World War One and Jeremy Paxton’s existential dread

March 31, 2014


In the projection of his professional persona, Jeremy Paxton conceals and reveals his personal anxieties

Jeremy Paxton is one of England’s best-known media celebrities. He has became the inquisitorial voice of the BBC’s Newsnight programme [1989- present] and with little shift of style, the inquisitional voice of University Challenge. Building on these achievements, he has produced literary works often with grand themes of British achievements. He is currently fronting one of the BBC’s series to mark the events of The Great War of 1914-1918.

The other Jeremy

His style is combative and ironic. Some years ago, in 2009, listening to a radio interview,I mistook him for another celebrity Jeremy. Only at the end of the interview did I discover I had been listening to the equally combative and ironic Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear. Clarkson is arguably the greater financial asset to the BBC, and equally assiduous in cultivating a controversial and discomforting personal style. In the earlier post, I made tentative analyses of the behavioural styles of each.

I return to this topic as Newsnight Jeremy is making an acclaimed contribution to the Nation’s commemorations of WW1.

The mask of control and the mask of command

Leadership studies sometimes refer to the mask of command. Both Paxton and Clarkson show the mask of control, beneath which lurks the existential fear of losing control. The leader inspires confidence by concealing the natural human feelings of despair and weakness. For Paxton, the TV interview, and the quiz with answers to all the questions provided to the interrogative quiz master provide ideal situations to act out his concealed anxieties.

On the dark side

I make no claims for the validity of these observations. They may be rooted in my mistaken reading of Jungian psychology. They just make sense to me. They confirm my belief in the nature of the concealed dark side of the persona of some of the leaders and celebrities who gain cultural acceptance.


George Osborne killed my nanny

March 20, 2014

Nanny StateThe Chancellor dealt a mortal blow to the nanny state in his budget. Or did he?

In the UK, there are two evil monsters in the popular bestiary, the nanny state, and the crazed demon known as political correctness. In his budget yesterday [March 19th, 2014] George Osborne appeared to have struck hard at the nanny state monster and her grip over the pensions of hard-saving workers.

At a stroke he handed control of pension funds back to their rightful owners. And with awareness of confusions caused by that sudden liberation, the grateful pensioners will be able to receive advice from ‘independent advisors’.

Irresponsible pensioners?

Might some liberated pensioners go on a spending spree, and then end as a burden on the state? Not at all, Danny Alexander assured us, and he should know as a coalition partner of Mr Osborne. Savers are responsible people not feckless losers about to splurge their liberated cash.

Getting away from nanny

Anyway, he implied, there may be a few old reprobates who head off to Ibiza and limp home penniless (or Euroless). That is a small price to pay for shocking the country out of the domineering control of the nanny state.

And we all lived happily ever after

Or did we? Mythical monsters are not as easy to kill off as natural species like tigers or rhinos. The nanny state may retreat, wounded but not destroyed. There may be stories coming up about unscrupulous advisers charging for dodgy financial advice over dodgy financial products. I know that’s hard to believe.

The cynical BBC analyst Nick Robinson went so far as to suggest that the pension changes were targeted ‘with laser precision’ at older voters who might be tempted away from the conservatives by the seductive offers from Nigel Farage and his Ukipian vision.

Next stop political correctness gone mad

As George Osborne rests from his labours, the country awaits a champion to liberate us from the dominance of that other monster, political correctness gone mad. I am thinking of starting the anti political correctness party [APCP]. If willing, Boris Johnson would become its leader, or maybe post-Ukip, Nigel Farage.

Credit for nanny state image

Image is from the venitism blogspot


Cardiff City Football club and the dilemmas of leadership

December 21, 2013

Vincent TanAn earlier post outlined the story of Cardiff City Football Club and the dilemmas facing its new owners. Leaders We Deserve updates regularly as the manager is invited to resign or be dismissed.

LWD will keep a watching brief on the developing story since the original post

A summary of the interim happenings can be found in The Telegraph article which catalogues a series of battles between the Malaysian owners and their executives. CEO Vincent Tan has become a central figure in a battle to oust the much-respected manager Malky Mackay

December 20th 2013

News media in the UK all tell the story of a public announcement by billionaire owner Vincent Tan that Mackay must ‘resign or be sacked’. Tan is flying to England [Liverpool for the match, not Wales] to complete the arrangement one way or another.

