A tumultuous weekend reveals the leadership morass in the Ukraine

February 24, 2014

I have hesitated in commenting on the vital issue of Ukraine’s leadership dilemmas, as all seems confusion as regime change takes place

[DEVELOPMENTS WILL BE FOLLOWED AS THIS POST IS UPDATED]

Background

A decade ago, in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections. The results caused a public outcry regarding illegalities. This resulted in the peaceful Orange Revolution, bringing Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power, leaving Viktor Yanukovych in opposition. Yanukovych returned to a position of power in 2006, when he became Prime Minister until snap elections in September 2007 made Yushchenko Prime Minister again who fell out with Yulia Tymoshenko who was imprisoned on corruption charges.

Disputes with Russia over natural gas added to the political tensions far beyond Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych was again elected President in 2010, although again with charges of electoral illegalities.

Ukraine’s leadership morass

In the space of a few days in late February 2014, bloody events in Kiev have left over a hundred fatalities. These were followed by the flight out by President Yanukovych, release from prison of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and implicit acceptance by the authorities and police of the success of the demonstrators.

As can be observed from afar

As much as can be observed from afar, there is little of the triumphalism that accompanied the events of the Arab Spring of 2011. Perhaps the extended and bloody outcomes in Egypt and elsewhere provide a tempering of the mood of the articulate demonstrators willing to speak to Western journalists.

Not as simple

Nor is the story being offered as a triumphal return of an imprisoned heroine who would advance the process of escape from oppression. After her release from prison, Yulia Tymoshenko’s first public appearance and appeal to the people [23 February 2014] received a mixed reception by the crowds in Kiev. it was hardly the return of the savior, which tends to be one in which rationality is secondary to uncritical acclaim.

East is east?

Nor is it as simple as ‘East is East and West is West’ although the geo-political story of a convenient division marked by the Dneiper has been discussed.

Dilemmas

I seek some understanding by wondering about dilemmas facing the various leaders and their supporters.

President Putin would have wanted time to bask in the un-bloodied success of the Winter Olympics at Sochi before permitting Ukraine to take the global headlines.

Angela Merkel who would like to signal support for a new relationship with the West on behalf of the EC, without provoking unwanted reactions from President Yanukovych.

Deposed President Yanukovych would be considering what options are open to him to return to power, or maybe avoid criminal charges.

Yulia Tymoshenko, is street smart enough to know there is no easy route to power, and also for dealing with some unanswered questions about her own track record of corruption for which she was imprisoned.

Vitali Klitschko, best known as former world heavyweight boxing champion. Now an opposition party leader active in the Kiev demonstrations in which over a hundred people were killed. Charismatic? At least very media savvy. He has to assess who might be his most valued allies. I can’t help thinking of former world chess champion Gary Kasparov, whose political career in Russia remains unfulfilled.

February 24th 2014

Arrest warrent made for former President Yanukovych

February 26th 2014

Liberation or mutiny?

February 28th 2014

The southern province of Crimea becomes potential flashpoint for new regime with pro Russian demonstrations

Tuesday March 3rd 2014

Events have moved swiftly. Deposed President calls for Russian help. Russian troops invade Crimea. US, EC, UN seek revolution fearful of escalation into military conflict. Russian finance markets also in turmoil.

Thursday March 5th 2013

War of words between Obama and Putin over Putin’s actions

Monday March 10th

Western Press reports a lack of clear strategy for Crimea coming from Kiev


Felix Magath joins Fulham and illustrates the limitations of tough leadership

February 22, 2014

Felix MagathFelix Magath’s career trajectory illustrates the principle that a business or a football club often gets ‘the leader it deserves’

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED REGULARLY AS THE STORY OF FULHAM’S APPOINTMENT OF MAGATH DEVELOPS

The appointment of Felix Magath as manager at Fulham this week [February 2014] has been greeted in the media with articles with a shared assumption that he will achieve short term results through his legendary tough leadership style and that this will end in his departure after a subsequent decline in team performance and morale.

The historical evidence

The historical evidence is unequivocal. The BBC article gives a historical account There is a clear pattern of Magrath’s behaviour which involves ferocious training regimes and tough personal relations. In animal terms he is a horse breaker rather than a horse whisperer.

