Can a leader be one of the boys or if female one of the girls?

February 19, 2017

joe_root_training

This week, England announced Joe Root as the new cricket captain. Hours after the appointment the question was raised. Will he have to change his behaviour from being ‘just one of the boys?’

To avoid accusations of gender-blindness, I will note that the general question is whether anyone from within a group has to change behaviour on becoming the group’s appointed leader, regardless of gender

The question applies to any leader who has not been ‘parachuted in’ to a position. As I thought about , I realised I am not sure whether most leaders are insiders or outsiders [I don’t know of any statistics, and informed suggestions are welcomed].

Succession processes and planning

Tribal succession has always passed on leadership to the recognised successor. When that is in dispute, claimants (‘pretenders’) have to sort out who gets the top job. It is a process that can lead to the bloodiest of conflicts.

In these enlightened times of rational management, succession planning is guided by experts in the field, and is followed by results that are sometimes bad, sometimes not so bad.

It is here that I see the succession process justifies the maxim that we get the leaders we deserve. In America, a long and bruising selection process resulted in the appointment of President Trump, about which I have written far too much already for my own state of mental equilibrium. It is in the succession process that I see justified the maxim that we get the leaders we deserve

It is in the succession process that I see justified the maxim that we get the leaders we deserve

The born leader

Within hours, the appointment was hailed as the inevitable one, with Joe Root being ‘a born leader’according to Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon.

Root, 26, takes over from Alastair Cook despite having led in only four first-class matches – three for Yorkshire and one for England Lions.

“He has always studied the game and different tactics throughout his career,” Moxon told BBC Radio 5 live.

“It’s not something that he is going to have to learn before his first Test. I’m sure he will do a good job.”

BBC Sport

This harks back to a fifty-year-old angels on a pinhead debate on whether leaders are born or made. After a lot of huffing and puffing, discussion has died down. There is a consensus that leaders who are appointed have no ‘necessary and sufficient’ characteristics, and that various patterns of effective leader behaviors suggest a mix of inherited and acquired (situational) traits.

On the other hand

Within hours, discussion began on whether Root’s chirpy young man style would be appropriate for the job as captain.

A subtler point was whether the team’s best batsman should be entrusted the captain’s job. Examples were for found of appointments which were followed by a higher rate of accumulation of runs per innings, sometimes by a lower one. To my surprise, the stats show that the majority of England captains performed better after receiving the captaincy. [Yes, I leave the deeper analysis of this to my readers]

Overall

On balance, the issue of leadership style seems a minor consideration. Captains in recent decades have varied from the introverted and predictable (Hussain, Atherton, and arguably Cook) to the impulsive (Petersen) and the obsessive (Boycott).

It will be interesting to see what reports leak out about Cook’s leadership style as England’s cricket fortunes ebb and flow, as they probably will over the next few years of his captaincy. (Unlike football managers, England Cricket captains with one or two exceptions have been given a ‘decent innings’ before being retired.

[Image, Wikipedia]


Don’t lose that deal over lunch

February 13, 2017

donad-trump

 

In this Trumpian era, it is important to understand deal-making. I pass on a hint to deal-makers.  Don’t lose the deal you almost won in the morning, by something you do over lunch.

I write, not as a great deal-maker, but as a student of those who claim to be. My case-example goes back some years to a time when executives would swap leadership stories in workshops encouraging the sharing of their experiences.

In one of the workshops, I came across the account of an international deal that had been moving to a satisfactory conclusion. The tale-teller came from a UK international organization. The deal was in a country with a very different culture. Negotiations were made with simultaneous translations on each side.

The technical details of the deal were surprisingly easy to wrap-up. Most had been agreed through professional teams working in advance of the meeting of the corporate leaders. Having reached the point at which a decision to go ahead seemed certain, the final morning meeting broke up for lunch. A celebratory mood prevailed.

