Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 14 in a series)

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

The debate over Hugh Hefner’s legacy is still going on, and likely will continue for a while. I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but I thought this was pretty compelling:

And then, of course, there was Hef, who, whatever one thinks of his media persona, was personally involved in every part of the magazine and fostered a work environment open to all ideas, regardless of the source. “It was a completely non-hierarchical environment, says [former editor Barbara] Nellis. “If you were manning the receptionist desk in the front of the 10th floor at 919 North Michigan and you had a good idea, they were happy to have it.”
Said [former editor] Patty Lamberti: “Hugh called me when he heard I was leaving to say that he was sad to see me go, and I’d done a great job. To get a call like that from Hugh Hefner is one of the highlights of my career. When I left my other jobs, no one in charge ever said goodbye, and they were no Hugh Hefners.”

(Hattip: Amy Alkon.)

Notes on film: Hidden Figures

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

The Oscar nominations are out. Once again this year, I have seen exactly one of the nominated films. And I didn’t get around to seeing it until this past Sunday, and mostly because my mother wanted to see it.

I’m going to put in a jump and talk about “Hidden Figures” a bit. Before the jump, a couple of notes:

A) As I’ve said before, my father worked for NASA during some of the same period covered by “Hidden Figures”. Specifically, he worked at what is now known as the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Some of what I’m going to say is filtered in part through my mother’s experience. (I wasn’t born for much of the time my dad worked for NASA, and am too young to remember the rest of his time there.)

B) There may be some things here that could be considered as spoilers, which is why I’m inserting the jump. The movie itself is based on historical fact that you can look up, so I’m not sure how much of what I’m about to say is really “spoilers”. (John Glenn orbited the Earth and returned safely. If that’s a spoiler for you, well, welcome to our planet, I hope you enjoy your stay here.)


Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 13 in a series)

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

I don’t want this to dissolve into “All Mattis, All The Time”.

But this story made me choke up almost as much as the Christmas story did.

…General Mattis was just doing what he saw as his job: taking care of those who had served him and their country so bravely, and not once looking for recognition.

I also like this because it calls back to two recurring “Leadership Secrets” tropes:

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 12 in a series)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

This is a rare combination: both a leadership post and a swell Christmas story.

It is also very short, and I’m afraid to even quote from it as I might spoil it for you. I will say that it is a story from fairly recent history that involves two Marine Corps generals, and reflects honorably on both of them.

So, here: please go read.

Where do we get such men?

Here. Have some sad.

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

I’m feeling down in the dumps to begin with, but I’ve been intending to make note of this story anyway.

Michael J. Fahy became a New York City firefighter in 1999, and he climbed the ranks of the department in the years after Sept. 11, when the terrorist attacks and a wave of retirements that followed stirred concern about a drain of experience and institutional memory.

His dad put in 33 years with the NYFD and retired as a battalion chief.

But he [Michael – DB] had also graduated from law school, passed the bar exams in New York and New Jersey and had earned a master’s degree in homeland security from the Naval Postgraduate School. His colleagues said he was focused and analytical, and had a genuine dedication to public service.

Michael Fahy also made it to battalion chief.

But the higher rank did not separate him from the people he commanded. He cooked with them and ate with them in the firehouse. And he responded to scenes with them, just as he did on Tuesday, facing the same dangers they did as he made decisions on how to handle fast-moving, chaotic situations.

“He was quiet, unassuming, but the guys knew, he was the boss when he came in,” Commander Fink said. “He took care of the guys, and the guys took care of him.”

Michael Fahy died on Tuesday. He and his men responded to a report of a residential gas leak: the house exploded and Chief Fahy was hit by pieces of it.

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can say.

Obit watch: February 27, 2015.

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame. WP.

Father Hesburgh further inflamed his conservative critics by leading a group of Catholic educators to assert a degree of doctrinal independence from Rome. Meeting at the Holy Cross retreat in Land O’Lakes, Wis., in 1967, the group issued a landmark policy statement declaring that the pursuit of truth, not religious indoctrination, was the ultimate goal of Catholic higher learning in the United States. That position had implications for what could be taught at the universities and who could be hired to teach, issues that remain contentious to this day.

Rev. Hesburgh’s name came up earlier in the week in my office. One of my cow orkers has been promoted to a leadership position, and our group was exchanging leadership advice.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

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.”
“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.