Fans of Felix Magath liken him to a demon headmaster. One of his former players claims he was more like Saddam Hussein. Another one dubbed him “the last dictator in Europe”. But it was as a firefighter that Magath made his name. Indeed, Magath was to German football what Red Adair was to the US oil industry, a man who never came across a blowout he could not quell. Having led Hamburg into the Uefa Cup, Magath was sacked the following season. This is a recurring theme of Magath’s career – recovery, boom and bust. After Hamburg, Magath took Nuremberg from bottom of the second tier to the Bundesliga. After a row with Nuremberg’s president – he has a lot of those – Magath landed at Werder Bremen, another club he managed to drag clear of danger.

After a couple of years with Frankfurt, whom he also saved from the drop in his first season, Magath took over at Stuttgart. He transformed them from relegation strugglers to Bundesliga runners-up, delivering them Champions League football for the first time. As a footballer, Felix Magath won the Bundesliga three times with Hamburg between 1978 and 1983, and won 43 caps for West Germany, winning the 1980 European Championship and playing at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, appearing in the final at Mexico ’86

“I would never want to treat human beings like he does,” said Bayern president Uli Hoeness last week, “If you want sustained success, he’s probably not the right man. But he might turn out to be a viable short-term option for Fulham. They’re already bottom of the Premier League table, so it can’t really get much worse for them.”

Magath might just be the man to quell all that rattling and shaking going on down at Craven Cottage. Just don’t expect those smiles to last too long.

The style is effective at removing those unwilling to accept his methods. He symbolizes what used to be called theory X management, leadership by fear and bullying.

The strong leader and the last dictator?

Magath appeals to those who believe that dictatorial leadership can be the method of last resort, a short term fix. At Fulham, the board has a reputation for tough action, prepared to hire and fire rapidly. It is hardly surprising that they might believe that failure on the field is as a result of weak leadership. Ergo, find a stronger leader. If the results continue to be poor, then the leader could not have been strong enough, The board has a vision they pursue single-mindedly. It is to hire the strongest – because toughest – manager they can obtain.

Transformational it isn’t

The style is ultimately transactional, the limited method of punishment and reward. Fulham has acquired the leader the club’s board deserves [maybe under pressures from financial backers].

The leader the fans deserve?

There will be a proportion of fans vociferous in their support of a tough leader. They too will be acquiring the leader they deserve. Other fans will not have their anxieties so quickly addressed. As results settle down, each setback will be seen as evidence of the folly of the board’s decision to appoint the man likened to Saddam Hussein in his leadership style.

What you see is what you get

One aspect of such a style is that what you see is what you will get. Magath has no hidden dark side of his leadership persona. It is up there for all to see.

Beyond charisma?

Other tough leaders are also often described as charismatic. The great Brian Clough comes to mind. In my preliminary searches I have yet to find the term charismatic applied to Magath.

Situational leadership

There is some evidence that a situational leadership ‘map’ might be helpful in interpreting this story. A leader such as Magath is most likely to achieve results with a compliant workforce. The extreme circumstances facing the players contribute to desperate efforts. This is the ageless story retold in the movie The Dirty Dozen. The tough leader offers a last chance for redemption.

Some media reactions

Hell fighter could be perfect fit for Fulham

Magath accuses Rene Meulensteen of destabilizing Fulham

23rd February

First game showed ‘immediate but limited’ impact’ through team performance in 1-1 draw away to West Brom.

1st March

Loss to Chelsea forces Magath to admit defense must strengthen. Signs of reality creeping in?

8th March

Headline says it all after Fulham lose to relegation rivals Cardiff City. Magath believes players not responding enough to tough leadership.

2nd May

Fulham relegated. First criticism that Magath is the wrong man to return Fulham to the Premiership


Donald Trump shifts his attention to Ireland after losing Scottish wind-farm legal battle

February 20, 2014

This week the resilient Donald Trump bounces back from losing his battle against off-shore wind farms which he claimed were wrecking his plans for a super resort and golf complex in Aberdeenshire.  It seems that Scotland’s loss is to be Ireland’s gain

Donald Trump has bought a five star golf resort on the west coast of Ireland after losing a legal action against a windfarm being built near his golf resort in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

The billionaire property developer said that while he appealed against the court defeat in Scotland he would be diverting his energies to the exclusive Doonbeg golf and hotel complex on the Atlantic coastline of County Clare, restyling it the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

Trump had taken the Scottish government to court over a decision to approve a major experimental windfarm in Aberdeen Bay, which will be about two miles south east of his planned £750m golf resort, because it spoiled the view.

