Martha Lane Fox is an inspirational leader and role model

March 31, 2015

Martha_Lane_FoxIt is easy to find examples of the dark side of charismatic leadership. Then someone comes along who restores confidence in the possibility of the bright side of positive charismatic influence

I have little doubt that Martha Lane Fox (Baroness Fox of Soho, and founder of the Last minute dot com company) started something important in the 2015 Dimbleby lecture last night [March 30th, 2015]. Her presentation was an elegant masterpiece of rhetoric for a digital age she has already helped shape.

The core of her argument to me is a simple message directed initially at a UK audience, but one that has resonance around the world. Information Technology has given us the potential for doing much more than we are for the common good. Yet it needs independent and firm monitoring to avoid abuse, not least through State-sponsored surveillance.

And without a PowerPoint in sight

Whereas others in public life have making this point every day (in lastminutepowerpointdotcom fashion), very few of us have the talent of MLF, who reminded us that PowerPoint is not obligatory to communicate a message effectively.

The self-fulfilling prophesy

Even if, like me, you missed her talk in real time, you will be able to recapture the moment easily. [In the UK you can see it on the BBC iplayer available for another 29 days ] There is further traction because Martha Lane Fox has a follow-up plan to mobilize public opinion behind her ideas. Partly, through the capacity of the web to capture and transmit messages to us all. Here we a self-fulfilling aspect of her message.

The follow-up: Doteveryone

The follow-up is the doteveryone Movement announced at the lecture, and created with the intention of influencing powerful leaders to contribute more to a new age of e-responsible actions. Doteveryone will go viral.

The lecture as a treasure trove of tweets

The lecture is worthy of close study by students of leadership. It might also have been written for mining its numerous sound-bites into memorable tweets. If you are among those tweeters transmitters of inspirational sayings, it could keep you going for several months.

To be continued


Murray wins a battle outside his comfort zone in Miami Open

March 29, 2015

Andy Murray had lost heavily to Santiago Giraldo in their last match. In the Miami Open he and his coaching team had to come up with a new strategy to deal with an aggressive risk-taking opponent. It succeeded, but only after taking Murray out of his comfort zone

Murray’s immediate post-match analysis did not quite match up with his court demeanor. It was essentially that he believed he had played a pretty good match in difficult windy conditions.

The final score of 6-3 6-4 seems to back this up. It confirmed expectations of the respective rankings, and Murray’s familiarity with the conditions in Miami, his training base. If so, why was he repeatedly grumbling during the match at his bench? Dissatisfaction was combined with a new tactic of being more aggressive on his opponent’s weak second serve. This seemed to be working well. But it also seems to lie outside Murray’s comfort zone.

When Giraldo came up with a powerful response to it early on, Murray grumbled more pointedly. It was as if he had reluctantly agreed to the new strategy, but wanted his coaching team (especially, I assume, Amalie Marismo) to know this was a dumb idea and he should never have gone along with it.

After the match, Marcus Buckland The Sky interviewer avoided raising the question of Murray’s serve which was found wanting. First serve percentage was low. This could be at least partly due to tricky windy conditions. Second serve was treated by  in an equally aggressive fashion as the way Murray was dealing out to his own serve.

Comfort zone

The Comfort zone is increasingly found in ideas about performance management in sport and beyond. Settling an athlete into a comfort zone is important, as a way of increasing the ease of getting into the bubble of unthinking high performance or flow. But getting out of a comfort zone may not just be a necessity for tactical reasons but opens up possibilities for personal development.

To be continued


Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015): Singapore’s State maker remembered

March 23, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew was one of the influential State makers of the 20th Century. A case could be made that he conceived and brought about a prosperous and peaceful future for Singapore.

I became interested in the culture of Singapore some years ago, after taking part in the celebrations of its national day. After three decades in power, Lee Kuan Yew had handed over control of the State he had helped create. In the process he was showing dynastic aspirations.

Dynastic aspirations

It was being rumoured at the time, correctly as it turned out, that Prime Mister Goh, who succeeded him, was a transition figure who was to be replaced by Lee’s son. Informally we were also given to believe that Lee would remain the power behind his son’s actions.

Tickets for a celebration

It had been hard to get tickets for the celebrations at the old National Stadium in Kalang Leisure Park, close the Changi airport close to where the new and impressive modern sports stadium was later built.

