2012 in review: clever things these helper monkeys

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fiscal Cliffs and Monty Python Politics

December 31, 2012

always look zazzleIt may not add to anyone’s good humour, if I conclude LWD blogs for 2012 with thoughts from a book entitled “It’s Even Worse than it Looks”

Don’t end the year downbeat, I promised myself. It’s a new dawn. And all that stuff. I turned to the book I have been reading “It’s even worse than it looks” by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein.

These gentlemen did not offer me much cheer. Their earlier work had the uplifting title The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track. Their main thesis in both books is that the American Political System is in a near-terminal mess. The brilliant system of checks and balances to preserve individual freedoms has become a means of arriving at lose/lose decisions for the people of America and even for politicians struggling to wrest personal or party gains regardless of longer term consequences.


Mann and Ornstein are political theorists with powerful access to the corridors of power in Washington. It’s ’Even Worse than it Looks” examines the January 2011 congressional struggle which attempted to reach an agreement to deal with the US debt. The brinkmanship revealed the two factors which are believed by the authors to lie at the heart of the matter: Increasingly adversarial stances between democratic and republican politicians, and a system which results in blocking of the proposals by the majority party. Such an argument has a disturbing ring of truth in 2011, and is even predictive of what seems to be arriving in January 2012, now dressed up in terms of a metaphoric Fiscal Cliff.

Another crisis?

If this is not a crisis for the American economy what is it? One possibility is that we are witnessing another outbreak of limited leadership vision If so, it has not gone unnoticed by the electorate. As the 2011 infighting continued, a poll cited by Mann and Ornstein showed confidence in politicians had slumped to an all-time low of 9%.

In other words, there is too much posturing posing as leadership. There are still plenty of folk out there convinced that “It’s all their fault”, but that sort of conviction is part of the problem. Mann and Ornstein suggest remedies including increasing the proportion of the electorate participating in politics at the most basic level through voting. They also would address gerrymandering of various kinds, and favour some form of proportional representation. The proposals seem more tentative that those for getting America back on track (their earlier book).

Always look on the bright side

The debate will continue. Some may take comfort in the view that it is all Mickey Mouse politics which will eventually be resolved as damaged global economies gradually become less turbulent. In the meanwhile, in the gloriously ironic strains of a tune and words from Monty Python, we might as well Always look on the bright side of life, de dum, de dum, de dumpty dum, de dum.

And a happy new year to you all out there.

2013 Postscript

The negotiations went according to plan, if you believe the insider account from Politico.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” Discuss

December 26, 2012

Wayne LapierreThe quote, following the Sandy Hill massacre, came from Wayne LaPierre, President of The National Rifle Association. It was followed by another series of crazed killings days later, in Rochester New York, by another “bad guy with a gun”.

I began work on this post before the maniacal attacks by William Spengler on firemen in Rochester. Events now pile up, with calls for English chat show host Piers Morgan to be deported for his televised robust arms control position.

It may still be useful to take Mr LaPierre’s statement as a means of framing the on-going agonising debate.

Mark Mardell’s report

The BBC’s foreign correspondent Mark Mardell has followed American politics for many years. He described LaPierre’s press statement:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has a reputation as perhaps the most powerful lobby group in American politics. There are varying reports on how much it spent during the last election, – some say it was much as $24m), others that it was slightly less. Whatever the number, it was a significant total.

The NRA has more than four million members. Yet its news conference in response to the Newtown massacre felt nothing like the slick product of a group gifted in public relations.
Those who expected emollient words, hints of reasonable compromise and grave consideration of their opponents’ plans were sorely disappointed. Their leader, Wayne LaPierre, harangued the assembled press for over half an hour, impassioned, furious, and not a little eccentric in his fury.

He talked of the way he had endured the mockery of the media, who hated gun owners; he talked of the “filthy pornography” of violent video games and listed some old films. But the core of his argument was: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Support for LaPierre

Mardell suggested that a recent Gallop Poll showed considerable support in America for LaPierre’s views.

Bloody Christmas

A few days later there was Rochester. Christmas 2012 is established as the one which will be remembered as Bloody Christmas.