Trump’s tale

We have been followed the leadership style and actions of Mr Trump in LWD for some years.

His interest in building a world class golf facility in Scotland was dogged in legal controversies from the start. Initially, the legal objections came from environmentalists and local residents. Later, it was Mr Trump who sought legal rights to protect his interests.

Leadership style

The Trump style of leadership seemed blunt rather than devious or Machiavellian. This places him at some disadvantage over pressure groups whose leaders have long experience of challenging the powerful and drawing attention to their cause.  Maybe Donald trump will now learn from his experiences. Otherwise there will be one more extended story as the local bhoys prepare to deal with the latest foreign threat to their culture and coast line.


Curling is big in Sochi, toe-curling is bigger at the Baftas

February 17, 2014

Baftas night is normally a stay-in-and-watch-a-DVD night

The beguiling DVD obtained for that very purpose turned out to be so bad we exercised our democratic right to vote against it and opted instead to see what the great British public had done with their democratic right to vote for the Not the Oscars awards, aka The British Academy Film and Television Awards, aka [this year] The Orange Baftas.

Evidence of leadership abounded, even of leaders we deserve because we voted for the winners.  In true post- modern style Stephen Fry brought a veneer of languid sophistication to the event.   His mocking hyperbole for the presenters  of the awards just about managed to imply they were not exactly the wonderful beautiful supremely gifted and loveable people he described, perhaps not even as wonderful [etc] as Stephen Fry.  That being said, Fry still had the most amusing and witty remarks of the evening, as well as some at the other end of the scale which helped me associate with the other story of wonderful beautiful supremely gifted and loveable people at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Here, in London, for a few hours, curling was transformed into toe curling.


African Entrepreneurs suffer from venture capital shortage

February 14, 2014

African EntrepreneursLocal Entrepreneurs in Africa are disadvantaged by a lack of venture capital

In an article for Computer World, [November 2013] journalist Rebecca Wanjiku suggests several factors that may be contributing to a shortage of funds for new technology start-ups. There is no parallel with the vibrant venture capital hubs such as Silicon Valley in America or the University spin-off science pars flourishing in Cambridge [American or English versions].

The perceived challenges of businesses operating in Africa as well as the higher costs of due diligence and inexperience of the investors and entrepreneurs in the region have all worked to dampen the growth of venture capital funding for tech start-ups and mid-level businesses on the continent, according to industry insiders.
Local start-ups have held discussions and wondered whether their lack of success in raising big money had racial overtones. Companies run by whites seem to be luckier in securing funds. The problem, however, seems to be more about the perception of inexperience and a lack of contacts than race.
“I don’t think it’s about being white or black, it’s about your network; highly networked Kenyans have an easier time too,” added Erik Hersman, founder of the iHub Nairobi, a co-working space for techies.
“Innovative early stage ventures with the potential to yield high social and environmental impact and requiring less than $500,000 in financing remain the most difficult segment of the SME pipeline to reach,” said Ben White, founder of VC4Africa. VC4Africa is an online portal that brings together 13,000 entrepreneurs, VCs and angel investors interested in Africa. It was kicked off at the annual congress of the African Venture Capital Association in Dakar, Senegal, in 2007. Last year, VC4Africa start-ups secured $80,000 in funding while companies seeking expansion secured an average of $237,000 in funding.
VC4Africa works with entrepreneurs in 40 African countries but the number of start-ups and growing companies seeking funding outstrips the available capital. The lack of in-country funding mechanisms and lack of tech-specific financial facilities from the public sector most likely means that the problems will persist.

Leadership challenges

Leadership challenges abound. The contrast with the developments emerging in China, is stark. A similar sense of the availability of entrepreneurial venture backing is reported in India.


Not so Dumb Starbucks may be quite a smart performance

February 11, 2014
Dumb StarbucksA recently opened store  offers coffee under the name Dumb  Starbucks.  it has considerable visual similarities with the well-known coffee brand.  It may be a case of blatant passing off.  Or it may be a smartly judged piece of performance art 

From a distance, the store in Los Angeles  looks like a Starbucks coffee shop. Except the premises are labelled Dumb Starbucks.  Coffee in cardboard cups of  familiar-looking colours is offered.

The people behind it claim the product to be performance art.  The argument is grounded in the principle of fair comment in a parody performance.  The case is strengthened by cleverly built-in features.  The coffee is given away not sold.  Those responsible have a track record of TV comedy spoofs.  The Dumb Starbucks logo is consistent across the set including those coffee cups.

