Trial of leadership and map-making quiz

November 29, 2013

LWD subscribers are invited to test-run a short [three minute, ten item] quiz. It is being designed for use by tutors on courses using the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership to reinforce the materials in chapter one [2nd edn] on the map-reading, map-making, and map-testing concepts.

Try your knowledge/intuition by clicking here

Improvements to the test could include more feedback on true/false answers, although there is a benefit from leaving an incentive to encourage students to take the test ‘before and after’ reading the required chapter of the textbook.

Tutors may keep records of class averages, also on a ‘before and after’ basis.


David Cameron, Immigration and Elephant Dust

November 27, 2013

The Prime Minister announces further restrictions to repel a wave of immigrants. I am reminded of the old story of elephant dust

This week [Nov 2013] the debate over immigration to the UK continues apace. The Prime Minister vigorously engages with the problem of an unmanageable number of immigrants anticipated as Romanian and Bulgarian citizens receive rights as EU citizens to relocate.

Anti-immigration sentiment

The Mail captures anti-immigrant sentiment shortly before the PM’s announcement:

A huge majority of [UK} voters want David Cameron to defy the EU and maintain controls on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants. In an explosive Daily Mail survey, eight out of ten said they did not want citizens of the two countries to be handed free access to UK jobs from January 1.

Ministers warn Britain will be taken to court if it ignores the Brussels edict to let the migrants in. But the threat of big fines from the European Court of Justice was brushed off by almost two thirds of the public.

‘Do something about it’

Mr Cameron announces further restrictions on entry requirements and access to social services. The issue has been a major political point made by Nigel Farage on behalf of his UKIP party. There have been calls to ‘Do something about it’ and ‘Show firm leadership’ of David Cameron from his own supporters.

The elephant dust story

Stay with me while I introduce the elephant dust. An old joke actually helped me work my way through this issue. The story takes place on a train in those long-gone days of private compartments. A traveller gets on, and notices that the only other occupant of the compartment is behaving strangely. From time to time, he takes out a little silver box and sprinkles something around the carriage.

“What are you doing?” he asks his fellow traveller.

“I’m sprinkling this special dust. It’s to keep the elephants away” the first traveller tells him.

“But the nearest elephant is miles away”

The man with the dust smiles knowingly: “You see! Elephant dust works really well, doesn’t it?”

Statistics

Mr Farage has been warning of millions of new immigrants. In contrast, the Guardian notes that “the number of EU migrants claiming job seekers allowance in February 2013 was estimated at 60 100, according to government statistics.”


“We the people”. Where’s the evidence that transformational leadership works?

November 25, 2013

Dr John Keane

Since the 1980s, leadership texts place transformational leadership at the centre of the new leadership movement. Is the theory supported in practice?

Like many leadership teachers, my lectures refer the new leadership movement as the major change in theoretical thinking. It was introduced around the 1980s, and places emphasis on vision, innovative change, and the transformation of organizations and individuals. It succeeded in challenging the older ideas in which leadership was rather easily muddled up with effective management plus a dash of mysterious charisma and inspiration. Early work frequently referred to John F Kennedy whose death fifty years ago we remember this week [Nov 21st 2013].

I’ll start with examining the possibility of transformational change through political leaders in the west who are considered transformational.

The Thatcher vision

The 1980s in the UK were the Thatcher years. She would be the most obvious example of a visionary leader. The Telegraph offered a succinct and plausible definition: “to release the repressed aspirations of millions of ordinary people”. Advocates of transformational leadership could argue that Margaret Thatcher helped change the aspirations of millions of ordinary people. Others would argue that the transformation has not resulted in more noble aspirations or a more widespread capacity to reflect on personal beliefs and values. That is hardly a surprising conclusion, but arguably it lies at the heart of transformational leadership’s capacity to transform people as well as systems.

The Reagan Vision

Margaret Thatcher’s political soul mate in America was Robert Reagan. He held steadfastly to a vision of a world in which the ‘evil empire’ of the [then] Soviet Union would be defeated and transformed into a democratic society. The Soviet Union did crumble. Again, the vision has been partially fulfilled in the structural sense, but it is hard detect evident that the legacy of Reagan has transformed beliefs.

The transformation of societies and organizations

By the end of the decade, Francis Fukuyama had declared a victory of democracy through the advance of science and rationality and decline of dictatorships. His prediction now seems somewhat exaggerated.

Fast forward

In America, the beliefs of “we the people” today seem to be far from transformed by the heirs to Reagan. Efforts to achieve the changes in President Obama’s “can do” vision stall in what is increasingly seem as a dysfunctional political system.

In the UK this year at her death [2013] Margaret Thatcher was seen as a towering figure who achieved structural changes that many of her political opponents are pleased enough not to attempt to reverse.

