Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 11 in a series)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

“He was always such an a—— to people working for him,” one insider says of the bombastic Brit. Morgan’s last show is likely to be this week, but no specific date has been set. We hear it was low ratings and a bad attitude that killed it, and the decision was made by network boss Jeff Zucker. “The makeup girls suffered the worst — he was rude and belligerent,” says our source. “The general feeling is Morgan didn’t show any respect to anyone working under him — the people who were trying to make him look good.”

Yes, this is a gossip column in a NYC paper. As much as I dislike Piers Morgan (and hope he spends time in prison for phone hacking), I would recommend taking the report itself with a grain of salt.

It does, however, give me an opportunity to make a point.

I don’t remember who originated this quote: I want to say it is a Dave Barry-ism, but I could very well be wrong.

Anyway: “If someone is nice to you, but rude to the waitress, they are not a nice person.”

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional (?) Characters (part 10 in a series).

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

I’m currently reading Richard Miles’s Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization (a Christmas gift from my beloved and indulgent sister).

One thing I’ve noticed is that Carthage suffered from a severe shortage of names. You would not believe the number of Hamilcars, Hannos, Hasdrubals, and Hannibals in the pages of this book.

(I owned a Hamilcar once. Couldn’t keep a clutch in it.)

But let’s talk for a moment about the Hannibal, Hamilcar Barca’s son, of “crossing the Alps” fame.

Miles makes a good point: what we know about Carthage mostly comes from the works of Roman historians, who (N.S. Sherlock) had their own set of biases and assumptions, and those should be taken into consideration. (That’s the reason for the question mark in the title.) But there’s an interesting quote from Livy, by way of Miles:

Reckless in courting danger, he showed superb tactical ability once it was upon him. Indefatigable both physically and mentally, he could endure with equal ease excessive heat or cold; he ate and drank not to flatter his appetites but only so much as would sustain his body strength; waking and sleeping he made no distinction between night and day; what time his duties left him he gave to sleep, nor did he seek it on a soft bed or in silence, for he was often to be seen, wrapped in an army cloak, asleep on the ground amid common soldiers on sentry or picket duties. His clothing in no way distinguished him from other young men of his age; but his accoutrements and horses were eye-catching. Mounted or unmounted he was unequaled as a fighting man, always the first to attack, always the last to leave the field.

So. Shared the hardships of his men, never asked them to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, first to fight, last to retreat. Where have we heard this before?

Oh, yeah: pretty much every great military commander in history shares those characteristics. I just find it kind of interesting to see how far back this goes…

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 9 in a series).

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

He was tireless, honest, and smart, and getting smarter all the time as he made a strong team stronger. His subordinates responded well to his leadership, but he wanted more. He would encourage and recruit the hardheaded, iconoclastic, passionate original thinkers whom others would often dismiss as too much trouble. They not only followed him, they challenged him to be better. They pushed him. They questioned him. They constructively, fearlessly voiced dissent if warranted. He did the same with me. That’s a mark of superlative subordinates; they make their bosses better leaders.

–Henry A. Crumpton, The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 8 of a series).

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Apropos of nothing in particular, there’s a story in Theodore Rockwell’s book, The Rickover Effect, that I’ve been thinking about.

The setup for this is that Rockwell and another member of Rickover’s team have been aboard one of the nuclear subs, doing an inspection and quizzing the crew about what they know and remember from their training. In this particular case, the inspection wasn’t perfect; the chief they’re talking to in this excerpt spent several minutes trying to find the answer for a problem he could have solved with basic math and a slide rule in seconds.