December 21st 2013

Last gasp attempts to re-negotiate attempted. Tan to meet his chairman, Mehmet Dalman, who was expected to defend Mackay. Candidate for the next manager requires assurances about the contract and some level of control over playing matters which Mackay failed to achieve


Who spoke out this week against heartlessness and why was the speech reviled?

December 2, 2013

Answer: It was Boris Johnson, the charismatic mayor of London, whose other remarks in the same speech were the focus of its negative reporting

I could have begun this post by stating: “Boris Johnson spoke out about social injustice and heartlessness this week [Nov 2013]. His words in this vein were reported as follows:”

“I also hope that there is no return to that spirit of Loadsamoney heartlessness – figuratively riffling bank notes under the noses of the homeless,” he said.

”And I hope that this time the Gordon Gekkos of London are conspicuous not just for their greed – valid motivator though greed may be for economic progress – as for what they give and do for the rest of the population, many of whom have experienced real falls in their incomes over the last five years.”

The outcry

The speech was mainly however an attempt to re-invent competitive capitalism. The article offered another perspective on Boris’s political philosophy, captured in the speech, and which led to a flurry of critical comments:

Boris Johnson, the flamboyant, self-mocking and ambitious mayor of London, has put his gilded foot in his mouth once again, suggesting that the poor of Britain are victims of low IQ and that greed is good.

Mr Johnson, who many believe wants to succeed David Cameron as prime minister and Conservative Party leader, has created an image that is both bumbling and endearing, based on bluster, wit and fundamental competence.

He has survived missteps, including various affairs and a love child, that would have sunk ordinary politicians, but he is a fiercely intelligent debater and funnier than most comedians.

But his comments on Wednesday night in the Thatcher Lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies have created an uglier fuss, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accusing Johnson of discussing humankind “as if we are a sort of breed of dogs”.

Boris and a clue to charismatic leadership

Boris Johnson is regularly described as charismatic. He illustrates the survival of a leadership style that refuses to die away to confirm the arrival of a post-charismatic era. He conveys, as the article suggests a bumbling style, but he conveys also intelligence and charm. Brand Boris is consistently inconsistent.

He defies the assumption held knowingly or not by almost every other politician, that to look foolish is career damaging. This is an almost impossible act to sustain (not looking foolish). The majority of mainstream politicians struggle with the dilemma of appearing authentic, as their mask of omniscience slips.

Will Boris achieve his political ambitions?

Not if the fate of his beloved classical tragic heroes is pertinent. Boris’s destiny is to replay the fate of those who would defy the gods.

In the meanwhile he appears to demonstrate the possibility that ‘we the people’ deserve the leaders to whom we give our unconditional admiration and good will. The leaders we deserve.

Later:

The Chancellor, George Osborne ‘distances himself’ from Boris’s remarks, [Andrew Marr show, Dec 1st 2013]


Boris Johnson, Feel-Good politician

November 10, 2013

TV Review

Unedited Notes on watching a repeat [Nov 9, 2013] of the BBC documentary of Boris Johnson

He tends to ignore ‘Network of social obligations’. Quote from His House master at Eton

The Darius Guppy affair. Friend who called to ask Boris for an address to help Guppy beat up a journalist

On challenged, sometimes presents his bumbling but endearing style in public rather than denying wrong-doing

Became editor of Spectator and broke his word not to stand for parliament in 2001.

Sacked for lying to Tory leader Michael Howard about an affair

Stood for London mayor backed by Prime Minister and school friend Cameron

Can show discipline when needed, but very chaotic otherwise.

Rivalry with Cameron intensifies after Cameron becomes PM

Another affair…”he’s our Berlusconi, only funnier” [Private Eye editor Ian Hislop]

London riots may have put his re-election as Mayor of London at risk

Said to be the only ‘feel good’ politician in land

Implies he is a serious contender for PM. Prospect offered with less than ringing endorsements

Missing: did I miss any mention of his unpopularity on Merseyside after ill-judged remarks over Hillsborough in a Spectator editorial?

What did we learn about Boris?

What did we learn about Boris? Not a lot that was not already in the public domain. Will he become Prime Minister? Probably not, but the public mood of disillusion of conventional politicians remains high.

The Boris publicity wave rolls on

In the days after posting the above, Boris continues to make media headlines. Click here for a video clip of his claim to be pro-immigation. [Warning: it may come with irritating plug ins]


Why is Rob Ford so popular? The question is relevant to politicians everywhere

November 6, 2013

Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto is made a figure of fun by his political enemies. Yet he remains popular, and his popularity has risen since he has accepted his use of hard and soft drugs among his other misdemeanours

Rob Ford could be written off as a one-off, an eccentric figure and a joke. His appearances in the media show a larger-than-life figure, an Archie Bunker goes to Washington character.