What about the first amendment?

Meanwhile TV host Piers Morgan [from the UK] outrages what might be called ‘pro-gun’ citizens with his remarks on his chat show in America. Calls for his deportation flooded in to the White House. [Dec 25th-26th 2012] Morgan replied, “what about the right to free speech?” [i.e. the first amendment of the constitution]

The ultimate solution?

After hearing and reading about LaPierre’s position, I tried to understand the cultural map that believes his epithet about good guys with guns as the ultimate solution to problems of violence in the USA or anywhere else. I could not get beyond a different logic which moves me from an image of a heroic guy with a gun thwarting an evil maniac with a gun. My logic kept suggesting that even if it were possible, the placing of armed guards (all “good guys”) in every public space in America will not deal effectively with the next mentally ill person able to get hold of an automatic rifle with the intention of using it.

A Healing New Year?

Maybe not a Happy Christmas, but can we at least hope for a Healing New Year?

On the week of the School Massacre in Connecticut we ask “where have all the leaders gone”

December 21, 2012

Last week ended with news of the Sandy Hook School massacre in Newtown Connecticut and President Obama’s public agony at failures in America to protect the nation’s childrenSandy Hook School Sign

Before the dreadful week-end news, I had been scanning the net to see what leadership stories I could find. These notes are in chronological order.

Leadership training

The first item I came across was a promotional ebook from a successful experiential leadership programme at the Said Business School, Oxford . The approach offers an imaginative mix of experiences involving drama, moral philosophy, music and poetry. The book [53 pages] is worth browsing by leadership trainers.

HSBC money laundering

The next item that caught my eye was the settlement of the money-laundering charges at HSBC. The bank has agreed a $1.9 billion fine with the US Department of Justice over anti-compliance regulations.

“We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again,” said Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver in a statement.

Branson Brand Bashing

The next story had a familiar feel, with cult business hero Richard Branson defending his Virgin Atlantic business from a bit of turbulence (Sorry. That cliché is almost compulsory). And alongside Sir Richard we have the egregious Willie Walsh, now fighting his corner from chief executive International Airlines Group (IAG) which now incorporates British Airways.

Sir Richard Branson pledged to keep control of his airline after his arch-rival, BA chief Willie Walsh, said that Singapore Airlines’ sale of its [49%] stake in Virgin Atlantic would lead to the demise of the brand.

From China with Love

Now that’s more like it. A full-on profile of China’s new leader as Xi Jinping, the new head of the Communist Party, made a visit over the weekend to the special economic zone of Shenzhen. The south China province has stood as a symbol of the nation’s embrace of a state-led form of capitalism since its growth over three decades from a fishing enclave to an industrial metropolis.

After Mandela

One of the all-time great leaders, Nelson Mandela, is hospitalized [later he was successfully operated on for Gall Stones]. The news comes at a time when the ruling ANC party in South Africa is engaged in further leadership struggles.

The Glass Ceiling in Oz

The Glass Ceiling has not yet been shattered in Australia, despite the influence of the mighty Rupert Murdoch and residual members of his dynasty.


The tax row in the UK continues to hit at Starbucks image, and perhaps its profits

Japan’s shift of leader

The Liberal Party [LPD]’s massive victory in Japan will re-elect former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who has called for major monetary easing, an increase in the inflation target and big spending on public works to rescue the economy.

Sandy Hook School Massacre

The Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/12/15/uk-usa-shooting-connecticut-idUKBRE8BD0Z220121215 contributed to the sense that political leaders have to deal with forces beyond their powers to deal with. There are calls in America for tighter gun control legislation, but few commentators believe that President Obama will be able to introduce meaningful change.


Before the New Town Massacre, I was impressed by the number of encouraging stories in the news about leaders and leadership challenges. There are still positive leadership stories around, and the leader vilification count was rather lower than I expected. Indeed there were quite a few stories offering accounts of positive leadership. However, the end-of-week news takes us back to a more nuanced views of distributed power and leadership’s struggles, rather than stories of heroic leaders with the skills to deliver transformation through a compelling vision of change.