I turned to walk away, but the chief called after me, hesitatingly. “Sir, I have to tell you something.”
“Yes?”
“I want you to know something. I was in the Navy for nearly fifteen years before this program came along. I was a typical sailor like in the movies. You know the type. If the average human being uses 10 percent of his brain, I was using 1 percent. Everybody figured sailors were supposed to be stupid, and who were we to argue? Now I’m working my tail off, but I’m alive. Y’know, I’m actually a thinking human being. And I think about how I just threw away fifteen years of my life because nobody kicked my ass. You know what really woke me up? On my old ship we didn’t have toasters, ’cause sailors are too dumb to work toasters, right? So we had cold, hard, dry toast from the galley. Then one day we had toasters on the tables. And I asked around, How come? And you know what I found out? They said Captain Rickover had told the top Navy brass that if sailors were smart enough to run a nuclear power plant, they could damn well run a toaster. [Emphasis added – DB] And I said, There’s a guy I want to work for. And I – well, I wanted you to know that you’ve done that for a lot of guys, ’cause I wasn’t the only one. Thanks.”
He turned away, and I was really touched. But all I could say was, “Thanks, Chief. I really appreciate your telling me that. Good luck to you.”

What do I want you to take away from this? Well, here’s a question for you: those people you ask to work on equipment that costs tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions? Do you think they’re too stupid to run a toaster? Or do you trust that they can make their own toast?

(“Toaster” is not a metaphor here. Except to the extent that it is. But as I said, this is apropos of nothing in particular.)

Also: “I just threw away fifteen years of my life because nobody kicked my ass.” That’s worth thinking about, too; are you letting people throw away their lives, or are you kicking their asses and challenging them to be great? Even if it means they might be great someplace else?

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 7 of a series).

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Ranger Up is one of my preferred clothing vendors. (As I may have noted previously, I am partial to my “Mr. Grenade” shirt, since that phrase gets a lot of use around the office.)

Anyway, I was poking around the site this morning (looking at the new MAC-V SOG shirt) and ran across Nick’s Rules on Leadership. I think these are linkworthy. There is a lot of overlap with other entries in the leadership series, but this is the kind of thing that’s good to have in one place, maybe so you can print it out and drop it on someone’s desk.

(I would like to note, for the record, that I do not currently feel any need to print this out and drop it on someone’s desk. I note this because certain someones have mentioned that they read this blog. This is also one of the reasons I do not talk very much about my work life.)

(I would also like to note, for the record, that I haven’t abandoned the leadership series, even if there haven’t been any recent updates. I post stuff when I find it, and when I think it is worth posting.)

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 6 of a series).

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

There is no way that I can, in good conscience, continue to do this series and not call out Ambulance Driver’s essay “On Teaching, Mentoring, and Stewardship“.

Academics in all disciplines struggle with teaching attitudes and behavior, and few succeed at it. Those that do are easy to spot. Chances are, you’ve seen them yourself. If you think back on all the teachers you’ve had in your life, I’ll bet you could pick out one or two that had the most positive influence.

In your moments of greatest stress and indecision, whose advice do you crave? Who do you first think of when you want to share the elation of a professional triumph? When you feel beaten and discouraged, whose voice whispers your mental pep talk? Who plants the metaphorical foot in your ass when you need the motivation?

Right now, you’re probably smiling, thinking of just such a person.

Your mentor.

Please go read the whole thing. Yes, AD is writing from the perspective of an EMS professional, and there are EMS specific references scattered throughout. But, just as I do with every other “Leadership Secrets” entry, I trust my readers to be able to analyze, synthesize, and apply what’s applicable to their own situation.

The only complaint I feel like I can make about AD’s essay is that he didn’t write it 15 years ago, when I really needed to hear it. Then again, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”, and I doubt I was ready 15 years ago.

Firing watch.

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Little snark here, because I find this kind of sad and disturbing.

Mike Haywood is out as head football coach of the University of Pittsburgh, two and a half weeks after being hired, and before he even coached a game. I’m not sure if that’s a record, but if not, it comes pretty darn close.

Haywood’s firing stems, at least in part, from an arrest on felony domestic violence charges in Indiana. According to the Post-Gazette, Haywood became involved in a domestic dispute with a woman he has a child with; the charge was upgraded to a felony because the alleged domestic violence took place in front of the child.

The ESPN story linked above and, to some extent the Post-Gazette story, also seem to suggest that Haywood’s hiring was somewhat controversial; Haywood didn’t have an extensive record as a head coach before he was hired, while the Post-Gazette suggests the hiring process was rushed and driven entirely by athletic director Steve Pederson.

