Charismatic leader of the Month: Alexis Tsipras

September 30, 2015

Alexis TsiprasAlexis Tsipras survives as the new protector of Greece’s austerity programs. He becomes Leaders We Deserve charismatic leader of the month

On September 20 2015, Alexis Tsipras becomes the leader elected by his country to implement the austerity programmes he was elected in January to oppose.

His story illustrates the success of a charismatic leader in retaining trust regardless of sudden shifts of policy he may make.

Background

The Greek election of 2004 had seen the success of Kostas Karamanlis of the New Democracy party, defeating George Papandreou of PASOK. It was very much business as usual, as the two were from the dynastic tradition in Greece, of political families providing the country’s leaders since the new era of democracy in 1944.

Syriza as a political party emerged in 2004 as a coalition of left wing groups (implied in its acronymic type name) challenging this tradition. The coalition held six seats but its members were engaged in various power struggles (hardly surprising as the radical alliance could count around twelve groupings within it).

After several years of internal struggle, a young Athenian politician Alexis Tsipras eventually gained the leadership of the Greek parliamentary opposition. His track record was as a student activist who had considerable media visibility through his energetic campaigning efforts which demonstrated his considerable personal charm and audience appeal.

Greece and the domino theory of collapse

Greece went on to suffer from increasing financial difficulties exacerbated by the global economic crisis which called for austerity measures imposed externally. By 2012, had Greece became the first domino within the theory of the collapse of the EU. The financial crises had a Darwinian feel to then, with the weakest national economy facing tough austerity measures or default from the club.

According to the domino theory, the default on the weakest economy would increase pressures via creditor institutions, on the next weakest. The IMF, the European Central Bank, and the World Bank were in complex ways influencing financial and political measures taken by national governments. The weakest economies would face increasingly painful decisions which acquired the euphemism of taking austerity measures. Opposition to such measures were simplified into anti-austerity policies. The next dominos included Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France. The most secure economy in the European Union was Germany. Increasingly German economic power was seen as dominant, and Angela Merkel seen as the most powerful political figure in Europe, and chief architect of the austerity measures being imposed on Greece. Greece was seen as fragile enough to make its exit from the EU (‘Grexit’) likely.

By then, Tsipras was attracting international attention for his anti-austerity speeches. Across Europe more extreme parties on the left and right were gaining ground. Disenchantment with austerity measures and the old political alliances was high. The country faced pressing demands to implement further demands in order to renegotiate a financial bail-out, needed to protect the very viability of the internal banking system.

Promise of a heroic rescue

Tsipras promised a heroic rescue. The Greek voters turned to Syritza and Tsipras’s anti-austerity proposals in an election of January 2015. He was sworn in as Prime Minister with a mandate to renegotiate the resented austerity measures.

Tsipras became the poster boy of youthful political protest around the world. At 40 he was the youngest Prime Minister of Greece and arguably the leader of opposition to the EU’s austerity programmes. His election promises had been greeted with incredulity in European leaders concerned with the wider financial stability of the Eurozone and their own internal political pressures. His success in the election was even more of a surprise.

The young hero flung himself into the battle with the forces of austerity. Any sympathy for his cause was weakened in the EU by his lack of diplomatic concealment of his contempt for his perceived protagonists. He was further weakened by the even more abrasive style of his chief financial negotiator.

In the first month of difficult negotiations Greece’s European lenders agree to extend its second bailout by four months with additional evidence of good faith by the newly appointed Greek government.

Neat footwork or stumble?

By June, the EU negotiators appeared to have been making progress, when Tsipras found a way of wrong-footing his opponents (although possibly wrong-footing his own cause as well). Facing unacceptable demands, he announces a hasty referendum on a possible bailout agreement. In July The electorate again supported Tsipras in rejecting the EU latest terms Tsipras assured the voters that the result would not be ‘Grexit’.

The timing resulted in further pressures on the Greek economy, but Greece agrees a bailout deal allowing more austerity measures. The government is in disarray and destabilised by defections.