Leaders We Deserve attracts its 150,000th visit of 2012

December 18, 2012

Tudor RickardsLeaders We Deserve will welcome its 150,000th visit of 2012 sometime this week. If you think you know anyone who might enjoy the posts on this site, please pass on the invitation to become one of our 2000 subscribers through our URL http://wp.me/p2C96-2ra

Could you be be person who made the 150,000 visit of 2012 to the site? You can find the answer in the BLOG STATS box, where it will be recorded as o 665,308 hits

Our plans for 2013 include

 3-4 leadership-related posts each week

 Selected posts used as study cases on International Leadership programmes

 More posts supplied or suggested by our subscribers

 Recognition of an author and the posted publication through a wall-display certificate

 Posts written based on subscriber requests

 Continued policy of Ad-free posting

 Subscribers questions welcomed and answered

Many thanks to all our visitors who provided the 150,000 visits, and warmest best wishes for 2013

Tudor Rickards, Editor, Leaders We Deserve

Getting to Norway

December 17, 2012

Oslo City Hall Pipervika ViewThe award of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was made in Norway to the institution known as the European Union. The ironies were not lost on Norwegians who repeatedly reject membership of the EU

by Tudor Rickards

The Independent has been one of the few newspapers in the UK supportive of the EU’s vision [if not of all its practices]. However, its view of the Nobel Peace prize award [Monday 10th December 2012] was distinctly on the chilly side. I have made some abbreviations to the following which I hope captures the sense of the original:

Broad smiles bedecked the faces of European Council President, Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz as they took their seats along with the Nobel Committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, on the podium. Twice [in 1972 and 1994] the country rejected referendums to join the EU hooley. And has Norway been thus left in the economic cold? Has it hell.

The EU chiefs may be in town for the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, but Norway nonetheless regards it with the sort of suspicion usually reserved for chaps flogging phials of snake-oil from a tatty suitcase. Thanks to oodles of natural resources – petrol, gas and minerals, plus a national mindset which essentially votes into the power the most frugal party that promises to spend the least amount of money – Norway is loaded.

So, given the ongoing knife-fights in Brussels over how to deal with the savage recession which lies like an iron blanket over most (if not all) of the 27 member countries, it’s no wonder that Norwegians want no truck with the EU – although, thanks to various economic agreements, the country enjoys quite a few of its single market trade perks.

Moreover, there are many folks outside Norway who are still scratching their heads over the decision to award the peace prize to the EU. Mr Barroso acknowledged that the current turmoil showed the union was “not fully equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. We do not have all the instruments for a true and genuine economic union … so we need to complete our economic and monetary union”.

A few hours later, a few hundred people gathered in the bitter cold under a banner which read, ‘No Peace Prize For Our Time’, to make a torchlight procession past the hotel where the EU officials were staying. Among them was Oslo woman Elsa Ender, who is one of a group called Grandmothers for Peace.

“We do not think the EU are worthy winners,” she explained. “The Nobel Prize is supposed to be given to those who work for disarmament, but the EU are warmongers”.

Derby drama at Manchester: In search of leadership lessons

December 9, 2012

Football violenceBy LWD armchair reporter Tudor Rickards

An unedited report of the game between Manchester City against Manchester United at the Etiad Stadium, December 9th 2012

Warning to readers: This report will not make much sense to readers who are not football followers. I have tried to indicate CY [City] or MU [Manchester United] to provide a little more information

I noted before the game that Kompany [CY Captain] is going around encouraging players one by one. Good. The game starts with a lot of ugly hacking, more by Utd than City. Rooney MU gets yellow and is in danger of red card. City press hard. Evans MU fouled and injured, but Kompany CY is first to limp off. Rooney scores with weak shot. 1-0 Was Hart CY goalkeeper out of position? Game more even now. Half chances. Then another breakaway, Rooney scores more convincingly this time. 2-0 United

Is it a plan by MU to defend deep and then break? Evans MU limps off. Free kick saved by Goalkeeper de Gea MU . Utd attack. Then another city corner and pressure. Game a bit shapeless. Foul count continues. Now a bit more fouling. Pinball stuff. No obvious calming influence . Scrappy to HT . [This on-line stuff is harder to do than I imagined. Maybe I could try Chess?]

