E Coli, Cucumbers and the Consequences of Modernity

May 30, 2011

Tudor Rickards

Update: The initial reports of the source of the E-Coli deaths in Germany last week [May 2011] were later revised pending more careful analysis. An excellent review from CTVNews provided an informed view of the outbreak

Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Ryerson University in Toronto, notes that this epidemic appears to be due to a double whammy: salad vegetables that haven’t been cooked (which would normally kill off most E. coli bacteria) and the use of organic growing methods.

“Organic foods are by definition fertilized with animal droppings and that’s where E. coli exists,” Sly noted in an interview with CTV.ca.

“We’ve been prophesying for a long time that as people move into organic foods, we’re going to get more of these (outbreaks).”

He says E. coli tends to be a surface contaminant that can simply be washed off. But if someone doesn’t wash their vegetables thoroughly, there can be problems.

“If you’re going to be eating organic food and you’re going to be eating them raw, you do need to exercise much more sanitation and hygiene, with washing and peeling. Which is something that we should be doing anyways,” Sly notes.

Initial post

The BBC reported that cucumbers infected with the E-Coli bacterium had produced deaths around Europe. The infections may be seen as another dilemma of modernity and its consequences.

The death toll in Germany from an outbreak of E.coli caused by infected cucumbers has risen to at least 10. The cucumbers, believed to have been imported from Spain, were contaminated with E.coli which left people ill with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS).

Modernity and its consequences

Modernity has given us drugs to combat disease. It has also given us diseases which combat drugs. It has given us protection from the environment, as well as inflicting grave insults to the environment.

Organic farming and its consequences

This week, we have been reminded of the principle of unintended consequences. The cucumbers were grown under conditions of organic farming. Intensive farming has its environmental insults. Organic farming too has its unintended consequences.


Wanted: Blogs for Leaders We Deserve

May 27, 2011

Leaders We Deserve announce a new service for subscribers. We will be providing a list of blog topics with an open invitatation for new authors to add to the list. The list becomes open for anyone wishing to write a post on a topic (“Bid”) or propose a topic for someone else to write (“Propose”)

How the bidding and proposing works

This is how the service works. Anyone can ‘bid’ to write a post or ‘propose’ a post for Leaders we deserve by using the comments section below. Proposals for new topics should have a title and brief information to indicate the main idea behind the proposed blog. Bids should outline the ‘header’ to the proposed blog post (the first paragraph which appears in bold). Successful bids will receive guidance from the editorial team at LWD.

Here are some proposals in the pipeline, based on news stories this week [May 21st-May 28th, 2011]:

[1] Oprah Winfrey’s Secret
Oprah bows out from her show as America’s ‘second First Lady’. What was the secret to her phenomenal success?
USA Today story here

[2] Sarah Palin: The Undefeated
Sarah Palin steps up her Presidential campaign with a two hour film depicting her as Joan of Arc. We test the film and the candidate’s leadership style and credentials.
Guardian article here

[3]”The Evil That Men Do…”
Mladic captured and faces war crimes tribunal. Cn the notion of evil be explained the same way as that of charisma or the Hitler paradox?

[4]Simon Cowell shows ‘Presidential Envy’.
What motives successful people to the symbols of power? Simon Cowell wants President Obama’s Limo

[5] Adele named most powerful person in British music: why?

[6] “No divorce please, we’re from Malta”
Church in Malta is ‘confident’ priests will not use pulpit to influence vote on voting day for legalizing divorce
[7] Burberry flourishes through Angela Arhendts’ leadership
Photo from chinadaily.com.cn


“For Sir Bobby (Charlton) and the Boss” 

May 25, 2011

Susan Moger

When Manchester United play Barcelona in the European Cup Final on May 30 2011 they do so in an atmosphere rich in memory and expectations. There are echoes of Henry 5th’s famous battle cry “God for Harry, England and St George”

Memory because Manchester United’s first victory in the competition occurred at Wembley in 1968 against Benfica. Bobby Charlton led a team managed by Sir Matt Busby, built with the core of players who had survived the Munich air crash of 1958. Expectations because a victory would give Sir Alex Ferguson his third European Championship, an achievement to crown his 19th title in the top flight of English football.