The senior British figures were driven to a top dining place in the country for lunch. “They spoke in a few words of English,” the British manager told us “We had been briefed that it was vital to keep up with them in the drinks and the toasts. Unfortunately, the booze got to us more than it did to them. Worse, their broken English was a sham.  At least one understood every word we said about them, our real thoughts about them, not the censored versions they had been hearing before. You could say we won the contract in the morning, and lost it over lunch.”

Please take from my story what you will. As we are learning from events in America and around the world, this is a time when we all have to learn the art of the deal.

The case may also apply to those political figures setting out on Brexit negotiations.


The more Senator Warren is silenced, the more powerful become her words

February 8, 2017

The distinguished Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in Congress this week for reading a letter from Martin Luther King’s widow as illustration of the unfitness of Mitch McConnell nominated as the next attorney general by Donald Trump

In the recent presidential campaign, she spoke powerfully (if ultimately without success).  She might have been a more successful candidate than Hillary Clinton, although perhaps with her views in the US seen as dangerously liberal as those of Bernie Sanders

#Shepersists

Her action has produced a wave of reaction. Hash tag #shepersists and #letlizspeak and tee-shirt with the slogan She Persisted have taken off [Note: Capitalism and the women’s movement. A theme for a future post?].

The theme is trending on social media [Wednesday 8 February 2017]. I particularly liked the contribution from Wired, arguing the potential of a repressive act to trigger a wave of protest (and illustrated in this post) through The Streisand effect.

[The banning] inadvertently triggered a little internet phenomenon known as the “Streisand effect,” who once sued a photographer for taking pictures of her Malibu home. The lawsuit achieved the opposite of what Streisand had hoped, driving tons of traffic instead to the website that hosted the photos. The Streisand effect, then, describes the phenomenon in which efforts to conceal or censor information only drive more attention to it.

That’s precisely what happened last night. Almost as soon as McConnell silenced Warren, his own words were used against him as a battle cry for Warren online

Wired: The Streisand effect [08/02/2017]

The BBC reported details of the ban order:

The 30-year-old letter criticised Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, said Ms Warren had broken Senate rules by impugning the conduct of another senator.

She is banned from speaking again in the Senate on Mr Sessions’ nomination. The incident occurred during a debate in the Senate on the nomination of Mr Sessions to be America’s top prosecutor.

Ms Scott King’s letter alleged that Mr Sessions was unsuitable for that role because he had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters”.

Mr Sessions’ nomination process has been dogged by allegations of racism. The Alabama senator has denied the allegations, and his supporters have pointed to his vote to extend the Voting Rights Act.

Ms Warren’s reading was interrupted by the Senate’s presiding officer, Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, who said she was breaking a rule that stops senators accusing each other of “unbecoming” conduct.

His objection to Ms Warren’s speech was put to a vote, and the chamber voted [according to party lines] to silence Ms Warren by 49 to 43. Under Rule 19, members of the Senate are not allowed to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator”.

Democrats have argued that Republicans are selectively enforcing the measure.

BBC News [8/02/2017]

I have little grasp of the legal issues at play here. The political issues are clearer. Please pass on this post as a further illustration of the Streisand effect.

In the interests of accuracy if not balance, I should mention the only post referencing Mitch McDonnell on this site. He has cited as a harmonising force, as Congress entered one of its periodic budget melt-downs.


Paul Chambers: The case of the malicious tweet

February 6, 2017

 

The Judge

Paul Chambers, a frustrated air traveller, tweeted in exasperation at the delays to his flight. The tweet was to change his life, and not for the better

Our story starts in January 2010.  Snow was adding to travellers problems’ including those at Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport

A young accountant was in danger of damaging his planned romantic meeting. In heavily ironic tones he tweeted

that unless service improved, he would be back in a week to blow up the airport.

Pause for reader reaction

The cautious me suggests that if security learned of the tweet, it might prompt the mildest of low-cost checking to see if the tweet was intended as. Joke (say 99% probability) or a bizarre early warning of terrorism intentions (say 1% probability).

What happened next

According to the report of the court case, Mr Chambers was en route to Belfast to consummate a twitter romance in real life. Failing to make his flight, the thwarted suiter returned to work when the local police arrived, and hauled him off into custody.