Another way of looking at it is evidence of the rejection of conventional values by a proportion of the electorate. One commentator suggests that at least some of his support comes from disillusioned electors who believe they have not been listened to by mainstream politicians.

Does that seem familiar?

It does to me. I remember covering the election of political ‘figures of fun’ in Brazil and Italy over the last few years. In Italy, earlier this year, the anti-politician Beppe Grillo won 25% of the vote running for President. In Brazil Tiririka, or Mr Grumpy, stood in the elections of 2010 and won election as a deputy on the slogan “things can only get worse”

The leaders we deserve

In a perverse way, these outcrops of the democratic process are a healthy reminder of the right of the people to opt for the leaders they deserve and reject the rhetoric of political orthodoxy. I find it at least as constructive as the case made by Russell Brand in a recent Newsnight interview [October 2013] to justify ‘revolution by not-voting’.

What’s going on?

I leave open the possibility that a vote for a figure of fun is actually a serious political statement.

An Archie Bunker moment

According to my urban dictionary, Archie Bunker is a slang word for crack or cocaine. Saying that you have some Archie Bunker is referring to the bigot Archie Bunker, which means your product is whiter then one of the whitest men in America.

Updated

Nov 8th. Rob Ford ‘may enter re-hab’


Rob Ford and Leaders We Deserve

November 2, 2013


Rob Ford is still mayor of Toronto as increasingly bizarre stories previously on the web escape into mainline media

Rob Ford makes an easy target for stories vilifying his lifestyle choices. They are accumulating in a way that aging commentators like myself may find reminiscent of the stories about Richard Nixon. History tells us that Nixon continued to deny his actions were illegal, as the evidence mounted that was eventually to impeach him.

The long-running background story of Rob Ford implies a leader struggling to maintain a facade of normality around incidents implying lack of control and involvement in substance abuse. Mr Ford as a target is all the easier for his numerous unflattering images which are now entering the wider public domaine.

Several accounts giving historical background of the Ford story have emerged. The Toronto Star has been a particular rich source of the breaking news.

I also like The Huffington Post story today [1st Nov 2013]

In June [2013], the day after police made the massive drug raids called Project Traveller, [Police chief] Blair said he would not comment on whether the police had seized any video of the mayor or whether he was under investigation.
But that was before an actual video of the mayor was recovered on Tuesday, taken from a hard drive seized during the Project Traveller raids on June 20.

On Thursday, [Nov 30st 2013] Blair said, “I think it’s fair to say the mayor is depicted in the video.”
He added: “I’m disappointed. As a citizen of Toronto, I’m disappointed…I know this this is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city, for the reputation of this city and that concerns me.”

Will Ford resign?

From a distance, the Rob Ford drama appears heading for a sad conclusion. If I believed in tipping points, I would say the situation has tipped over irretrievably. Other commentators believe that this is a leader who will have to be forced from office rather than resign. This view was expressed in The Guardian a few hours after this post was published [2nd November 2013].

Update

Nov 4th 2013 In his weekly radio broadcast, The Mayor apologizes for his mistakes but avoids admission of any criminal wrongdoing, or intention of standing down.


Writing a post for Leaders We Deserve

October 10, 2013

Tudor RickardsLeaders we deserve (LWD) welcomes blog posts on topics relating to leadership. Here are a few suggestions which will help a post towards publication

Note to MBSW MBA students
These notes are provided for general contribution to LWD. You will find specific information on writing a blog post within your course instructions, which have slightly different requirements to the following

Get a feel for the LWD house style

Over 600 blog posts had been published on this site by January 2011. A house-style had emerged. New authors are encouraged to find the sort of post they would like to emulate and follow its structure, using the hints suggested here.

Write in clear English

LWD posts have been modelled to some degree on the style to be found in that excellent publication The Economist.

Use a plain (‘vanilla’) format if you are an inexperienced blogger

A plain (sometimes disparagingly called a vanilla) format is recommended for inexperienced bloggers to submit material to LWD. A simple word document will do.

Can I submit in WordPress format?

Yes. Experienced authors can prepare a post using a document prepared for saving as a WordPress post.

To do this, you first have set up your own WordPress blog, and write to its Edit Post facility. The result will then have all WordPress embeds (bold, itals, even images). You can publish on the same blog, and/or save and paste the content to submit to LWD.

