Sexism ain’t what it used to be

August 29, 2014

A patronizing ad by the ‘better together’ campaign has prompted a rerun of MSN’s   21 1950s ads from the United States, now considered as illustrations of prevailing attitudes towards women

The montage makes a promising introduction to a leadership workshop on cultural diversity and discrimination:

With the Better Together campaign’s recent advert “The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind” lampooned by opponents as being hopelessly sexist and dated, MSN looks at the adverts that have perpetuated female stereotypes and patronised women.

 

In the No campaign’s advert, a women sits down to have a cup of tea and makes glib comments about how her husband Paul “will not leave off” about the referendum. She calls Alex Salmond “that guy off the telly” and tells viewers “there are only so many hours in the day” to make a decision.


The Independence debate as it happened:unedited notes

August 27, 2014

Polls suggest that the second debate on Scottish Independence was a win for the Yes campaign and its leader Alex Salmond. These unedited notes prepared at the time for LWD suggest something different

Opening statement Alex Salmond. Mostly convincing until claim that among other advantages, an Independent Scotland would ‘prevent unjust wars…’

Opening statement Alastair Darling. Mostly, why trust silver-tongued Alex?

First question from audience. was on financial security. Darling focused on risks of leaving. Salmond a bit less focused, but essentially seeking a mandate to share Stirling while mentioning other options.

Oil revenues. Little spat on who said what in the past. Unclear. I lost the points being made.

Plan B again What is Option B if no Stirling agreement is reached? Alex gives rehearsed answer but don’t mention a plan B. Chair suggests Plan B is to use pound anyway. Gradually Plan B seemed a bit unclear although
Salmond says he has three options. He then seizes on Darling’s point that Scotland could use Sterling after independence. This seems an important concession for audience.

Question on health finance Bit more ‘he said I said’ on NHS funding. More near incomprehensible stats from both speakers. Angry audience speaker calls AD a hypocrite for betraying Nye Bevan.

Later. AD confusing when he talks of our country. Scotland or UK?

Cross examination Plan B. Yawn. Oil revenue. Not quite yawn. More disputed stats. More shouty stuff. Both advocates a bit het up. Only slight personal preference was for AD on sincerity. A very cross examination.

Switched off I really couldn’t take any more. Was a switch off. So switched over after forty five of sixty minutes. Can’t see how the debates are changing many voters’ intentions.


The Sottish Referendum: from the sidelines

August 25, 2014

Like two heroic leaders of a bygone age, Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling prepare for battle. The symbolic War of independence in Scotland is reaching a crucial stage

Have no doubt of the symbolic nature of the war. The matter is to be decided through votes cast for or against a single six word question by those edible by rights of age and location. No voting rights for exiled Scots.

The six word question

“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Numerous polls have shown roughly 50% of eligible voters disposed to vote NO, 40% YES,, and around 10% DON’T KNOW. The shifts in voting intention have shown enough of a drift to the YES vote to keep those involved anxious and willing to keep on campaigning.

The dilemma of intervention and MRDA

There seems to be a dilemma for interventions from what is seen as beyond-the-border vested interests. These have tended to be from those offering reasons why the Scots should vote No. These have been most most effectively rebuffed years ago by the famous Mandy Rice-Davis retort .  When challenged in court that Lord Astor denied sleeping with her: ‘he would say that wouldn’t he’. I understand it is now found in tweets as MRDA , standing for Mandy Rice-Davis Applies.

Even if MRDA …

Mandy’s line is strong on dramatic force, but those with vested interests may still be making valid points.

Even if MRDA here, Is it significant that the final Yes No question was reduced to six words of blatant over-simplification? “Should Scotland be an independent country?”appears to be asking for some moral or universal rights assertion. It leaves open for debate whether the voters will benefit more from one outcome rather than the other. Not to mention that the outcome reaches into the haziest of futures. Further confusion is added by the dodgy nature of the statistical missiles deployed in the skirmishes.