Will tension heighten performance?

What effect might this cauldron of tension, expectations and emotion have on the performance of the Manchester United players? The effect could heighten their state of arousal, a physiological state which releases energy and intensifies the drive to perform. In elite sport, the balance between a state of high intensity and composure is very delicate. In soccer, it takes composure to score a goal as the finish to a move, or to execute a tackle in the penalty area, where poor technique could result in a penalty and the dismissal of a player. To remain cool at moments of high intensity is frequently the difference between winning and losing.

Edwin’s last match

So how might the Manchester United players achieve that balance? Sir Alex Ferguson frequently plays tribute to the influence of his senior players on occasions such as these, in particular Edwin van der Sar, the goalkeeper. The final has added piquancy for van der Sar. It is his last competitive match for the club, and doubtless he would really like to leave Old Trafford with one more winner’s medal. Another player Sir Alex might turn to, Ryan Giggs, is recently embroiled in controversy and is the subject of intense media attention. It remains to seen how this will affect his, and the team’s performance.

The greatest team in the world?

As he leads his team to Wembley, Sir Alex will be acutely aware that Barcelona is a team seen by many as the best in the world. Will Pep Guardiola, tipped as his successor at Old Trafford, lead his team to a positive performance at Wembley? It would expunge memories of the hacking football on the pitch, and the thuggery off it, which characterised the first leg of the semi final against Real Madrid.

Retaining composure

Retaining composure in terms of the managers leading the teams and the players involved in the match may well be the key to success. As the players line up in the tunnel, might the rallying cry ‘For Sir Bobby and the Boss!’ help or hinder the players’ performance? They and the fans know and understand the significance of the match. Any post-match analysis cannot fail to take the emotional elements of the occasion into account.


Question for leaders: what’s the difference between special and essential?

May 24, 2011

It meant something during President Obama’s state visit to England, as a joint message with Prime Minister Cameron revealed.

The two leaders published the communication in the Times. It seemed to be at pains to address the increasingly aging notion of the special relationship between the two countries. Instead, the word was ‘essential’. How modern. Special is an emotion laden word. Essential is a cool word of functional management. Special has symbolic overtones. Essential doesn’t.

As noted by The International Business Times

The relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. however is much older and complicated than the one between the leader and the Queen. The referral of the countries mutual relationship as ‘special’ can be traced back to a phrase used to describe the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relationship in a 1946 speech by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Since then, although both the United Kingdom and United States have close relationships with many other nations, the level of cooperation between them in economic activity, trade and commerce, military planning, execution of military operations, nuclear weapons technology and intelligence sharing is perceived as a unique one.

President Obama is strong at emotions when they are authentic. He is cautious when he has to wear his mask of command. He was the charismatic leader of his election campaign in Ireland yesterday [May 22nd 2011]. He was playing it for fun as well as for the votes back home with the Irish community. Today it was business as usual.


O’bama Birthing Mystery Solved in a Tiny Irish Hamlet

May 23, 2011

Research by Irish scholars has revealed the truth about President Obama’s birthplace. It was the little Irish hamlet of Ballymeenag.

Conspiracy theories about President Obama’s place of birth have been found partly confirmed. The President was conceived in the rural hamlet of Ballymeenagh in the Republic of Ireland, but was born after his family moved to Hawaii, and where his father changed his name from O’bama to Obama. The tiny hamlet, now uninhabited, should not be confused with the beautiful township of Ballymenagh, County Tyrone shown clearly in the image.

The vital evidence comes from a document found tucked away in the Book of Kells, presumably used as a bookmark by a student from Trinity college, Dublin. The priceless evidence recorded the time the O’bamas spent in Ballymeenagh in rural povery.

Decoy helicopters

The President is travelling to Ireland today in attempt to throw people of the scent by claiming lineage from the nearby township of Moneygall. He is accompanied by 500 personnel including decoy helicopters. Some of the 300 inhabitants have been practicing their welcome song

“O’Leary, O’Reilly, O’Hare and O’Hara,
there’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama.

From the old Blarney stone to the green hills of Tara
there’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama.”

Truth or fiction?

Not all the information in this piece has been authenticated with the rigour to be expected from a Leaders we deserve post.