Another snap election

Then in another piece of wrong-footing, Tsipras resigns and declares he needs a mandate for implementing the deal. A snap election is called for September, as he seeks a new mandate.

On 20 September, Alexis Tsipras wins but without a majority of seats. He is able to form a coalition and survives as the new protector of Greece’s austerity programs which he originally came to power by opposing.

He becomes Leaders We Deserve charismatic leader of the month for September 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Rugby World Cup 2015. How Wales beat England with a little help from Japan

September 27, 2015

Wales rugby ball

September 26 2015 Wales 28 England 25

The statistics suggest it was a close match. It was more than that. It produced a tale of a glorious last minute triumph by a team cruelly depleted by injuries and facing exit from the World Cup

[This post is updated for the duration of the Rugby World Cup of 2015]

I might one day be able to write a balanced evaluation of the match, if only for discussion about the leadership lessons contained in it. For the moment I can only put down first impressions.

Four years ago, a young Welsh team battled to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. Their captain Sam Warburton made an instinctive impetuous tackle against a French opponent which led to his instant dismissal from the field. Wales lost narrowly. France lost easily to the New Zealand all blacks in the final.

The Group of Death

Four years later the core of the Welsh team, now more experienced, found themselves playing in the 2015 competition, hosted by England but with a small number of matches played in Wales. They had been drawn in what was in sporting cliché terms the Group of Death, with three strong teams, Australia, England together with Wales, as well as two weaker (or at least lower ranked) teams Fiji and Uruguay.

The all play all format among the five teams meant that one of the favourites had to be eliminated at the end of the pool stage. From the moment the draw was made, the match between England and Wales was seen as potentially crucial.

The England team had showed promise in the run up to the tournament. They also had the advantage of playing in their national stadium at Twickenham. Australia also arrived in good form and was seen as one of the top three teams, behind World Champions New Zealand, and a powerful South African team from a country that had already won two world cups. Wales were regarded as strong enough to cause trouble, but likely to be eliminated unless they were able to beat one of England or Australia.

The Welsh preparation campaign under the wily chief coach Warren Gatland had stuttered with injuries to several key players. Then in a warm-up match a few weeks before the tournament, the loss of more players, including their world-class goal kicker Leigh Halfpenny.

The England team had also suffered injury withdrawals from their first match against Fiji. The coaching team led by Stuart Lancaster had to find a plan B against Wales. The decisions inevitably aroused criticisms. Lancaster had selected the highly talented but inexperienced Burgess, a recent recruit from Rugby League. For understandable reasons, Lancaster also decided to start with a specialist goal kicker replacing one of the team’s more imaginative playmakers.

The match begins

The evening match was played before a capacity crowd. England was seen as favourite to win even by Welsh rugby supporters and commentators.

The match itself was tense partly for its importance to the teams, and partly because it was close, and with errors from both teams. England seemed physically stronger and edged ahead. A defensive error from Wales, and England powered over the line for a slick well-executed try. Then Wales sustained more sickening injuries. Liam Williams at full back replacing Halfpenny was stretchered off. Several more replacements were needed as backs and forwards were battered out of the game.

At half time, England had a  ten point advantage, and had nearly stretched the lead further. England just have to stick to their plan, Sir Clive Woodward declared, speaking from the commentary box. His reputation as as a coach was earned for his success with England’s famous World Cup winning team of 2002. I supposed he was right, even if it he did sound a bit smug. Had he lost that sense of the danger that might come from a wounded and desperate opponent?

The England team did not quite stick to what they were doing. In the second half, England substitutes were brought on to finish off the depleted Welsh team. Then a sneak attack from Wales and a try not unlike England’s first half effort. Wales were clawing their way back.

With time running out, it became clear that Wales were fighting harder. England were not exactly holding on, but seemed inclined to protect their narrow lead. As happens, defense is not always the best form of attack. Another flurry of penalties and Wales actually grab a three-point lead.