Worse, as stated the question reveals the difficulties in laying out the decision by with a say in its phrasing. From the outside, I have not been convinced by the justifications offered for voting Yes or No. In that respect I would be among the 10% Don’t Knows.


Why Boris is remembered for introducing congestion charges and Boris bikes

August 22, 2014

Charismatic leaders attract myths which help constitute their public persona. A case in point is that of Boris Johnsonboris bikes

I was reminded of the myth-making process phenomenon after a meeting yesterday [August 22nd] with two LWD contributors. We were discussing the final draft for a post about Boris Johnson being planned for the near future.

They seek him here, they seek him there

But how to pin down the Boris effect? One instructive episode at the meeting was when we began listing what Boris was known for. Bendy busses. Public gaffs. Teflon-like survival of public gaffs. Boris Bikes. London’s congestion change.

London’s congestion charge?

Well, no not really, but they were added to the list of Boris’s political achievements. Only later did a little research reveal the historical fact that they were introduced by Ken Livingstone, Boris’s predecessor as Mayor of London.

An explanation?

Charisma operates by inducing a state of suspended disbelief. Boris is believed to do big bold controversial things. The congestion change is a big bold controversial thing. I don’t think Boris has tried to abolish it. We assumed he had invented it.

The Guinness effect

A possibly unrelated effect? Some years ago I attended a meeting at which new ideas were being discussed for the drinks company then known as Guinness. A rather nice idea was suggested by a colleague, someone we will call Susan. The idea was hardly greeted with enthusiasm, but at the end of the meeting two unexpected things happened. The idea was accepted as worth further testing.

“That’s a nice idea you had” one of the Guinness executives told me, to general agreement.

Did I insist Susan got credit for the idea? Not loud enough to make a difference to the myth being built. I could argue that the ‘creative ideas’ meeting was structured so that ideas were deliberately left unclaimed and not associated with any one team member. That is hardly the point. I had accrued the social credit for something I hadn’t done. It happened to fit my (then) social identity as the outsider brought in because of his creative skills.

Susan became known in her own right as a successful creative leader. The idea (which involved a re-branding of a well-known product) was followed through. The incident has remained with us as a reminder of what we think of as The Guinness Effect.

Postscript

Even the Boris Bikes are technically branded as Barclays cycle hire scheme for the moment (but a new sponsor is likely) . And even the Barclays/Boris bikes were proposed by Ken Livingstone and implemented during the reign of king Boris …


Sporting leadership and the new CSR of Corporate Sporting Responsibilities

August 18, 2014

Sepp BlatterSporting participants, coaches and administrators face a set of overlapping challenges which collectively could be described as Corporate Sporting Responsibilities

Take a look at these recent sporting stories.

Drug cheating in sport

Drug cheating continues to plague a range of sports since the monumental fall from grace of Lance Armstrong.

In cycling, of the nine fastest sprinters in history only two , the Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Nesta Carther, have not been found guilty of contravening the sport’s drug regulations.

Corrupt practices

Administrative bodies have been accused of various corrupt practices in the award of major global sporting events.

Qatar’s award by FIFA of the 2022 World Cup has defied rational explanations in failure to take into account the health dangers of extreme temperatures later conceded as requiring serious concerns. Corruption accusations have been backed by commercial sponsors calling for release of results of an internal investigation.

Further accusations have been levelled against FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter. A Government committee in the UK was told that the Football Association would not be ‘wasting its time bidding’ for the World Cup as long as Blatter remains in post.

The Olympic Movement has repeatedly found its idealistic vision at odds with harsh political and financial realities. The recent Winter Olympics at Sochi began with demonstrations against Russia’s recently tightened discriminatory laws. These are said to be contrary to P6, the anti-discrimination proposition in the Olympic Charter.

During the games, accusations of bias were made against a judge whose score elevated a Russian figure-skater to gold medal status.

Corporate sporting responsibilities

Coaching of young athletes has also come under serious criticism.

In researching coaching leadership, I came across an article on a website dedicated to sporting excellence. It suggested widespread coaching abuse of young athletes by bullying coaches obsessed with winning. This chimed which some of my personal observations of amateur coaches including over-zealous touch-line parents.