Is leadership mainly from coaches Ferguson MU and Mancini MC? On the field , I realize now, there are few chances for verbal signals by any captain. This game is a wild tactical one, although perhaps the teams have a prearranged plan which may or not be stuck too.

Game increases in intensity. More defensive injuries. Evans MU eventually limps off as Ferdinand MU is also crocked , but stays on.

Cleverley blasts well over the bar for fourth time or so (but playing well otherwise in centre). Sense that neither team will string passes together without making a mistake. 55 min of stop-go rather than non-stop stuff

City scores by Yaya Toure. 1-2 MU. Pinball in the end. Stadium comes alive. Game comes alive. Close calls for a penalty for each side. Much more interesting now. More close calls. Rooney MU gets yellow card. Yaya Toure CY also, and injures himself in process [75 min. } Continues to be end to end. super sub Dzeko CY comes on. And Phil Jones for MU. City score. 2-2.

Even more hectic. Welbeck MU on for Cleverley. More hectic stuff Another foul this time by CY. Van Persie MU scores from free kick. 2 mins to go. 3-2 United.

Extra time [4 min]. Injury to Rio Ferdinand MU by object thrown by a fan. Much blood from above his eye. Game ends. MU players too weary to rejoice [or showing a bit of wisdom?]

Leadership conclusion. I didn’t see much opportunity for leadership from on-field captains. Is the leadership role relatively weak or too subtle for me to see as an armchair follower of the game?


For an excellent analyis of ‘the volcanic rivalry’ between CY and MU see the Telegraph’s account. Now that’s what I call a balanced view.

Scientific custard and the dominant rational model of management

December 7, 2012

CustardA festive tale of custard, scientific management, and a British obsession since the days of Charles Dickens

Management as taught is very much a subject grounded in rationality. It attracts those approving of practice informed by scientific methodology. As the festive season approaches, I am reminded of a story.

The science of management

Someone I knew as a schoolboy returned from his first science class bringing good news to his family. In future, he announced, there would be a modern scientific approach to making the family custard, which he would supervise.

The experiment abandoned

After several less-than-successful attempts at home, he quietly abandoned his efforts. His mother reverted to making custard in her unscientific way which somehow turned out all right. Undaunted, the schoolboy continued his studies and become a research scientist, still believing in the universal virtues of the scientific method.

A brief history of custard

For those unaware of the British obsession with custard go Google which will provide you with much useful information. Here’s the Guardian’s take:

[Custard is] a lumpen, pustular, gungy memory of a smelly school canteen. In Britain, childhood and custard go hand in lollipop-lady hand. I know of no better food to calm a choleric toddler or mollify a stroppy seven-year-old than a knocked-up bowl of Bird’s. It comforts like mum and a blanket. [In Oliver Twist ]Mr Bumble’s orphans cry to have it with cold jelly, and who could blame them?

The word ‘custard’ comes from ‘croustade’, a sweet and eggy ‘crusted’ tart from the Middle Ages. Around the 16th century the filling became a dish in its own right, and has changed little since save for the Great Custard Split of 1837, when Clarence Bird developed a cornflour-based custard powder for his allergy-prone wife. A face splatted in custard pie has been a trope of farce almost since the birth of cinema.

Cultural analysis welcomed.

The Woolworth’s choir: Tragedy as art remembered

December 4, 2012

Woolworth's fireThe 2012 Turner Prize was won by Elizabeth Price for a 20 minute video which transforms tragedy to art and back again. It even defies the conventions of Artspeak

Elizabeth Price, the winner of the Turner Prize [December 3rd, 2012] was considered an outsider. As is often the case, her creative work of art is now ‘obviously’ great . It has been discovered in a kind of Emperor’s new clothes moment of cultural insight.

The Woolworth’s Choir of 1979 refers to a fire that resulted in ten fatalities in a Woolworth’s Store in central Manchester. [The site is by coincidence close to that of the IRA bomb explosion which wrecked Manchester’s sity centre many years later]. The work was part of a solo exhibition by Price at the Baltic in Gateshead.