Netanyahu, Obama and the masks of command

May 21, 2011

Dennis Ross

When leaders speak publically they often have to address more than one audience. This explains why they have to wear the mask of command. Even more complicated is when leaders meet to discuss the fate of nations

The meeting

The BBC reported the meeting this week [May 19th 2011] between the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the USA.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US President Barack Obama’s call for peace with the Palestinians based on pre-1967 borders. After tense talks at the White House, a defiant Mr Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to compromise but there could be no peace “based on illusions”.

The video clearly shows each leader wearing a (metaphoric) mask of command. Their words said one thing. The body language of each suggested something different.

Beyond the masks of command

Beyond the masks of command were two humans struggling to deal with dilemmas requiring superhuman efforts. The complexities are evident. The issues are simplified even if wrapped up in a label such as the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Mr Obama speaks to those advocating a tougher line with Israel, and those opposing such a line. Mr Netanyahu could be seen as addressing somewhat different audiences, including those in and beyond Israel supporting a policy based on the pre-1967 borders, and those opposed to any such changes. Sometimes the simplification is made into hawks and doves, but who are the hawks and who are the doves?

Among the key players: enter King Abdullah and Denis Ross

Other key influences were revealed at a meeting this week addressed by King Addullah of Jordan. The New York Times reported that

King Abdullah II of Jordan gave his assessment of how Arabs view the debate within the Obama administration over how far to push Israel on concessions for peace with the Palestinians.
From the State Department, “we get good responses,” the Jordanian king said, according to several people who were in the room. And from the Pentagon, too. “But not from the White House, and we know the reason why is because of Dennis Ross” — President Obama’s chief Middle East adviser. Mr. Ross, King Abdullah concluded, “is giving wrong advice to the White House.” By almost all accounts, Dennis B. Ross — Middle East envoy to three presidents, well-known architect of incremental and painstaking diplomacy in the Middle East that eschews game-changing plays — is Israel’s friend in the Obama White House and one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in town. His strategy sometimes contrasts sharply with that of a president who has bold instincts and a willingness to elevate the plight of the Palestinians to a status equal to that of the Israelis.

Easy for journalists to campaign

The highly respected English journalist Robert Fisk writing in the Independent has dismissed Obama as duplicitous and weak for failing to act decisively over the fate of the Palestinians. But it is easy for journalists to campaign as if there were no dilemmas of leadership. They do not have to offer strategies within the complex and extended processes involved in diplomacy and military adventures.

A more balanced view of the complexities of the situation was provided by Al Jazeera, quoting Mr Fisk as providing one strand of the argument.


Symbolic Leadership and the Queen’s Visit to Ireland

May 18, 2011

The Queen’s visit to Ireland has been widely described as a historic moment of great symbolic significance. So what is symbolic leadership?

This month (May 2011) has already marked two events redolent in symbolism. The first was the celebrity royal wedding of William and Kate Wales. The second event will have more of a foothold on history.

The State Visit

The Daily Telegraph put it in these terms:

Yesterday when the Queen arrived in the Irish capital for the start of her historic tour, she laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance, which honours all those who died for Irish freedom in the early part of the 20th century … [Today] The Queen will make probably the most significant visit of her tour when she goes to Dublin’s Croke Park, the site of a British massacre of Irish civilians which turned public sympathy decisively against the Government.

The symbolic significance was not lost on those still claiming to be heir to the revolutionary struggle for a United Ireland. There were thwarted terrorist incidents in London and Dublin. Security in the Irish capital was so tight that the general public could hardly glimpse the visiting Royal.

Symbolic Leadership

Just what is Symbolic Leadership? The Danish Leadership theorist Ingo Winkler defined it as leadership which refers to, and is based on interpretation of meaning, which becomes tangible and therefore can be experienced in the form of symbols. The concept assumes that reality is a social construction, with leadership being a part of this reality.

Those Symbolic Acts

The State Visit has been thoroughly planned for its symbolic impact. So was that royal wedding. Those symbolic acts have a message to communicate to the widest of international audiences. The Queen’s visit has a further message for audiences in Northern Ireland, The Irish Republic, and the British mainland.