Our tickets had came from a Singaporean friend who had seen enough ceremonies to make them less valued for him. Well worth seeing it all for the first few times, he reassured us.

We reached the stadium by subway, another of Singapore’s marvels. Allegedly, it was maintained in those days in pristine condition through President Lee’s regime of corporal punishment handed out to any litter-making individual. Westerners tended to admire the results, if not the means of achieving them.

Pre-conceptions

I had preconceived beliefs that we were going to observe a demonstration of State orchestrated loyalty. What happened was enough to unsettle such assumptions. To be sure there was the orchestration. Everyone was issued with a goodie bag, complete with a national flag to wave, an a small torch with coloured tissue paper over the business end,

There were the obligatory displays of military music, and marching discipline. Jet fighters roared low over the stadium, trailing slipstreams in the national colours. We tried to join in the passionate singing of the national anthem. Later, as night fell, the torches helped produce an equally impressive light-show in the national colours.

Unexpected experiences

What was unexpected was a warmth and mood of enjoyment throughout the lengthy event which seemed spontaneous and genuine. This was not evidence of a State operating under dictatorial edict.

At the time, the charismatic President had already become a mythic figure, a State-maker in the mold of Nelson Mandela. Much later, Lee attributed the role of ‘China’s Mandela’ to Xi Jinping, a judgement not shared by Time magazine.

Today, the appreciation of Lee’s period as all-powerful State maker is more balanced internally. His contribution towards the creation of the modern hi-tech, highly educated little country is recognized. But opposing views can be expressed publicly.


The Northern Powerhouse: A Stroll down Oxford Road

March 20, 2015

Oxford Road SICK festivalYesterday, I took the opportunity to breathe in the culture of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse, by taking a stroll down Manchester’s Oxford Road

A few hours earlier, driving in to the city centre, I had listened to George being quizzed on his party political broadcast, sorry, I meant his budget speech, the previous day [Wednesday March 17th, 2015].

There has been quite enough coverage of that elsewhere.

My interest had then been further aroused by a caller to BBC’s Radio Five Live who said he was self-employed, and that he believed the government when they said they were creating a Northern Powerhouse. You can feel it in the air everywhere in Manchester, he added.

Really? I thought it was a good time to check on the theory of a spring-time culture which you can ‘feel in the air’ as proposed by Sumantra Ghoshal (1948-2004)

Oxford Road

My route took me through the University campus to Oxford Road just west of the University Hospital. I was heading for the newwly re-opened Whitworth Art Gallery. [Image by Alan Williams]

Whitworth Art Gallery

Lunch-time pedestrians were enjoying one of the city’s four seasons which can all arrive on the same day. Yesterday it was Spring. It was also the time of an artistic festival that had gone in for an eye-catching title SICK. This announced itself with the rather phallic structure shown above.

It also happened to be student rag week. Oxford Road was lined with stalls were erected for money-raising and for all the other motives of the student societies and activists. My image was a glimpse of the Students’ HQ

That Powerhouse Culture

If power translates into culture I could detect signs of a new vibrancy. I had to tread carefully to avoid the installation artworks, [and that was before I reached the Art Gallery]. Once there, the super-modernist surround of the sensational revamp seemed to merge nicely with the Victorian buildings off Oxford Road. My photograph was taken, facing left from the Whitworth’s entrance steps.

View from steps of The Whitworth

So, is the re-birth of The Whitworth part of powerhouse culture emerging in the North West of England, with thriving Manchester at its heart? Maybe. If so, it was summed up in a snatch of conversation overheard as two students hurried past. The accent of one was was more Brixton than Bolton:

” I’s a’ a me’aphor, inni?’ I heard her say.

Today, the eclipse

Yesterday Oxford Road, today the eclipse. Which, I suppose is also important culturally as another metaphor.


Martin Sorrell: Hero of unbridled capitalism

March 18, 2015

Sir Martin Sorrell is a global superstar of entrepreneurship and hero of unbridled capitalism. But is he likely to become an election asset in the UK?

His business success is grounded in his deals that resulted in an acquisition of a wide range of the largest international advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, and J Walter Thompson. His track record as entrepreneur and capitalist is noteworthy.

Although his business empire is built on creativity, his own skill is as a high-level financial innovator who found ways of releasing creativity of others in highly profitable ways.