Two minutes to go. England has to score to even out the match. They are awarded a kickable penalty which would have drawn the game. The England captain Robshaw picked the ball up and gestured to the referee and to his goal kicker to go for the corner flag with possibility of a subsequent last-minute try bringing victory.

The crowd is roaring England on to victory as their forwards advance to within five meters of the Wales goal line.  From the lineout, England secures the ball and prepares to batter their fatigued opponents out of the way as they advance over the line. But the the attacking move as the Wales players hurl themselves ferociously into the maul and drive players and ball  into touch. Wales have only seconds to secure the ball from their lineout throw and the game is won.

The ball is thrown, and is cleanly held by Wales. Time now plays its relativity trick, but the electronic scorecard moves remorselessly on. The referee blows for time. England have found a way of losing. a game that they were winning, and a minute earlier could have drawn. What had been witnessed was sheer anger and fury uncorked and directed against not England but against injustice and cruel fate.

Those players still standing sink to the ground, before the red-shirted ones find enough energy to revive and celebrate.

Déjà vu

Let me have a moment of sheer speculation. This was not the match that this World Cup will be remembered for, outside Wales and perhaps England. That had taken place when the Japanese team won an incredible game against the mighty South African team.

Two minutes to go, and Japan had a penalty award. Kicking it would result in a draw. Or the Japanese captain could elect to go for the win. The situation was similar to the one that changed the result of the England Wales game.

Here is my speculation. The Japanese captain won global respect for his courage in risking a loss seeking the win. Might Chris  Robshaw have been thinking about that glorious moment, as he made his own fateful decision? Does he even know himself?

Can’t believe what I saw

The ITV cameras switched to the studio. Outside, various bodies could still be seen recovering on the floodlit grass. Sir Clive Woodward and his greatest warrior Jonny Wilkinson stared glassy-eyed into space. What do you make of that Clive, the presenter asked. Sir Clive struggled for words. Shocked, he eventually replied weakly. Can’t believe what I just saw.

You will, Sir Clive, you will eventually.

Updates start here

Wednesday September 30
Wales will suffer from the injuries occurred against England.
The squad named for the next game against Fiji on Thursday October 1 includes three forced changes, and more players out of position.

Fiji has lost its two initial games but have completed well. Also, they have a brand of power play that might produce even more injuries. The one consolation for Wales is that Fiji has lost their most potent rampaging player, 20 stone Nemani Nadolo, banned for foul play against Australia.

Saturday October 3

After losing to Wales, England’s woes continue. They become first hosts to crash out of the World Cup of Rugby at the pool stage.

Sunday October 18

Australia narrowly beat Scotland with controversial late refereeing decision.

Saturday October 31

All Blacks defeat Australia to retain World Cup in memorable style.


Nigel Farage defines his role in the EU referendum process

September 26, 2015

Nigel FarageNigel Farage gains media attention and a reappraisal of his role in the EU referendum process at the UKIP conference at Doncaster

I listened on radio to the early stages of his opening address to his party’s annual conference. It was delivered in a convincing charismatic style. By that I mean one that appeals at an emotional level and which somehow minimizes rational evaluation of its implied assumptions.

Then I watched and listened to the later stage of the speech on BBC TV news. The theme had changed, and with it the impression it made on me. The naughty Nigel had crept out.

For a moment Nigel was nonplussed

The change occurred when he offered up some rather weak jokes about Jeremy Corbyn, and then targetted the leaders of the YES grouping in the forthcoming EU membership referendum. He began these with a mention of Richard Branson in only a mildly dismissive way.

Then he moved on to Tony Blair, this reference winning more reactions, jeers (presumably against Blair) and applause (presumably for Nigel). He was obviously building up to the third and most repulsive of the gang of three, none other than David Cameron.

He earned the desired increase of jeers and cheers which rather petered out, not helped by an off-colour remark about recent lurid publications about the undergraduate Cameron’s close encounter with a dead pig. For a moment Nigel was nonplussed at the ambiguous reaction to his joke.