The artist’s style was described by the Telegraph:

The Woolworth’s Choir of 1979 [is] a 20-minute film that begins with drawings of Gothic architecture and ends with footage of a Manchester department store fire in which 10 people died. The judges praised “the seductive and immersive qualities of Price’s video installations, which reflected the ambition that has characterised her work in recent years”.


The subject matter was of personal interest. It helped me recall the fire and the dreadful lack of fire-proofing of the furnishings. So I started reading reviews of this year’s Turner prize before the result was announced.

Price was seen as an outsider, and the nature of her work mostly damned with faint praise. But the more favoured works attracted a lot of what might unkindly be called Artspeak, the peculiar dialect through which critics attempt to capture the essential message within works of art. The other short-listed works were each given the Artspeak treatment, not intentionally intended to belittle the works, but risking accusations of pseudery.

Beyond Artspeak

The Woolworth’s Choir was described in terms which were almost absent of Artspeak. That set me thinking. For some reason, great art defies attempts to reduce it. Maybe it deals with life first and art second. In comparison, novelty and the shock of the new are at best of transient worth.


The image is from archival materials of the Manchester fire in 1979, and is not part of the Turner prize-winning entry.

Wimbledon’s warring football tribes: Peace one day?

December 3, 2012

It was more than a local Derby match when Wimbledon Dons met Wimbledon AC in the FA Cup. Fans carried placards, some refused to attend, and the boards of the clubs rejected the customary gestures of mutual respect and hospitality

I was reminded [December 2nd 2012] of the efforts of the Charity Peace One Day in arranging a football game in an attempt to end a feud that had been running for over sixty years.

Football wars

The Wimbledon football wars broke out relatively recently. Before that, Wimbledon had a reputation of a feisty, even madcap, team with characters such as Vinnie Jones who has gone on to translate his hard man reputation into film stardom. Wimbledon was the team other teams loved to hate, proponents of the long ball and the short left hand jab. Street fighters, who held their own, against clubs of lofty heritage and far deeper financial pockets.

When the club ran into severe financial difficulties fans faced a fresh start after bankruptcy proceedings. A rescue plan was somehow cobbled together involving a move from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, an ambitious town fifty miles to the North West.

Preserving the heritage

The fans vowed to preserve the heritage of the club [“two smoking barrels and a packet of crisps?”]. In a move anticipating the one by disgruntled Manchester United fans years later, they formed a ‘spirit of Wimbledon’ team to fight its way back to the top of football’s pyramid. One of the injustices felt by the loyal fans was that Milton Keynes had got itself a football club and flaunted the old name of Wimbledon. And there the story would have ended but for the determination of both teams to make a success of their situations.

As a report in The Mail put it after the match, which the MK Dons won with an injury time goal:

As the MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon battled it out on the field in their FA Cup grudge match, both sets of fans did likewise in the stands.
The two sides met for the first time at stadium:mk, nine years after Wimbledon moved 54 miles to Milton Keynes and 10 years after AFC Wimbledon were formed.

Despite threatening to boycott the match, AFC Wimbledon fans packed into the stadium although the promised radiation suits looked to be absent. The visiting fans want MK Dons to drop the second part of their name but their supporters made it clear they have no intention of ceding to that request.

After the game, spokespersons for both clubs made dignified statements expressing hopes that the match will begin a process of healing.

Sibling rivalry?

This, like the feud at Manchester, has the special characteristics of sibling rivalry. It has echoes of ancient mythologised conflicts from Homeric and Biblical times.

Does it matter?

It does not take a great deal to kick off acts of individual violence in football matches. When that happens, the ‘cause’ lies in the fans, regardless of their deep sense of injustice and disrespect. Violence may break out if and when the two ‘Wimbledons’ meet again. I am inclined to think that the ‘feud’ will be retained in the way in which cultures provide a social identity for their members. For all the huffing and puffing, the emotions revealed are mostly ritualised, and not without a social rationale.