There is an interesting blurring of the line between art and reality, which is sometimes a deliberate effort on the part of the artist.  Even this blog post could be seen as either a comment on a possible legal issue or as a review of a piece of performance art…

To go more deeply 

Later it emerged that performance  comedian Nathan Fielder was behind the rather successful stunt

See the gastronomy site which alerted the world to the Los Angeles pop up store

The ‘store’ was quickly shut down after only an hour. The @DumbStarbucks twitter account appears to be inactive [6am GMT February 11th 2014]

 


Zoos face ethical dilemmas in their breeding programmes

February 10, 2014

Read the rest of this entry »


Baffling speech by David Cameron

February 7, 2014

The Prime Minister made a speech today on Scottish Independence. I was baffled by its strategic intent and execution

I watched and listened this morning [February 7th, 2014] as The Prime Minister gave a heavily trailed speech to a small audience at the London Velodrome. It was intended to urge the citizens of the United Kingdom who could not vote to use their influence on those who could to assist a NO vote in the Scottish referendum next year. [That is to say, he addressed people in Northern Ireland, Wales and England to persuade those living in Scotland to vote NO]

‘The sum is greater than the parts’

The Speech argued for the merits of The United Kingdom as a coherent political unity, so much more than the sum of its parts. It was accidentally a case that could be applied to the EU as well, although I am sure that was not the PM’s subliminal intent.

English cool and Celtic warmth?

It might have been an attempt to rebut rationally the points made by the YES campaign. In content however, the emphasis was on the more emotional point that David Cameron was ethnically [like many living in the UK] a mix of Scottish, English and perhaps a dash of Welsh genes.

The style was a restrained emotionalism if I might risk an oxymoron. Perhaps Anglo-Saxon cool and Celtic heat? The PM appeared uncomfortable about the whole performance. The careful explanation of why it took place in the Velodrome was clunky [Scottish for not terribly convincing, old boy].

Why did I find it baffling?

I just could not make much sense of his intentions or of the execution of the speech. What dilemma might he be seeking to address? Was it the need to reverse apparent gains in the YES vote, in recent polls whatever the political risk? Did his advisers appreciate the dilemma of risking infuriating Scottish voters by the intervention? Was there a concern to find a popular new initiative in difficult political times?

Comments and interpretations welcomed.


FIFA – gatekeepers to our beautiful game

February 6, 2014

FIFA logoPreparation for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals may well be causing anxiety for some, but there is evidence of greater challenges within FIFA.

by Paul Hinks

According to FIFA’s website, the FIFA World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. An estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany – the 2010 event in South Africa was broadcast to 204 countries on 245 different channels.

June 2014 will see Brazil host the next World Cup Finals – a country synonymous with carnivals, rich culture and ‘samba’ football – but also struggling in terms of economic progress.

Ethical Leadership versus Financial Motivations

As PWC report, the World Cup Finals will provide Brazil with investment and an opportunity for commercial success – a credible legacy for FIFA and the host nation.

However as The Guardian noted, challenges are evident in the preparation for the tournament. The Economist noted that workers are now scheduled to work around the clock in an attempt to meet the fixed deadline; there have also been fatalities when a crane collapsed in São Paulo’s new football stadium. Deeper concerns remain that Brazil cannot afford to host the World Cup Finals and that the investment should have been spent on hospitals, basic sanitation, housing and other more fundamental needs.

Brazil as a template for success?

Exploring the rationale behind FIFA’s decision making process deserves closer inspection – preparation for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals may well be causing anxiety for some, but there is evidence of greater challenges within FIFA.

There are accusations that the selection of venue for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals were unfair – allegations of vote rigging and bribing were reported by the BBC in 2010 when Russia was awarded the 2018 finals; Forbes are amongst credible sources who echoed similar concerns about the successful Qatar 2018 bid.

The selection of Qatar for the 2018 finals appears even more confusing, given that traditionally the World Cup Finals are held in summer – in Qatar the summer temperatures would expose teams to temperatures of more than 40c – even today’s highly conditioned footballers cannot expect to excel for 90 minutes in that heat. Then there is the deeper analysis of how FIFA are attempting to correct the situation – prompting closer inspection of Sett Blatter’s tenure as President of the FIFA organisation.