The article drew my attention to the broader responsibilities of sports coaches and administrators to address the issues and dilemmas outlined in the examples above. The parallels with the emergence of the Corporate Social Responsibilities movement were too tempting to resist.

This sporting life

Any efforts to rescue sport would have to deal with criticisms made by the sociologist Lasch, nearly fifty years ago. Lasch, in The Lonely Crowd, wrote a classic analysis of the development of a culture of narcissism. In a chapter on The degradation of sport he describes how the athlete was increasingly becoming an entertainer, open to being bought and sold in what he describes as in “antagonistic cooperation” to teammates.

Perhaps a movement is required, a new form of CSR, whose principles will be incorporated into sporting charters and declarations. Participants are likely to be leaders in such a movement. Athletes have already stood up in many demonstrations against perceived injustices when administrators have taken a more cautious approach.

More importantly it may, like the original CSR, find expression in the beliefs and actions of a future generation of administrators, coaches, and sports players at all levels of excellence.


Federer versus Murray, and why I might become a behaviorist

August 16, 2014

Andy Murray loses to Roger Federer in the quarter finals of Cincinnati. Your LWD correspondent considers becoming a behavioural psychologist

Just another tennis match, [16th August, 2014] and no big deal. Except Roger Federer has just had praise heaped on him on the event of his thirty-third birthday with the implication he is nearing the end of his illustrious career. He has drifted down to World number six. Andy Murray after surgery has slumped to World number ten, and is slightly under-cooked for the US Open in a week’s time.

At the start of the match, one TV pundit favoured Murray slightly to win it. Another expert favoured Federer slightly. What happened was dramatic and unexpected.

Early exchanges

Early exchanges show Federer to be the more confident player, and he breaks to lead 3-2 and serve. Then he wins another break to take the first set. One of the worse sets Murray has played against Federer.

Second set

Federer’s play dips and Murray breaks at 2-1. Then again to 4-1. Murray strategy to Federer’s backhand side is winning. Federer’s play weaker than in the first set.

Murray drops serve and droops

Murray drops serve with weak play to 4-2. Then drops another serve with even weaker play. If I believed in momentum I would say Federer had gained it.

Murray’s play continues in increasingly predictable weak fashion, and he loses miserably.

‘Between Andy’s ears’

Peter Fleming, one of the better tennis commentators, observed for B Sky B that ‘something was going on between Andy’s ears’ , a euphemism I took to mean that Andy’s mental state was wrong. But on the previous day Andy had shown enormous concentration in defeating big serving Isner. There was no mental fragility on show.

Why I might become a behaviourist

I did not disagree with Fleming’s remark. Except it left me feeling I might give up searching for explanations of human behaviour that involved unobservable processes such as mental fragility. That is the central precept of behavioral psychology,

Fight may still be OK

If I took up with behaviourism, then I could stop worrying about mental events or processes such motivation, commitment, maybe even fright, but fight might just about be OK because like flight it is just about observable.

And, as a behaviorist I would have to abandon worry as an epiphenomenon.

Goodbye to creativity

So it’s goodbye creativity, hello to the world of stimulus and response.

My observations on this brave new world may be reported in a future blog post.

Update

August 22nd:  The Murray conundrum continues in the first round of the US open. Against a veteran opponent Robin Hasse, Murray is tentative from start and gets worse.  The serve is tentative. The play a mix of cautious and over aggressive.  Still struggles on, but wins tie break to go two sets up.

Murray then increasingly physically distressed, cramps mightily, appears to be about to default.  Hasse wins 

set, then also flags. Murray limps home after a wildly swinging fourth set.

I depart from neo-behaviorism and reach speculative view that AM is in same dire form as some English and Indian cricketers I have watched recently.  Cramp is part of a more complex set of actors.  So is first round nerves.


Is Narcissism always a bad thing?