Legal proceedings followed, which resulted in a fine for which the appeal was originally turned down.

Eventually his high court challenge was successful, as The Guardian reported

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/jul/27/twitter-joke-trial-high-court

 

Paul Chambers, who was found guilty of sending a menacing tweet, has won his high court challenge against his conviction. Outside the court, he said he felt “relieved and vindicated”, adding: “It’s ridiculous it ever got so far.”

He had tweeted in frustration when he discovered that Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire was closed because of snow. Eager to see his girlfriend, he sent out a tweet on the publicly accessible site declaring: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

He has always maintained that he did not believe anyone would take his “silly joke” seriously.

The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, said:

“We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the crown court that this ‘tweet’ constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it. On this basis, the appeal against conviction must be allowed.”

Twitter to the rescue

As the mills of justice had ground on, twitter had sprung to the rescue. Celebrity twitter comedians such as Stephen Fry offered moral support, the spotlight of publicity, and some bankrolling of legal charges.

Not the only case

The tweeter appeared on Radio Five Live today [February 3rd, 2017]. He seemed a remarkably sanguine victim of wrongful arrest and of the loss of his job. His new wife too has given him moral support. (I’m not sure yet if she was the object of his snow-abandoned flight in 2010.)

I added this case to my collection of stories about twitter going viral over injustices visited on tweeters. Airline passengers have appeared quite frequently in the stories. [See Dilemmas of Leadership .]

Lessons learned

Twitter is a good friend but can be your worse enemy. A lesson there for Donald Trump perhaps?


Tom Dalyell: Father of EVEL?

February 1, 2017

 

Tom Dayell, (1932-2017), was a controversial figure who lived a tumultuous personal and political life. Among his varied achievements and embarrassments he should be remembered for  being the person who posed the West Lothian question, which prepared the way for the 2015 legislation on English votes for English laws, [or EVEL to give it its slightly sinister-sounding acronym.]

I leave others more informed that I am to offer a formal obituary on ‘Daft Tam’ . The BBC offers a thoughtful account.

I will restrict this post to a few thoughts on his much-discussed conundrum, and its connection to EVEL. I make no attempt to hide my view that both are distractions from the needs from a political process of reconciling the rights of minorities within a wider union, be it the EU or the United Kingdom in their present forms.

The West Lothian question

In a parliamentary debate on devolution in 1977, Dalyell first proposed what would become known as the West Lothian Question.

A vocal opponent of Scottish devolution, Dalyell contrasted the town of Blackburn in his own constituency, and Blackburn in Lancashire.

“For how long,” he asked, “will English constituencies and English Honourable Members tolerate at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important and often decisive effect on English politics?”

It was Enoch Powell who coined the term West Lothian Question, in his response to Dalyell’s speech.

 

 

The Guardian, at its socially-sensitive best, had a decent stab at resolving the question.

EVEL is one of the signals of a paranoid streak in politics which manifest from time to time. It is a near-pointless effort to protect English interests against their disruption by pesky minority interests of other members of the United Kingdom. It deserves approval only by the rabid supporters on the now defunct English National Party, although I suspect it has the dubious merits of appealing to British Nationalists, and for all I know to the arguments whirling around in the head of Douglas Carswell, the only UKIP member of parliament at present.

 

The flow chart of the process of implanting EVEL makes a wondrous, if Alice through the looking glass, wall chart.

Today at PM Questions [February 1st 2017] all sides of the house paid homage to the man who lived up to his quote: You must not be afraid to be thought a bore

Anyone who wants to explain how you should have voted in the EU referendum deserves quizzing on how they understand EVEL, and Dalyell’s brain-numbing question.


Roger, Rafa, Serena, Venus. Form is temporary, class is permanent

January 28, 2017

img_08401

The Australian Open singles finals became the sporting event of the year when four of the greatest tennis players of their generation faced off for the titles

January 2017: Melbourne Australia. Four great tennis players have battled to reach the finals. None had started the tournament as top seed. The tennis tensions are palpable.

