Pussy Riot and the Presidency of Russia

October 8, 2012

Pussy Riot, a three-member all-female punk rock band in Russia, recently performed a political protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral. They now face up to seven years in jail

by Vikas Patnaik

The case has divided Russia for the last five months, ever since the women were put behind bars without bail [in March 2012]. There are those who feel the women have been treated too harshly and those who consider their act to be “blasphemous” to the Orthodox Church, which has seen a revival in Russian society since the collapse of the atheistic USSR. The EU has also grown concerned, particularly over the basis and method of pre-trial detention of the band members.


The women were charged with “hooliganism” for dancing in colourful balaclavas near the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and “singing to the Virgin Mary” to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin. In their own defense, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich stated that their performance was intended to be a protest at Patriarch Kirill’s open support for Putin in the build-up to the March Presidential election, and not to offend adherents of the Orthodox faith. They added that this was “not a trial over Pussy Riot but of the entire Russian political system”.

Mixed Messages from Political Leaders

Western pop icons such as Madonna and Yoko Ono have come out in support of the Pussy Riot cause. A St. Petersburg government official reacted strongly to this, calling it an “imposition of Western values” that should not be allowed. Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister, went on record tweeting that Madonna was in no position herself to engage in “moral lecturing”.

Interestingly, Vladimir Putin relayed a message of leniency towards the Pussy Riot members, on his recent visit to London for the Olympic Games [but has been more neutral in his comments since: Ed].

Leading Russia out of Resentment

It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this trial, the verdict of which is due 17th August. This may reflect on Putin’s leadership style, given his power and influence, but by virtue of doing so, it could expose what many in Russia are growing concerned over and Putin may be trying to conceal – the alleged links between government, law enforcement and the church. At the same time, Putin must dispel fears that the trial is part of a crackdown on dissent since his return to the Kremlin following the biggest anti-government protests in recent Russian history. Clearly a leadership dilemma of multiple dimensions.

While Putin’s style does not fit classic (mythological) charismatic leadership (Potts 2009), the recent pop hit “A Man Like Putin” notwithstanding, he has been given credit for much of the economic transformation of Russian society (McFaul and Stoner-Weiss 2010). This has not, however, qualified him as a transformational leader of the stature of Gorbachev, and (re)building trust is a priority for him. The complexity of the situation is thus likely to call for strategic – even ethical leadership as espoused by New Leadership theories (Rickards 2012) – rather than a transactional or situational one derived from the dominant rational model (Hersey and Blanchard 1988).

Putin may look to distance himself from the Orthodox Church and support the release of the Pussy Riot members, in an attempt to shake off the long-standing stigma of association between church and state going back to the days of the Tsars and Stalin. Whether moral or Machiavellian, it will attempt to address the best interests of Putin, Pussy Riot and, most importantly, the people of Russia.


Summary of story [accessed 11 August 2012].
Hersey, P., and Blanchard, K. (1988). Management of organizational behavior. 4th edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
McFaul, M. and Stoner-Weiss, K. (2010). Elections and voters. In: White, S., ed. Developments in Russian politics 7. New York: Palgrave McMillan. 72. ISBN 9780230224490.
Potts, J. (2009). A history of charisma. Basingstoke, Hants: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rickards, T. (2012). Dilemmas of leadership. 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

The author

The author of the post, Vikas Patnaik, is Global Modeling & Analysis Leader at Ingersoll Rand. Apart from applying thermodynamics to the real world, Vik enjoys music, social commentary, philosophy and writing.

Update to follow

Vladimir Putin

October 8, 2012

Vladimir Putin

The intoxication of power: From neurosciences to hubris in healthcare and public life

October 7, 2012


There is increasing interest in neurological examinations of leadership behaviours and pathologies. The Royal Society of Medicine examines current research ideas

On Tuesday 9 October 2012, The Royal Society of Medicine, in association with the Daedalus Trust set out to explore aspects of the pathology of leadership and decision making: how it may be understood and what may be done about it.

The meeting acknowledges the origins of the concept of the Hubris Syndrome as being postulated by Lord David Owen. Dr Owen who was listed as a participant on the day.

“Exciting developments in cognitive, affective and social neuroscience and constantly evolving systems of commissioning, business and governance in healthcare, together with relentlessly changing cultures in society make this a timely, even essential conference.

The aim of the conference will be to integrate emerging knowledge from neuroscience, social sciences and organisational governance to nourish benevolent leadership and create effective constraints to hubris and related conditions.

How can we contain hubris and nourish benevolent leadership?
How can we prevent collusion with hubris in groups and develop effective governance constraints?
How can we create cultures of cooperation, accountability, creativity and effectiveness in diverse institutions in society?”

Does social networking “rot the brain”?

An earlier LWD post [February 2009] asked whether social networking was causing neurological changes. The topic has prompted fierce debate about possible changes to neural connections through too much time spent on the computer.

The dark side of leadership

Leadership studies have increasingly identified a ‘dark side’ to the exercise of power. In particular, the charismatic leader stands accused of operating often through narcissistic personality characteristics. The new more clinical approach seems to offer more insights into this important avenue of research.