“Well I liked it”

His customarily confident smile was replaced with a rather guilty smirk.   Or, at least that was how it came across to me.  He quickly sensed he had struck a false note.  But he is a consummate platform performer. “Well I liked it” he said, and switched back to being a selfless and visionary leader.  Nevertheless, a little magic had somehow slipped away.

The shift in style during the speech may have been calculated.  The early part of the presentation was rousing knockabout stuff.  UKIP has done well, and I and the party have been sorely traduced. The second part was a skillful presentation of a cause that even transcends direct loyalty to UKIP, namely to work to save the country by putting all energy into winning the EU referendum vote.  He identified the wider movement within which they would operate. This would be the  umbrella movement, Leave.eu funded by the wealthy Aaron Banks, who is a former influential backer of UKIP.

 He glossed over the recent more strained relationship with Mr Banks who seems to be attempting to minimize UKIP”s and Mr Farage’s influence in the EU referendum.

Conclusion

Edit out the weak passage, and you have an impressive performance. Nigel had decided to speak without notes.  This is a style that offers greater scope for empathic communication, and it mostly worked.

 The interpretation being placed on the speech is that Mr Farage  has indicated willingness  to become part of a wider political movement, and if requested will be persuaded to play a leading role in the referendum over EU membership.

How to avoid bad chess positions and what to do next when you find yourself in one

September 21, 2015

Tudor Rickards This post was prepared for a chess talk to members of East Cheshire Chess Club. It may be of interest to club-level players or parents who are increasingly being beaten up by their children at the game of chess. With a little ‘translation’, it may also have value as a guide to strategy and leadership as has been indicated in earlier posts

Anyone who wanders around our chess club during a match will know I get into bad positions, and sometimes get out of trouble. It’s not because I don’t know how to avoid bad positions, it is more that I break rules I was taught as a schoolboy.

Here are the rules I break, and why that is usually a bad thing. I also suggest what to try if you still break them, and find yourself in a bad position.

Rule 1.  Do not fall behind in development

This means do not move the same piece frequently, when other pieces remain in their original positions.

Rule 2. Don’t move pawns without thinking about where the opponent will attack the pawns

Pawns can’t move backwards.  When you move a pawn try to visualize your ‘chain’ of pawns, how the structure may persist, and how it may be broken.  The great Nimzowich teaches us how to attack pawn chains at the weakest point.

Rule 3. Beware of simplifying moves

Unless you are winning, you should avoid simplifying exchanges. More  often than not, exchanges favour the second player.  (Check this out on your games with a Search Engine. See how the advantage swings.)

Rule 4. Calculate most carefully when you think the position has become complicated

Some positions do not need a lot of calculations. For example, if your opponent has been playing the moves you expected. These are balanced positions, with pawns defended,  pieces coordinated.  Decide on how to strengthen the position.  Coordinate pieces to avoid under-protection, and over-burdened pieces. These are where tactics come in.

Rule 5. Practice Plan B

A plan B might be a change of strategy. If you have made a mistake you may need to find a plan that you hadn’t thought of. For example, sometimes if you lose  a pawn it leaves your opponent’s position slightly weakened. Look how to exploit it as if you made a pawn sacrifice.

Remember most games have chances for the player with an inferior position.  A losing game is different from a lost game. Your opponents may relax waiting for the game to be over in their favour

Rule 6.  Avoid time trouble

Try To make safe and simple ‘holding’ moves when you are in a familiar position, to keep up with your opponent’s time.  If you do get into time trouble, try to anticipate your opponent’s move and use your opponent’s time.  If you have guessed his or her move, reply quickly.

Rule 7.  Move quickly, but not too quickly

However careful you are, you will sometimes move too quickly. There are various bits of advice that can help. I found this on avoiding blunders useful not just for beginners.

Other things worth thinking about

In a series of exchanges, watch out for zwischenzug moves (intermediate moves that can ruin a combination).

If you have no obvious move, then you need to see what  candidate moves you can think of.  If you are thinking of breaking principles, be more careful.