August 12, 2014

NarcissusNarcissism is often associated with ‘the dark side of leadership’. Recent studies offer a revised perspective

A review in The Economist [March 22nd, 2014] was entitled Narcissism: Know thy selfie. It reviewed two recent books on Narcissism: Mirror, Mirror: the uses and abuses of self-love, by Simon Blackburn, and The Americanization of Narcissism, by Elizabeth Lunbeck.

Lasch and the Culture of Narcissism

In examining these books it is worth going back to the psychodynamic treatment of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch. It is worth revisiting this classic study as the critic As Siegel summarized the work:

in “The Culture of Narcissism,” Lasch took what was still mainly a narrowly clinical term and used it to diagnose a pathology that seemed to have spread to all corners of American life. In Lasch’s definition (drawn from Freud), the narcissist, driven by repressed rage and self-hatred, escapes into a grandiose self-conception, using other people as instruments of gratification even while craving their love and approval. Lasch saw the echo of such qualities in “the fascination with fame and celebrity, the fear of competition, the inability to suspend disbelief, and the shallowness and transitory quality of personal relations.

The full-on connection between narcissism and many of the evils of modern society was always likely to attract a revisionary accounts such as those of Blackburn and Lubeck.

Narcissism and balance

Blackburn argues that a ‘healthy’ self-image is bounded at one pole by excessive self-regard, and at the other pole by lack of adequate self-image. This adds needed nuance to the Lasch position, as well as to the popular connection between narcissism and the dark side of charismatic leadership. His plea is for positioning the individual more carefully in their context. The prevailing view of egotistical leaders may have slipped too much into polarisation. Where he is closest to Lasch is in his cutting observations of advertising which seeks to bolster the self-image of the consumer (Blackburn takes the ‘because you are worth it’ message of L’Oreal as an example]

‘Good narcissism’

Lunbeck adds the point that the neo-Freudians have tended to focus on narcissism as bad, and that Lasch contributed this cultural belief. Freud, she argues, saw the development of self-regard as a form of ‘good narcissism’.

Narcissism as a dilemma

Both Blackburn and Lunbeck show us that narcissism may be more of a dilemma to be understood than a universal curse.

Suggestion to leadership tutors

Essay question: Is Narcissism a bad leadership characteristic? Discuss, drawing on the work of Simon Blackburn and Elizabeth Lunbeck


Capital, by John Lanchester, is a capital read

August 9, 2014

imageBook Review

The book jumped out and arrested my attention from the display at my local bookshop. The first impression was reinforced by Andrew, manager and supplier of the shop’s excellent cookies.

Capital, he said, had wowed his book-reading group. He then insisted on reading an extract as I consumed one of his units of production – a chocolate cookie – together with a less than skinny Latte. Of course, I was also thinking of another book. A century ago, [1867] Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, one of the most influential books of all time and which translates into Capital.

Andrew and his excellent Latte made it a done deal. I left a shop with a copy of this novelby the English writer John Lanchester, set in London in the period approaching the great financial crisis of 2008.

It was published in 2012, shortly before the arrival pf the best-selling economic analysis also entitled Capital, and written by the French economist Piketty. Lanchester, so Andrew told me, had chosen the title for its multiple meanings. The book was about economic capital, set in the Capital city, with ironic hints at capital meaning excellent. Duh.

In the book, a cast of interesting characters is assembled around Pepys Road, a suburban location that has through a twist of economic fate made the occupants rich simply because all the houses there ‘as if by magic, were now worth millions of pounds.’ The reader is warned in these words in the book’s prologue that this blissful state of affairs would not last. Nor did it. Most readers will need little reminding of the approaching financial devastation of 2008.

The writing is clear, deceptively easy to follow, and full of authoritative touches. The book is an enjoyable read. Its rather unobtrusive plot concerns mysterious and threatening messages received by the occupants of Pepys Road. Readers were led to believe they were from a creative estate agent, but this was discounted as the messages became darker. The police are called in.

Even more interesting is the unfolding of the personal stories of the characters who are deftly described with insight and empathy, from the over-extended financial executive, the football star from Senegal, the traffic warden, and the Pakistani family running the local shop.