The people of Russia appear to be ‘untransformed’ enough to prefer the old style strong-man leadership of Putin over the Social Democratic ideas of the 1980s which appear to have been President Gorbachev’s more transformational vision.

In America, the beliefs of “we the people” seem to be far from transformed by the heirs to Reagan.

The non-transformation of the people

I listen a lot to the publicly-expressed views of leaders. I hear how their visions will transform the broader groups whom they seek to influence. I listen to the views and beliefs expressed by those broader groups.

Should we have a vision non-proliferation movement?

Political leaders speak as one with our business leaders in expressing their visions. Political and business leaders are failing to win the confidence and trust of their constituents. Perhaps we need a vision non-proliferation movement.

The author is a writer and researcher into leadership theory and practice. The views expressed are his own.


Caroline McCall puts clear air between Easy Jet and Ryanair

November 20, 2013

I heard CEO Carolyn McCall recently explain the near 100% rise in the share value of her company Easyjet

She was speaking on a round of the broadcast media [Nov 19th 2013]. Her explanation was that the company had retained its budget value for money while enhancing its customer-friendly reputation and attracting business traffic (although she did not use the old term ‘business class’}.

Compare and contrast

EasyJet’s success has been in part due to the problems of the legacy lines which have reduced routes, allowing its rivals to fill the gaps.

The interviewer wanted her to ‘compare and contrast’ with ‘rival’ firm Ryanair. McCall firmly but non-aggressively rejected the implication. She did not see Ryanair as the most direct market competitor. These are the legacy national airlines (British Airways as was; Lufthansa) as they compete on “the routes people like to travel on.”

Easyjet and Ryanair have similarities

Their success has been as low-cost carriers, examples of the peanut airlines. Both have in the last year moved towards scheduled seating, known to be a preference for customers, but earlier considered too expensive to implement. The change offers the prospects of widening their customer base to a market sector attracted to more than claims of rock-bottom prices.

Shareholder pressures at Easyjet

McCall has to deal with a powerful activist shareholder in controversial company founder, company founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou who holds 36.5% of shares and has repeatedly clashed with easyJet’s board over a strategy which he sees as risking shareholder dividends by buying new Airbus planes. “The directors have now accepted that more money has to be returned to the shareholders – if only they would accept that less cash should go to Airbus for more planes.” he was quoted as saying.

For McCall, attention to business efficiency may be sharpened by the influence of Sir Stelios, which is a very business school way of explaining the benefits of shareholder activism.

The change at Ryanair

The change at Ryanair follows recent share price turbulence. Michael O’Leary promises a culture change which will “Stop unnecessarily pissing people off.” O’Leary sought free publicity for years in his mock villain act, glorifying in the culture of low price at all costs with the scramble to board, tough baggage policy, and penalties for customer errors, as corporate profits soared. However, he was finding it hard to escape the old way of thinking, adding “Anything easyJet can do, we can do better and cheaper.”

Doth the lady protest too much?

A recent post in LWD examined the so-called peanut airlines. We suggested that the model pioneered by South West air was not to be found in the then profitable Ryanair. Its attention to customer service was too low on its strategic priorities. Easyjet fits the bill a little more.
McCall is right to attempt to differentiate Easyjet from Ryanair. However, the claim may conceal the point that both airlines are seeking to expand and compete in the same low cost markets.


‘England aim to trample over New Zealand on road to world domination’ and I am writing this from a new pram on the planet Zog

November 16, 2013

Child's pramA Guardian Sports Writer reaches new heights of irony in his pre-match analysis, or is he in need of serious new medication?

On the eve of the 2013 England v New Zealand rugby union international, the Guardian’s Rugby Union Correspondent Robert Kitson offered a remarkable analysis of what might happen. The article stands for itself but I couldn’t resist adding a few comments of my own.

The surge

Stuart Lancaster’s young side are surging up the world rankings and victory over the All Blacks may send them to a new level

[This is true. The surge has taken England from sixth to third in the rankings during the period when the New Zealand All Blacks comfortably retained the number one slot.]

It could be different …

What price would the bookies be quoting, if Alex Corbisiero, Manu Tuilagi, Tom Croft, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade were all fit? Instead Paddy Power has England at 13-2 with the All Blacks 1-9, reflective of the home side’s imperfect build up.

[So the bookies think the victory somewhat unlikely, offering odds of 9 to 1 on for an All Blacks victory despite England’s aim to trample them.]

England coke?

Nobody yet knows whether Stuart Lancaster’s new England are the real thing, or some other brand of cola.

[Nobody except our insightful Guardian columnist]

The Emperor’s new strip

Those who reckon they are overhyped and got lucky a year ago are still out there. If the English lose by 20-odd points it will be seized upon as proof that the Twickenham megastore is flogging the emperor’s new clothes.