There are many useful suggestions about avoiding blunders.  This article is worth studying.

Comments welcomed for other tips about blunders and how to avoid them.


The charismatic reply: Jose responds to a setback

September 19, 2015

200px-Jose_Mourinho-07Jose Mourinho deals with a dreadful start to the season by Chelsea with a typical charismatic response.

[This post is being updated during the Premier League season]

Read the rest of this entry »


Driverless cars, perils of AI and the importance of creative thinking

September 18, 2015

Trolley tracks

 

We are discussing artificial intelligence tonight, said Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, and we have some very intelligent humans with us to help us do it.

That, by the way, is a sort of Newsnight joke. I think.

Artificial intelligence and the driverless car

To be fair, there followed a very intelligent discussion by the very intelligent humans on the increasing impact of artificial intelligence and the ethical dilemmas raised, for example in the emerging era of the driverless car.

Unsurprisingly, one expert had been brought in to reassure us of the unlikely prospects of some disaster scenario of the ‘computers will take us over’ kind. Another took the contrary more cautious view. The debaters showed even more respect towards each other that was shown earlier in the day at PMQ by David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

Agency theory

At the core of the discussion is agency theory. I don’t mean the narrower ideas of corporate control between owners and managers or agents. I mean the great sociological issues of the nature of structures and the potential of humans to act as free agents.

In Newsnight, human agency was examined as potentially under threat by computers taking decisions. This introduces questions of whether the computers in cars and anywhere else will be able to deal with ethical issues on our behalf

To connect this to a problem of immediate practical importance, the case of driverless cars was introduced. The experts gently considered the possibility, concluding that it did not influence the positions they had outlined. But the Newsnight production team had their own secret weapon introduced by David Grossman, their excellent culture and technology editor.

The trolley problem

David has set up an experiment to replicate one of the famous ethical dilemmas known as the runaway rail truck or trolley problem.

Scientific American also had a look at it a few years ago, and I seem to remember a few references in The Economist. David, drawing on the BBC’s vast budget had obtained what looked like a bit of model rail track complete with a little red truck, and a switch that could be used to divert the truck way from the line that would kill five people and on to a branch line which would result in only one person being killed.

Grossman’s volunteers had the life or death choice of pulling the switch and after that the more tricky task of reflecting on the ethical dilemma to which they had been exposed. The volunteers conformed to the behaviours of countless laboratory subjects who had taken part in such experiments in the past. Yes, mostly they preferred to act. They also confirmed that it is jolly difficult to sort out that darn moral dilemma. What right had someone to take a life? Or not intervene to save five lives?

Hmm. What do you think?

When reintroduced to the viewers, the experts in ethics and artificial intelligence were given a chance to consider the implications of the experiment for philosophy, and the ethical problems of driverless cars. They tactfully avoided mentioning that a genius called Ludwig Wittgenstein has more or less drawn the poison out of ‘mind games’ as a bunch of linguistic traps.

More interestingly, one discussant pointed out a fundamental principle of creativity when anyone faces a tricky either-or decision. The concept is repeatedly found in my textbook Dilemmas of Leadership. A dilemma can be effectively re-framed if the binary nature of the ‘either-or’ is examined and its assumptions tested. You can apply that principle to the practically important issues of driverless cars, loss of human agency and ethical resolution of dilemmas.

I welcome comments and will elaborate on the conclusions later in an update to this post.


Berkeley group as a study of entrepreneurial leadership

September 15, 2015

Tony PidgleyBerkeley Group reports a profits surge as it prepares to enter the FTSE 100 index. This news is tempered by resistance from its instructional investors over its executive remuneration arrangements

The Berkeley Group corporate web page suggests this is a modern company complying with the ‘newer bottom lines’ of Corporate social responsibility. Its financial growth has been found attractive to institutional investors. Now the cachet of entry into the FTSE 100 as a solid blue chip company beckons.

Its situation is even more positive at present as government house building policies have given the sector a boost.

Read the rest of this entry »