Internal disruption within FIFA

The Telegraph reported (on 09 Jan 2014) that all may not be well within the FIFA hierarchy:

The row at Fifa over the timing of the 2022 World Cup intensified on Thursday after Michel Platini accused Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke of disrespecting their own executive committee.

Platini, the Uefa president and Fifa vice-president, condemned the latter’s president and secretary general for their repeated public pronouncements indicating the tournament in Qatar would be moved to November or December.
The latest of those was delivered on French radio by Valcke on Wednesday, prompting an angry response from Fifa’s British vice-president, Jim Boyce, who insisted the decision over any switch lay with the governing body’s ExCo.
Platini, who could stand against Blatter for the Fifa presidency in 2015, was even more nonplussed, telling L’Equipe: “When the executive committee was held in early October, it was decided to launch a major consultation of all football and no decision would be taken before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It was also agreed not to talk about this before then.”

Leadership challenges within FIFA

FIFA need to retain their credibility as an organisation that operates ethically and also to the expected high standards – the recent global banking crisis illustrates just how quickly the public loose trust in institutions where those in positions of influence operate with self-interest and guile.

Football is unquestionably a global sport – it transcends geographies, providing an opportunity for supporters from different cultures and backgrounds to mix on equal terms, exchanging opinions and creating debate – in some ways it provides a common language which can bridge political and cultural differences. Those entrusted as guardians of the ‘beautiful game’ need to demonstrate an authentic style of leadership – one which engenders trust.

There remains an interesting dynamic around who is leading and who is following in this increasingly powerful industry – power plays are evident both internally within FIFA, and also externally beyond the boundaries of FIFA’s organisation. FIFA and Sepp Blatter deserve credit for how football has prospered on the global stage in recent years – the rich diversity of footballing talent from different nations in our domestic leagues and competitions is just one metric of success.

However, if FIFA is to remain a highly respected organisation, perhaps it’s time for improved governance and more transparency around how key decisions are made.


Dealing with performance anxiety: the Coach’s dilemma

February 4, 2014

FencingDealing with performance anxiety has been a major issue in the development of a science of sport management. The knowledge gained is contributing to understanding of choking and under-performance across the sporting spectrum

I recently asked a [very small] sample of contacts whether performance anxiety and its management were important in coaching their sport. Here are few responses:

Football

In football, reckless tackling is deemed career-threatening and met with assorted bans and other sanctions. Although sometimes this is deliberate it is loss of control often through pressures to perform. Weak penalty kicks would be another example. Routines that work in practice influenced by performance anxiety.

Rugby

Rugby Union is a sport which prides itself in the traditional sporting values of personal discipline and respect for the referee’s authority. The violence, as in other contact sports, is mostly channeled legally into man on man hits. But there are still surprising episodes of grievous bodily harm. Off-field skullduggery are also known including coaches fixing blood injuries to obtain player substitutions. Nor is violence a product of the sport’s recent professionalization. One of the most-quoted injunctions was from a coach in the era of amateur rugby who urged his players to ‘get your retaliation in first‘.

Tennis

Non-contact sports create fewer opportunities for the release of a competitor’s tension through physical aggression. In Tennis, much aggression is directed towards explosive attack on the ball. If that fails, an attack on the racquet becomes a back-up strategy for some players. The action is subject to sanction, but the punishment is minor.

One tennis player who rejects the release provided by racquet-smashing is Chinese star Li Na.

Golf

Golf, in common with other non-contact ball sports [such as snooker, pool, ] requires execution of well-grooved routines which can break down under performance anxiety. In golf, the breakdown of routines particularly in putting is famously known as the Yips. The medical condition is considered a kind of small muscle fatigue. Similar breakdowns of performance are known in the world of music among violinists.

Fencing

William Thompson is a qualified fencing coach. He outlined how a leading international trainer dealt with performance anxiety:

“I studied fencing under Professor Robert Anderson who died in 2013. He explained to me that his role as the coach of the British Olympic team was to remove all stress and performance anxiety:

‘My foot ware is causing a problem,’ Coach: We will change your foot ware.
‘There is noise from the room next door and I cannot sleep,’ Coach: We will move your room.
‘My training partner does not seem motivated,’ Coach: We will change your partner.
Performance stress has its observable symptoms. The coach’s job is to address these symptoms and remove them.”

Obsession and performance anxiety

Overall, the accounts suggest that performance anxiety of players is a major issue for coaches across a variety of sports. Probably the obsessive drive to achieve among top athletes is a mixed blessing.