[Not to mention the Guardian’s megastore? My previously private view was that England should be pleased if they keep the deficit in the match to less than 20 points.]

Lucky All Blacks

What if New Zealand are actually the lucky ones, fortunate to catch England’s fledglings now before they soar to a different level?

[Hard to fault this brilliant logic. The momentum is well and truly on Mr Kitson and England’s sweet charioteers.]

It’s the ref wot done it

England are an increasingly tough side to shake off in the final quarter and the referee, Craig Joubert, cannot possibly be as generous to New Zealand as he was in the fateful 2011 World Cup final against France.

[Ah, yes, New Zealand are the world champions because of a dodgy French-speaking South African referee who should have gone to Spec Savers. An easy obstacle to brush aside.]

Swing low, sweet chariot, bloo bloo chocky wocky

Either way, it will be closer than last time. New Zealand must remain favourites by virtue of their 12 straight wins this year. But England are more composed than 12 months ago and 13 is not always the luckiest of numbers.

[And I am writing this from a pram swinging softly in the breeze from a tree on the planet Zog, while plotting England’s rightful domination of the world of Rugby Union down there.]

Humble pie

England nearly fulfilled their dreams, losing narrowly. My remarks were shown to be unworthy. Well done England.


In Chess, Carlsen keeps mum. In Cricket, Cook tells all?

November 14, 2013

In the build-up to the chess world championships Magnus Carlsen refuses to reveal who his support staff are. In Cricket, Australian captain Clarke says England’s captain kindly revealed his Cricket team to him. What’s all that about?

Two little stories about leadership, one from Chess, one from Cricket.

In India there are two sports stories this week about all-time greats. Sachin Tendulkar is playing his last international cricket match; and Viswanathan [‘Vishy’] Anand is defending his chess crown against the new chess prodigy and Norwegian ‘pawn star’ Magnus Carlsen.

Chess trends on Twitter

Yesterday, the official website of FIDE, the international chess organization, announced that chess had become the number one news item of all stories trending on Twitter. The rise of Indian chess owes much to Anand, who has help five world championships (if you include rapid play ones). Carlsen is being hailed as a mega-star who is bringing attention to chess globally .

Magnus keeps mum

At a pre-match press conference, the players were asked out their support teams. Vishy spoke glowingly of his back-up team who help in preparing openings and in studying the play of his opponent. The twenty two year old Magnus thanked him for the information but politely declined the invitation to respond.

Cook tells all

Half way around the world, Australia is hosting their fiercest cricket rivals England. In a remarkable press conference Australia captain Michael Clarke says England’s captain Alistair Cook has revealed the England team to him a week in advance of the test.

What’s all that about?

Vishy says that the players ‘exchanged information’ only after playing the first game. The rest could be no more than mis-information. The same might be true of whatever Cook did or did not say to Clarke.

Was Cook [or Clarke] being a silly billy?

We seem to be entering the region of mind games. Chess is the more obvious mind game, but more many athletes and sporting coaches have gone in for psychological warfare. I have trouble believing the headline that Cook told Clarke the names of the team for the forthcoming test.

Maybe Clarke is trying to make Cook look like a silly billy.


The Escape Artist with David Tennant is brilliantly acted but has a bin liner of a plot

November 13, 2013

TV Review

The Escape Artist [BBC I, Oct-Nov 2013] had an ingenious central idea, lots of brutality and blood, and good acting by a superb cast. Unfortunately its dramatic impact was frequently stalled by a bin liner of a plot

In each of its three episodes, the watchers in our household uttered cries of frustration at clunky plotting rather than of horror at the almost obligatory scenes of blood and violence meted out by almost obligatory psychopath. Wife victim returns to lonely cottage where she has seen creepy said psychopath; Slick Barrister Tennant seeks revenge v cunningly with implausible plot line [another ‘Oh no it’s not that one’ moment].

They used to say Naomi Chambers could model a plastic bin-liner and make it look good. David Tennant almost pulled off the bin-liner trick, but even his acting couldn’t sustain the dramatic thrust of this bin-liner of a production, written by David Wolstencroft (creator of Spooks).

Other views

Other reviews have been cautiously ambivalent, with mentions of great acting mingling with references to the ludicrous plot and the violence. As Grace Dent of the Independent put it with irony

[I]f I’m going to sit through another “And you’ll never guess what? He cut her vagina off! And then he shoved it in her mouth!” sort of drama, then I’ll choose one with Tennant, Okonedo and Kebbell. And let’s be fair here, the victim did return to a deserted cottage where she’d seen the killer previously. A good defence lawyer would say that she was asking for it.