An Irish View

A Irish blogger captured one view from Dublin:

I watched the Royal Wedding last month; I enjoyed it immensely but I didn’t shed a single tear. I cried today as I watched The Queen stand in front of Áras an Uachtráin (Irish President’s official residence) and listen to a band play God Save the Queen followed by the Irish national anthem. A moment imbued with significance and symbolism; peace in our time in this often troubled island. [Note; the very blurry image above was shot from my television screen from RTE’s coverage of the Queen’s state visit to Ireland].

Ackowledgement

To Just Add Attitude for that ‘very blurry image’.

Update

I was struck by the Churchillian prose of the Queen’s speech. It was a brilliant piece of writing for a momentous moment. Worth studying by any student of leadership, along with the Martin Luther King classic.


Against the grain: ethical and eco-leadership needed more than ever?

May 16, 2011


Alex Hough and Tudor Rickards

As rocketing food prices contribute to global instability, the need for eco-leadership and ethical leadership is more pointed than ever. Leaders We Deserve subscriber Alex Hough captures a protest in the streets of Manchester.

Spring bursts out in Manchester. Alex stumbles upon a demonstration in a French food market in Saint Anne’s Square. Camera in hand, he stops to discuss what’s going on, with one of the participants who was in formal dress complete with top hat, but also with a face painted with cats whiskers. The protestor explained he was representing fat cat capitalism. He explained that the demonstration was organized by the World Development Movement seeking improved regulation of speculation on food markets. Similar demonstrations were taking place this week nationally.

“Betting on Hunger”

The protest was part of a nation-wide “Betting on Hunger” campaign organised by the World Development Movement. According to their literature

During the 1990s and early 2000s, aggressive lobbying by investment banks and hedge funds led to weaker regulations on food speculation. Banks like Barclays Capital created special investment products to help financial companies make money from food prices, just like they do from share prices. As a result, hundreds of millions of pounds have been poured into food commodity markets, pushing up prices and resulting in increased hunger and poverty.

Ecoleadership and international development

While stories of business leaders continue to fill the pages of Time and Fortune, the efforts of eco-leaders remain largely unheralded. Leadership students could focus more on eco leadership and international development. Ethical dilemmas become more acute as consumers become aware of “fair trade” , green and ethical products.
At Manchester, The Brooks World Poverty Institute is run by Professor David Hulme, one of the doyens of the International Development movement.

Development redefined

Another would be the work Professor Robin Broad of the School of International Service at Atlantic University, Washington DC. Her 2009 book with colleague John Cavenagh, “Development Redefined: How the Market Met its Match” attracted attention through a world-bank seminar.

Do demonstations work?

The impact of demonstrations may be changing in a world of social media. The protestors may appear to be representing an issue that might not ‘pay rent to the brand’ of the organisation. On the plus side, something unexpected draws attention and is quickly and easily communicated around the world.

To go more deeply

Alex has set up a video channel for LWD subscribers. You can see the video of the impromptu interview described in this post on the LWD Video Channel


Getting into Fergie’s mind (games). Cathy Cassell may have one answer

May 14, 2011

Cathy Cassell

Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind and his mind-games over his period as manager of Manchester United Football Club have been much discussed in football circles. Such leadership behaviours require careful analysis. Which is where someone like Professor Cathy Cassell may have an answer.

A starting point for studying an individual’s leadership behaviours is to select a set of critical incidents which collectively throw light on the person and their behaviour patterns over an extended time period. That is what sports journalist Michael Carr did recently [May 2011]. His top ten Alex Ferguson incidents are:

1. Treble champions (1998/1999)

2. You don’t win anything with kids & managerial mind games (1995/1996)

3. Putting the boot in (that David Beckham dressing room injury 2002/2003)

4. Rivalry with Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger (1996 – Today)

5. First Premiership Crown (1992/1993)

6. A battle of footballing philosophies (with Jose Mourhino’s Chelsea 2006/2007)

7. A dramatic turnaround (Arsenal snatch championship defeat in March 2003)

8. Surpassing Liverpool’s nineteen league titles (to be confirmed, Confirmed May 14th 2011. 2010/2011)

9. Panorama accusations (after which, AF refuses to give interviews to BBC, 2004)

10. You’ve gotta be joking ref! (FA punishment for various comments about referees, 2011)

First impressions

The stories provide a wealth of information about one of the most successful leaders in Football of all time. They provide ‘compare and contrast’ opportunities with two other great managers (Wenger and Mourniho). They remind us that leaders are humans with human faults and weaknesses. A besotted fan might find plausible explanations to explain dressing-room outbursts like the one which speeded up David Beckham’s departure as a strength. Leadership theories might treat this as an unintended consequence rather than part of a grand strategy to get rid of David Beckham.