Starting a WordPress blog is easy and free.

Length of post

Our typical posts are about 600 words long. We welcome briefer posts (it’s harder to be concise than to be verbose). We rarely accept extended posts, as these may be too contrary to LWD style.

Write about a single issue

A post in LWD typically examines a single issue (not a range of diverse personal thoughts, as might appear in a diary e-journal).

The topic or issue that you write about will have a central idea which often connects with a contemporary news story. Sometimes a quote from the earlier text helps. By adding a link to that post you retain important accurate information.

Create a simple clear title

The title should explain the story. Descriptive titles are to be preferred over displays of creativity which may be ignored by many web surfers who might be interested in the point you make in the actual post. Short titles are better than long ones. [Experienced writers sometimes use long titles for creative impact.]

Add value

You can (and are advised to) add value for the reader to the contemporary story you are dealing with. You can add value by taking a news item further, drawing on personal experience.

Another good way of adding value is to show how the story you are writing about connects to some prevailing concept of leadership.

Find an interesting topic

It a topic interests you, it is likely to interest others. Get into the habit of story-telling, which is a skill you can develop through writing, but also through conversations as well as more formal presentations. You can see the news stories which caught the eye of the Editor by looking at the entries saved to del.icio.us (on the Right Hand side-bar of every LWD post).

Use a taster to focus your writing

The first paragraph or taster is often picked up by web-searches. A brief introduction which acts as an invite or teaser (‘there’s more to come’) helps. Forty words or less is to be preferred. This will appear in Bold face in the published post.

Edit

It is a good habit to be self-critical and edit your post as if it were to be submitted for a prize. It’s worth the effort. The ‘right first time’ approach rarely works. For example, this page will be saved in draft form, and re-drafted to smooth out the worse parts of the style with help from spell checker and sometimes colleagues.

This advice is particularly important if you want your post to attract interest and maybe be re-sent to others (the basis of viral marketing).

Add value through a few links

Key items for web-searchers are the links you create in your post. If you don’t know, a link or URL is made by pasting the identifier (URL) of any web story you refer to. The URL is what is clicked to get a reader of the post back to the story.

The process is the same as cutting and pasting any piece of computer-generated text.

Breaking the rules

Creative writing breaks rules. You may want to break some of the rules in the interest of producing your personal style or just to be different. This is how innovation occurs. On the other hand, the rules help get you started, and increase your chances of a smooth process of acceptance of your posts.

Tags

Tags are the DNA elements of your post. They are a way in which search engines latch on to web content and for you to search pages of LWD. Try to capture the story with four or five tags (words or key phrases). Add the tags in a final line:

Blogging, Leaders we deserve, WordPress, copy writing, leadership, global issues would be candidate tags for this page

About yourself
You can provide information briefly about yourself as you might do for any social media site. See posts in LWD for examples. The information is added to the end of the post.

How to submit your proposed post

You can submit your proposed post at present by email [trickards@mbs.ac.uk], or you can send a comment to any LWD post, indicating your interest in providing content for a future post.

To go more deeply

Here’s a current blog dealing with how to write blog posts


Angela Merkel ‘s leadership success falls outside conventional leadership cases

September 23, 2013

Angela MerkelA documentary by the BBC on the eve of the German Presidential elections sensibly stuck to biographic facts without too many attempts to compare Angela Merkel to Margaret Thatcher.

Angela Merkel is increasingly described as the most powerful woman in the world. Information about her in the popular media in the UK has been restricted to scraps about her humble life style, her student days studying science in the then Democratic Republic of [East] Germany, her rise to political power in the period of reunification. From time to time she has been presented as a latter-day Margaret Thatcher, a description she easily avoids accepting or rejecting.

As the BBC’s Andrew Marr put it

Quite a lot about her biography seems to echo that of Margaret Thatcher. Merkel comes from the edges – East Germany, rather than Lincolnshire – and was brought up by an abnormally self-certain and pious father. Something of a loner, she became quite a serious scientist before choosing politics.

Inside her party, she was picked up as a useful female talent by a somewhat patronising mentor – Kohl, rather than Edward Heath – and surprised everybody by her ruthlessness in ousting him, and eventually taking power herself. Like Thatcher, Merkel is a ferociously hard worker, excellent on the detail and a wily political operator.

Yet the differences matter much more than the similarities. Coming from her East German background she believes in social solidarity and working with trade unions; in a coalition-based political system, she is a mistress of consensus and, when it suits her, delay.