Half-way through the book, I briefly began to feel that I was reading a story that had been rather too carefully constructed, one that would elegantly unfold towards a satisfactory resolution. There was a satisfactory closure that matched the subtlety of the plotting.

To say more would risk plot-spoiling. I can only add the first LWD review five star recommendation for this enjoyable and thought-provoking tale.

Recommendation for LWD subscribers: *****


Test your knowledge of charismatic leadership

August 7, 2014

Christmas Quiz

Test your knowledge of charismatic leadership with this brief ten-item quiz. It is based on the chapter on charismatic leadership in Dilemmas of Leadership.

Click here to try the test

If you have not read the chapter, a score of 5/10 suggests you already know some aspects of the subject.

A score of 10/10 suggests you should be helping in the revised test prepared for a forthcoming edition of the textbook.


Satya Nadella’s leadership dilemmas at Microsoft begin with Nokia

August 5, 2014

Paul Hinks

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s third ever CEO in February 2014. He faces enormous challenges of change to an economic powerhouse

Since its inception 39 years ago, Microsoft has driven change. Its products have shaped and disrupted the IT landscape. Its desktop and server operating systems have become industry standards. Yet, relentless competition demands further changes. The new CEO recognizes the situation.

‘One Microsoft’

A few months into his appointment [10th July 2014], Nadella published an ‘internal memo ‘ in the public domain entitled: ‘One Microsoft’. The document provides insight into the strategic priorities at Microsoft – as well highlighting deeper leadership dilemmas. “The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” He wrote.

Changing landscapes and Microsoft’s previous success

Cloud Computing and Mobile technologies were focal points in the memo – repeated references to “a mobile-first and cloud-first world” emphasising where he feels Microsoft’s future lies.

A key dilemma and challenge for Nadella is that Microsoft no longer appears to be dominant in shaping the direction of the IT landscape. Microsoft’s desktop and server operating systems provide examples of different franchises that became de facto industry standards. Today we talk about firms such as Apple, Google and Amazon and how their products and services have momentum – the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Android phones – as well various cloud services.

It isn’t that Microsoft hasn’t tried to succeed in these new marketplaces – it has. It’s just that Microsoft’s success doesn’t mirror the success of its competitors. Microsoft has attempted to break into the tablet market but Apple still leads the way. Windows mobile phones competes against Android phones and iPhones, but they do not enjoy the passionate following that their competition enjoys.

Microsoft Axes 18,000 jobs

The acquisition of Nokia in 2013 provides an example of Microsoft’s efforts. Nokia was itself a market leader in the mobile telecommunications market before suffering a number of setbacks which saw its products fall out of vogue. Some analyst at the time saw merit and synergy in Microsoft’s acquisition. However on Thursday [17th July 2014] the BBC reported that Microsoft was announcing a loss of 18,000 jobs globally – the bulk of the cuts to be at Nokia:

Microsoft pledged to cut $600m (£350.8m) per year in costs within 18 months of closing the acquisition – cuts that were much more severe than the 6,000 initially expected. Is this acknowledgement that the Nokia deal was ultimately a failure? Or is it an example of how knowledge, know-how and patented technology can be bought lieu of ethical leadership and employees’ livelihoods?

The Future direction of Microsoft?

Nadella and Microsoft appear to recognize the challenges ahead. Change is necessary. Cloud Computing infrastructures are maturing; mobile online access is now ubiquitous – Nedella’s memo acknowledges Microsoft’s need to adapt and respond – repeated references to “mobile-first and cloud-first world” provide a clear indication of where he sees Microsoft’s future. Will change at Microsoft result in the progress needed for Microsoft to remain a dominant force?

Bill Gates’ 1990 vision of ‘Information at your fingertips’, and then his keynote speech at Jan 1995 Comdex of ‘information at your fingertips ‘ provide evidence of how Microsoft’s first CEO led the way and helped shape an industry.

Nadella has one of the toughest jobs in the industry, made more challenging by an expectation that Microsoft can remain creative and innovate. Not an easy task.