnegie Foundation, Secretary of U. S. Dept. HEW, Chair-National Urban Coalition and co-founder of Common Cause among other things. Not many are known for their nimble cultures. Sorta like, I dunno, Science?

Rupert Sheldrake is a British Biologist, botanist, author (Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals), and a bit of a maverick. He has something to say about sluggish Big Science for, of course, New Scientist.
Set them Free

In the 19th century, Charles Darwin was just one of many independent researchers who, not reliant on grants or constrained by the conservative pressures of anonymous peer review, did stunningly original work. That kind of freedom and independence has become almost non-existent. These days, the kinds of research that can happen are determined by science funding committees, not the human imagination. What is more, the power in those committees is increasingly concentrated in the hands of politically adept older scientists, government officials and representatives of big business .

In 2000, a government-sponsored survey in Britain on public attitudes to science revealed that most people believed that "science is driven by business--at the end of the day it's all about money". Over three-quarters of those surveyed agreed that "it is important to have some scientists who are not linked to business". More than two-thirds thought "scientists should listen more to what ordinary people think".
He's not just a complainer, that Sheldrake... he has some interesting ideas on how to make it happen:
My proposal is that 99 percent of the research funds continue to be allocated in the usual way. But I suggest that 1 percent be spent in a way that reflects the curiosity of lay people, who pay for all publicly financed research through taxes. It would be necessary to create a separate body. One possible name would be the National Discovery Center...
Go here for a NYT article on what some leading lights, including Sheldrake, thought were some future directions of science back in January of last year.

Naomi Wolf says Harold Bloom is a Toad.

New York magazine has the pictures to prove it.

The Silent Treatment She was a Yale senior. He was the superstar professor she’d hoped to impress—until he put his hand on her thigh. Two decades later, she’s speaking out. But her alma mater still isn’t listening. A story of sex, secrets, and Ivy League denial.
Harold, if this thing starts to snowball, you can always quote The Telegraph: Lust : The thinking man's sin
Lust is a "thinking" drive: even a scheming drive.... The Hobbesian view, we learn, is that the sex drive is as much an act of the imagination as of the loins. Lust conjures a world where pleasure is communicated and joy is spread around. We may fail, we may end up being thoughtless and cruel, but there is nothing intrinsically immoral about lust.
Just don't quote yourself,
"A serious life means being fully aware of the alternatives, thinking about them with all the intensity one brings to bear on life-and-death questions, in full recognition that every choice is a great risk with necessary consequences that are hard to bear,"
Or some other guy reviewing you...
Love: Young people today are practical Kantians: "whatever is tainted with lust or pleasure cannot be moral." The ideology of young people, the attitude that a serious person does not want to force an authoritarian pattern on others and their future, so sensible and in harmony in a liberal society, indicates a definite lack of passion. The ideology stems not from really respecting the partners' subjective; rather it comes from a supression of feeling, and anxiety about getting hurt. There is no longer Romeo and Juliet. Passionate friendship and love are no longer within our grasp since they "require notions of soul and nature that, for a mixture of theoretical and political reasons, we cannot even consider."
Translation: "Hi, I'm Harold. If I said you had a beautiful corpus, would you hold it against me?"
Are leaders born or made? They're born, then un-made.

During work hours, we at Fouroboros Worldwide dabble in the dodgy business of advising poobahs on strategy and what-not. It gives us great opportunity to do what everyone has dreamed of at one time or another: Tell somebody in charge they're full of crap--but with a smile, naturally. We also get to make lots of cool charts like this:

...And create neato processes that save money or create money and/or get people to stop wringing each other's necks. Kinda like this...

But you know what? That's all comfort-food and left-brain permission for business people to do what they know they need to, but are somehow scared of: get out of their own way...
The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith

Benevolent Leadership
Extraordinary leaders do not necessarily have to claw their way to the top — they are carried there

Just take a look in the business section of any bookstore and you'll find reinforcing titles such as Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Those who've battled their way to the top, therefore, must be the most aggressive, self-centered type of people, right?

Not necessarily. Happily, the facts show that the most successful individuals populating the top rung of the corporate ladder are more often those who can attract top talent and inspire them to exceptional levels of performance.
Are benevolent-leader CEOs more competent? There is certainly no evidence to support this. Yet, looking beyond some of the highly visible CEOs to mainstream executive leaders, research clearly indicates that benevolent leadership has a direct, positive impact on success.

Why is this the case?

The answer lies not in the ability of the CEO per se, but rather in the environment that this style of leadership generates within an organization and the resulting effect it has on the performance of team members. It is the creation of this type of organizational environment, we have found, that is consistently linked to superior long-term performance for these executives and their companies. Quite simply, benevolent leaders achieve advantage by creating an environment where the very best performers want and even seek to work, will perform at peak levels, and will remain loyal. In turn, the leader successful in creating this environment is rewarded by the performance of those working with him.
Good stuff. But if everybody's talking about the importance of evolving workplaces and innovation and merit and stuff, how do you convincingly communicate that they matter to you without feeling like Stuart Smalley or Tony Robbins? Simple. Sometimes you just have to get Medieval on the office furniture. Much more effective than Casual Friday or "empowerment" sessions.

Would Shakespeare Get Into Swarthmore?
How several well-known writers (and the Unabomber) would fare on the new SAT

Goodbye verbal analogies, hello essay questions. The Atlantic asked the folks at The Princeton Review, an SAT tutoring outfit, what they think of the new format and, also, how to score well on it. TPR's answers aren't encouraging, auspicious, breezy, optimistic, propitious, warming, providential or consoling. Check out how Hemingway fared.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Dean for Catalyst for America!
Washington Post: "I don't care about being president," he said. Months earlier, as his candidacy was taking off, he told a colleague: "The problem is, I'm now afraid I might win."

...Interviews with more than a dozen Dean advisers -- portions of which were not for attribution because many did not want to be viewed as disloyal to their former boss -- produced a picture far different from the public image of a hip, high-tech operation of dedicated Deaniacs.

It was, instead, a dysfunctional political family, filled with tales of blocking access to the candidate, neutralizing internal rivals, trying to penalize reporters deemed unfriendly. And some of its members just plain despised each other.
Someody who makes gazillions of dollars by knowing which "buttons" people are looking to have pushed offers help...
...Returning to Vermont, O'Connor [Dean's longtime Aide] maintained in a meeting with Hollywood activist Rob Reiner, who had flown in to advise Dean, that people were overreacting to the high-decibel speech and voters didn't care. Reiner was flabbergasted at this attitude -- he wondered whether the staff was "crazy" -- and expressed amazement that they hadn't moved faster to neutralize the issue, two participants said.
Puts the (non-?)method behind the tone-deafness and naivete of Iowa Scream Night into context, doesn't it? Howie Kurtz actually does some reporting. Interesting autopsy, fairly deep and worth a read.

PS: Is there some hidden law that says Candidates with resonance and revolutionary zeal must either commit harakiri or hand the sword to their opponents and the press?

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