Richard Branson Beats Government Bungling over the West Coast Rail Contract

October 3, 2012

220px-richardbranson.jpgRichard Branson called foul when his company Virgin Trains lost the franchise recently for the West Coast Main Line services from Scotland to London. His reaction was justified when the Department of Transport was forced to admit there had been flaws in the bidding process

Virgin Trains has run the West Coast Main Line since 1997. When it recently lost its bid to renew the contract to rival operator FirstGroup, it claimed the evaluation was flawed, called for a review, and started court proceedings over the government’s decision.

Flaws in the risk assessment

On 3rd October 2012, Government ministers announced that there were “significant technical flaws” in the way the risks for each bid were calculated, justified the legal case that Branson had brought against the decision.

Charismatic leadership is not quite dead

LWD has been cataloguing examples of the dark side of leadership and the retreat of the status of charismatic leaders. Richard Branson continues to stand as a contrary example through inspirational and dynamic efforts. When tested after a rare rail accident in February 2007 which left one passenger dead and several dozen injured, he acted decisively, effectively and with empathy for those affected.

To be continued


To Susan Moger for her rapid response in reporting this breaking news to LWD.

Ed Miliband’s Conference Speech. Unedited Notes as it Happened

October 2, 2012

Tudor Rickards

Unedited notes posted immediately after Ed Miliband’s speech [3pm Tuesday 2nd October, 2012] Notes to be updated and revised later. [Asides by TR made at the time]

Relaxed style. Good confident start. Avoided podium and notes.. Speech had been leaked thoroughly.

Almost good joke to start. Told of his son who wanted to help him write his speech which must have ‘lots of dinosaurs in it’.

Strong style. Was it because his speech tics of Prime Minister’s Question time had been coached out?

Regulation applause seemed early on more obligatory than acclamatory. Evolked (surprisingly) Disraeli, for the concept of One Nation. Implicit ‘we are not under this Government, all in this together’.

Nice bit about understanding why people voted for David Cameron, acknowledging the tough start imposed..[slipped in a political swipe about the double dip recession worse than last one under a Tory regime].

If the medicine’s not working you change the medicine [warmer applause]. Adds [with good timing] …and you change the doctor.

Bit of millionaire bashing re ‘high tax rate rebate’.

Chief Whip bashing.

Nick Clegg bashing. [But aimed at the Leader not the Lib Dem party]

Good rousing attack on Government ineptitude (an ambush by multiple barbed arrows) gained louder applause. [TV picks out reluctant listeners and reluctant applauders].

Message to the banks: Fix it yourselves or we’ll fix it for you. If not The next labour government will sort out banks …once and for all.

Emphasized need to help give better chances for the 50% who won’t go to University. Technical Bacculaureate. Plans apprenticeship obligation for contractors.

Gove’s educational policy divisive. We won’t go back to that. [applause is warmer at last]

Attempt to deal with financial short termism. Offers to work with Business. Offers to be Euro-friendly.

“Here’s my difference on immigration. Recognise strengths as well wrong policies.”

[An aside from TR: That repeated clapping. Now I remember. It’s graduation day. Every one claps. It’s necessary, albeit tiring and mostly tiresome].

Magic of the NHS. Cameron has broken his election pledge to protect it. [Bit of a stage managed standing ovation]. Labour will repeal the NHS Bill. [Another aside: Not another reorganisation?]

Would there be a strong ending? Almost. Was it coherent? Yes. Was it a confident speech? Yes. It generally exceeded expectations (although expectations were generally low].

Reflections and analysis to follow

Face to face in Moscow: Facebook’s founder meets Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

October 2, 2012

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to discuss intellectual property issues.

Zuckerberg was beginning his quest for new global markets, as the leader of the newly floated Facebook organization [May 2012]

The Voice of Russia reported:

On Monday [1st October 2012] Dmitry Medvedev and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had an informal meeting at the Prime Minister`s residence outside Moscow.

Since Mr Medvedev has his personal video blog, not to mention accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal, his meeting with Zuckerberg, whose social networking site already has over 995 million users, has become a hot topic for the media.

Mr Medvedev was reported as saying

“The social networking sites have become extremely popular worldwide. And Facebook`s contribution to this is obvious. If I am not mistaken, some 10 million Russians are on Facebook. Of course, it is not that much compared to the US, where there are about 30 million Facebook users. Still, these figures are impressive. We also have our national social networking sites such as Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and VKontakte (Staying in touch). Besides, everybody is using Twitter. This is a kind of a different reality. And you personally have contributed to this”

Mr. Medvedev and Mr Zuckerberg discussed copyright protection on the web.

“As a lawyer myself I am very interested in this issue. I used to do research on it in the past. I believe that if an object of intellectual property is not listed on the web as requiring special protection it could be used freely” Mr. Medvedev said.

Friends or not?

When the meeting was over, Mark Zuckerberg presented Dmitry Medvedev with a T-shirt printed with the address of Medvedev`s Facebook page. The Voice of Russia report did not say whether Dmitry and Mark had friended each other, and if so, when.

The IP challenge

The conversation ever-so-politely introduced the challenges of intellectual property rights facing Facebook and other Western organizations as they seek to work globally.

The bonds that tie

It occurred to me that for all the differences in culture, America and Russia have been parts of the world which have seen the rise of self-made entrepreneurs cum billionaires. In that sense Zuckerman has a head start over the more traditional Fortune 100 CEOs in doing business there.


Image from biz Russia. IP rights as indicated by Mr. Medvedev