Mr. Haywood had announced that he was bringing two assistants from Miami — assistant head coach Bill Elias and offensive coordinator Morris Watts — with him but neither signed contracts and it has been made clear that anyone whose employment at Pitt was associated with Mr. Haywood will not be a part of the future.

That’s the thing about being a leader; what you do doesn’t just have an effect on you, but on the people around you as well. It disturbs me that the assistants are getting the shaft, and it bothers me a little that Haywood was let go that quickly (without the university waiting for the legal system to take its course). I’m a little hesitant to go along with some of the speculation that Haywood was an unpopular hire, and the university saw a chance to cut their losses and bring in someone else, because that makes me sound like I’m condoning thumping on one’s woman. (I don’t.) It does make me wonder.

(Hattip: FARK.)

TMQ watch: December 21, 2010.

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Instead of a clever introduction to this week’s TMQ, I’m going to give you, my loyal readers, a fitting present for the holiday season. After the jump…

(more…)

A little sentiment, a little advice…

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Ken over at Popehat has a good post up about his advice to a young lawyer arguing his first case.

Reading over it, it struck me that his advice could be pretty well generalized for everyone, not just lawyers:

  1. Don’t think about being the best, think about being the best prepared.
  2. (Quoted directly from Ken): “Stand straight, speak clearly and firmly and unapologetically, and act like you deserve to be there — because you do.”
  3. “I don’t know,” is never an acceptable answer. “I don’t know, but I will find out” is.
  4. When you’re trying to persuade people of something, you have to believe in something.

Add Wheaton’s Rule to that list, and it strikes me as being a pretty good way to lead your life. Or to lead other people.

Where do we get such men?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller was awarded the Medal of Honor on Wednesday.

Sgt. Miller’s unit was ambushed by a group of about 100 insurgents in the Gowardesh Valley of Afghanistan on January 25, 2008. Miller’s unit was pinned down and exposed to devastating fire.

Miller radioed to his fellow troops to seek cover. He then charged the enemy, killing at least 10 insurgents and giving the Afghan and U.S. troops a chance to move to a safer spot, according to U.S. Army reports.

By the way, the award was posthumous; Sgt. Miller was killed in the firefight.

(NYT article.)

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 5 of a series).

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Also the quote of the day:

“…I had always believed that if somebody who worked with me went home feeling like a jerk for giving their time and their genuine effort, then it was me who had failed them—and in a very personal, fundamental way.”

—Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.

Question for you leaders out there: how do your people go home at the end of the day?

I hate to say this.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

But I believe President Obama has done something right.

Back during the Vietnam war, there was a four-star general in the Air Force named John D. Lavelle. In 1972, he was accused of ordering unauthorized bombing missions in North Vietnam, and of trying to cover up those missions. General Lavelle denied the charges, and claimed the missions were authorized; however, he was demoted and forced to resign anyway.

Lavelle died in 1979, but insisted in interviews that the missions were authorized, and that he was acting on the orders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Yesterday, President Obama asked the Senate to restore General Lavelle’s missing star, which would effectively (in my humble opinion, and in the opinion of the WP) restore General Lavelle’s honor.

The president’s decision is based on evidence uncovered by Aloysius Casey, a retired general, and his son, Patrick, who were researching a biography of another Air Force general. In the process of their research, they found documents showing that, yes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew of and authorized the missions.

Even more damning, they found audio recordings showing that President Nixon also ordered and knew of the missions, and actually dithered about whether or not to throw General Lavelle under the bus.

“I just don’t want him to be made a goat, goddamnit,” Nixon told his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, on June 14, 1972, a few days after it was disclosed that Lavelle had been demoted for the allegedly unauthorized attacks. “You, you destroy a man’s career. . . . Can we do anything now to stop this damn thing?”

On June 26, Nixon’s conscience intervened in another conversation with Kissinger. “Frankly, Henry, I don’t feel right about our pushing him into this thing and then, and then giving him a bad rap,” the president said. “I don’t want to hurt an innocent man.