As a Harvard MBA, and a governor of London Business School, his leadership makes a nice business school case.

This week [March 15th 2015] he made headlines with an annual bonus taking his earnings to £40 million.

The Independent reported:

Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay package is set to top £40m for last year after WPP, the advertising giant he founded, said that he was given £36m-worth of shares last week.

The shares were granted under a controversial long-term bonus plan called the Leadership Equity Acquisition Plan, or Leap, and which shareholders voted to abolish in 2012. The latest grant covers the five years from 2010 to 2015, when Sir Martin and 16 other executives received the maximum of five times their original investment in the scheme.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tata Steel Europe leadership faces a Union battle through its Pension Scheme proposals

March 15, 2015

Tata Steel Europe announces plans to end its current British Steel Pension Scheme on April 1st 2016.   It faces a familiar battle with the British Steel Unions in the UK, where, according to India’s Economic Times, a claim of a total breakdown of faith in Tata Steel’s leadership has been made. A 60-day statutory consultation period begins on March 23rd, 2015

“We feel we have no option but to consult our members and prepare to ballot for industrial action to defend their hard won pension rights,” said Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the Community trade union and Chairman of the National Trade Union Steel Coordinating Committee. “It appears they are hellbent on closing the scheme and are not prepared to compromise. We have lost all faith in the company and its leadership, which has brought us to the brink of a major national industrial dispute.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Sir Terry Pratchett and Sir Douglas Hague: two gentle knights depart

March 13, 2015

Discworld Gods Wikipedia

On Wednesday March 12th 2015 I learned of the deaths of Sir Terry Pratchett and shortly afterwards of Sir Douglas Hague. I like to think this coincidence would appeal to their shared sense of humour.

They are now linked together in my memory, one, a great creative writer I never met, and the other an economist and statesman who became a mentor for myself and for generations of business and economics students

Pratchett in the sky over India

I was introduced to the inspired fantasy world of Terry Pratchett many years ago by John Arnold when he shared his travel reading with me during a visit to meet business graduates in New Delhi. He had taken with  him one of the early Discworld books.

John, himself a distinguished economist, could well have had something else in his carry-on bag written by our mutual colleague Douglas Hague. If he had, it is little surprise he had decided to fill a gap in my cultural rather than my economic knowledge.

Terry Pratchett’s creativity

I immediately became one of Terry Pratchett’s countless admirers. I remain richly entertained by the unique style of humour to be found in his books. He would have been an excellent subject for a deeper study of artistic creativity. Maybe, one day…

Discworld

His Discworld characters rightly earned mention in his obituaries. Death, of course, gently mocked as a not totally grim reaper; Granny Weatherfax the grumpy no-nonsense witch, and a host of others.

Terry Pratchett retained his glorious humour as his terminal illness prepared him for his personal encounter with death (and with Death). He chose to tweet: Just think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush.

Sir Douglas Hague

Sir Douglas HagueMy memories of Douglas Hague are more direct,  a result of a considerable number of years during which we were colleagues at Manchester Business School. The excellent obituary in The Times prompted me to offer a letter which may or may not be published in its columns.

Letter to The Times

Correction to Obituary of Sir Douglas Hague

Your careful and warm obituary to Sir Douglas Hague today [Thursday, March 12th, 2015] noted he founded The Manchester Business School. That is accurate to the extent that he was among a small influential group of ‘founding fathers’ whose numbers included Professor Grigor McClelland, the first Director of the School.

Might I add a personal note? Despite his economic and political achievements, Douglas was remarkably approachable by colleagues and students. As a junior research fellow, I once asked him in some trepidation whether he would review the latest heavyweight economics volume by Sir Nicholas Kalder for an internal networking broadsheet. He agreed without hesitation and met his deadline, although he could have placed his sparkling review in any of the leading scholarly journals.

He was sometimes teased for his unconditional admiration of, and frequent references to ‘Margaret’ in his lectures at Manchester. His loyalty survived an unfortunate remark of his which made the headlines and which appeared to challenge Mrs Thatcher’s housing policy. Unfortunately, his own formal position as economic adviser to the Iron Lady did not survive the remark.

Tudor Rickards, Professor Emeritus

The University of Manchester

 

Images

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Gods from Wikipedia; Image of Douglas Hague from a Margaret Thatcher memorial collection via The Said Business School, Oxford.


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