Our ignorance of this, the most important female politician in the world, is little short of shocking. Angela Merkel has mattered much more to us and the full European story than perhaps we’ve realised.

In December 2011 David Cameron travelled to a The Brussels summit to fight (‘like a British Bulldog’ he assured his anti-European MPs) for British interests. The British press understandably focused on the significance of Cameron’s intervention.

The New York Times evaluated the outcome as follows:

Cameron was perceived as having made a poor gamble in opposing the push by Mrs. Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, embittering relations and possibly damaging his standing at home. Though some other countries, including Denmark and Hungary, initially shared Britain’s skepticism of the German-led agreement, only Britain ultimately rejected it.

As Cameron continued to struggle with the Anti-European wing of his party he sought to improve personal relations with Merkel. She responded by inviting him and his family into her home. According to Marr, a warm friendship has ensued.

Merkel favours winning support over defeating opponents. It is a style which has served her well.

Angela Merkel ‘s leadership mystery

There really should be no mystery. The puzzlement is mainly to those who subscribe to popular stereotypes of what a leader should appear to be. Merkel is utterly non-charismatic. She has also been criticized for the time it takes her move policy forward as she seeks to build consensus. Maybe Germany from bitter experience realizes the significance of the concept that a society ends up with the leaders it deserves. In other cultures the political question seems often to be “does he (or she) look like a leader?”


The fight for the ashes: A tale of two Captains

August 13, 2013

The 2013 cricket matches between England and Australia showed two different styles of captaincy. It could be argued that the England had the better team and won, Australia had the better captain and lost

Monday 12th August 2013, approximately 6.30pm local time A cricket match in the scenic little town of Chester le Street in Durham was well into its fourth day, with Australia in control. The most likely outcome was an Australian victory sometime in the afternoon of the following day. England were leading with two victories and a draw. Australia could still draw the series by winning the match and then the final contest the following week. The match was running later that the scheduled finish time for the day to make up for time lost through rain in the afternoon session.

Thoughts turned to dinner and to catching up through a highlights programme of the penultimate day’s play a few hours later.

Monday 12th August 2013, approximately 8.30pm local time Returned from delights of Pepperoni pizza in downtown Bramhall. Astonished to find that the match was over. Jubilant players were mingling with jubilant supporters. Australia had collapsed. England had won the series.

A tale of two Captains

If we are to take the media reports seriously, Australia were a relatively weak team captained with panache and skill by Michael Clarke. England had the stronger team captained by the inexperienced Alistair Cook. Clarke repeatedly found imaginative ways to unsettle the England team’s batting efforts, and ‘led from the front’ almost winning the previous game, only thwarted by bad weather. Cook’s captaincy was criticized for putting safety first, waiting for the Australian batsmen to self-destruct. In several matches this eventually worked, only after Australia had worked their way to winning positions.

If we don’t take the media reports seriously …

There is a dilemma of leadership here. In tightly contested matches, you might expect better captaincy to swing the matches in favour of their teams. Possibility one is that Cook’s captaincy was not as bad as some pundits opined. Possibility two there were other apparently game-changing factors. Home advantage might have been one, for example.

What the papers say

I have refrained from reading what the newspapers say until after completing this post. They may tell the story as a tale of two captains, or the brilliant final bowling spell of England’s Stuart Broad, or the fine batting of Ian Bell which more than compensated for the batting of Australian captain Michael Clarke.

Next series

Cricket continues on its remorseless way. In less than six months, it will be Australia on home grounds against England. Another series to enjoy and create the leaders we deserve?

Follow up news on captaincy

The crude ‘good captain/bad captain debate continued. I haven’t found adverse comments on Clarke’s captaincy. The original comments on Cook’s performance have been rejected by several team members and coaching staff. Ian bell wrote of Cook’s outstanding skills at leadership when crisis loomed – calming the team and encouraging them to perform better. Coach Andy Flower was even more effusive in praising Cook’s leadership skills The issue may not be unconnected with the England Captain’s apparent drop in batting form in the series

Which suggests me that the criticisms of Cook may reflect leadership decisions mostly tactical on the field; that he is respected and liked in the dressing room; that the views of coach and players may capture aspects of his leadership style perhaps influenced by a desire to react to criticisms of Cook’s captaincy. AS so often, the evaluation of a captain’s capabilities defies simplistic polarity into ‘good Captain/bad captain.


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