Critical incident analysis

Professor Cathy Cassell is a distinguished management scholar and long-time football supporter. She teaches her students at Manchester Business School qualitative research methods, including critical incident analysis. This approach helps a researcher identify the various themes which recur within a set of stories and their critical incidents. So come on Cathy. Let’s be ‘avin you. How about putting Sir Alex under the microscope on your courses next year?


BT and the phantom phone-line of Tudor Towers

May 7, 2011

Tudor Towers


Tudor Towers is haunted by a mischievous spirit which manifests as a BT telephone line. Yesterday, professional ghost-busters from British Telecomms started the exorcism process.

The playful spirit has been there since before we moved into Tudor Towers nearly a decade ago. It seems to have objected to the new phone line BT had installed for us at the time. Every so often there are manifestations. Sometimes the ghostly – phone line sends messages which are picked up by BT’s ghost-busting squad who then contact us about it.

The ghostly bill

Yesterday, [Friday May 6th 2011] there was a particularly intense episode. It was a bright Spring morning. I was working at my computer when the telephone rang. The call purported to be from BT. Or so I believed at the time. After reassurances that the caller was not selling me something, the voice from the telephone explained that there was a bill which seemed to have been unpaid for several years. I knew what she would say next. She mentioned the number of the phantom telephone line. It seemed like a normal number for the neighbourhood.

The ghostly number

I explained not for the first time that the line did not exist in the real world. The mysterious telephone number had been around from the time of the last occupant of the property, I explained, not wanting to get into ghost stories. I almost added that maybe we hadn’t exorcised it when we moved in.

BT has ways of dealing with these problems

The friendly lady said that BT had ways of dealing with these sorts of things. (“they have a ghost-busters hot-line!” I thought). I was given a magic number to mention, and was then transferred to another part of the mighty BT service department, also known as the BT call centre system.

“We are very busy at the moment”

A voice said “We are very busy at the moment. We apologise for the delay. Do not hang-up we will answer your call as soon as someone becomes available“. Then there was a beep and the message was repeated. And repeated…

The magic number worked

After a lengthy period of time a human voice got through to me. Another lady. She asked if I knew the magic number I had just been given. It seemed to work because she gave me a number to contact and helpfully said that she would put me through to this number.

“Do not hang up”

At which point another ghostly voice came on the phone. I began to wonder if it was the phantom of Tudor Towers playing another trick on me. “Do not hang up” the voice said. They were very busy at BT but would get through to me as soon as someone was available. I had been on the telephone for about twenty minutes. I wondered if they were very busy in part because of a campaign to chase down phantom phone lines…

Half an hour later

Half an hour later again, I had heard the “do not hang up” message too many times to obey it any longer. I hung up. I had lost the will to call-back on the special number I had been given. I felt that the ghostly spirit of Tudor Towers had been listening in. And laughing. Or maybe it had been responsible for the entire call?

Note to BT

I really think you need to take a look at what is going on at your so-called service centre. But don’t call me about it. Please.

Update

September 16th 2011. I think we have been now been exorcised. Another bill from BP. Another rattling around the BT call centres. My count was four this time which is too long to detail. Anyway, the bill is for the cost of BT redirecting calls from the phantom phone number to our active one. So this is why I have been getting those cold calls and being charged by BT for helping cold caller locate me.

Anyway, perhaps it’s fixed now. I have various code numbers to start the next round of conversations with BT if this has not happed. Tudor Towers are ghost free.

Why not change provider?

Get rid of BT after all that work? Like hostages, I have grown to hate and love my captors. But if some enterprising competitor of BT gets in touch…