All four have shown astonishing resilience against younger and arguably fitter opponents. It was all the more unusual because all four had been written off before the tournament on grounds of injury, Ill-health, and advancing years.

Andy and Novak battle for top seed

In the men’s game, for nearly a year Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic had been fighting for top dog (or top seed, as they prefer to say in tennis.) Roger and Rafa were left behind.

Roger, after a career of injury-free successes had succumbed to the perils of fatherhood, namely prepared his twins for their bath, and severely damaging his back when turning the tap on. (I couldn’t have written that in a fictional account).

Rafa after an equally-illustrious career but one blighted with injuries was recovering from his latest injury time-out. His appearances now reveal residual damage to knees, legs, fingers (ugh, particularly unpleasant looking.)

Recently they met to share medical reports, dreaming of one day when they might be both fit enough to limp on to court for one last public match.

Serena versus Venus

In the women’s game, the Williams systers had already become medical phenomena with debilitating conditions which has not prevented them from collecting multiple titles individually and just for fun as a devastating doubles partnership.

The younger sister Serena became by far the strongest and most talented and winningest woman player of her generation. Venus, by comparison Spiderwoman to Serena’s Superwoman, would also hold more singles titles (but fewer doubles, probably) if her sister had not been around.

A year ago, Serena reached the pinnacle of her career in the Senena Slam in New York, widely touted as the tournament in which she would be crowned as winner of all four slams in a calander year. Partly through nerves she slipped up. Since then she has won out only on  injury bragging-rights.

However, earlier in the tournament she summoned up her remarkable depths of bouncebackability to sweep past the new British hope Joannah Konta. She is installed as favorite once again.

Age shall nor weary them

Age shall nor weary them. This weekend, the tennis world watches with huge anticipation the battle of the four thirty-something’s. At clubs around the world, the four golden-oldies will be celebrated by millions of mere mortals, some still swinging as the decades slip by.

A tweet from Donald?

Donald Trump used the US Open to launch his political career. He may just find time for a phone-call to Australia or maybe a tweet today.

To be continued


Gina Miller and Theresa May are contenders for leader of the month

January 27, 2017

Gina Miller and Theresa May are contenders for Leaders We Deserve award of the month. Each has supporters and vehement distractors

Two political figures have emerged in the UK as leaders of the month. The stories of Gina Miller and Theresa May intersect, and also relate to Donald Trump’s first tumultuous week as President of the United States (POTUS). As I write, [27 January 2017], Theresa May is embarking on her first visit to meet Mr Trump.

Gina Miller’s campaign

Gina Miller launched a campaign which clarified an important constitutional issue at our Supreme Court of Justice.  The success of her action forced the Government led by Theresa May to back off from efforts to bypass parliamentary scrutiny of their plan for exiting the EU.

A torrent of abuse

Gina Miller’s intervention in the courts threatened a delay in the March deadline for triggering the start of Brexit. This week saw the High Court ruling in her favour. Cue to frantic efforts of damage limitation to the government’s plans to trigger the Brexit button, aka Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty .

Her campaign has brought with it a torrent of abuse. Coincidentally, it took place as women around the world were matching in protest at their treatment, and at the appointment of Donald Trump, seen as epitomising bullying treatment against women. And the week when Theresa May was urged to raise such matters with Trump at their up-coming meeting. [See? I said these stories were inter-related]

Miller’s back story is a fascinating one, yet typical of many high-achievers who overcome early life set-backs which strengthen their resolve.

 

Her sense of injustice stems from childhood experiences of being bullied and left to fend for herself after her parents ran out of money for boarding school. Born into an influential family in Guyana, at the age of 10 she was sent to boarding school in Britain.

She recalls how her mother had given her a bottle of her favourite perfume Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps to take with her so she wouldn’t feel homesick, but the first weekend in school, girls emptied it out and filled it with water.

At 14, her parents’ financial circumstances had changed and she was forced to become a day pupil, living alone with her 16-year-old brother in a flat in Eastbourne, supplementing her allowance with a stint as a chambermaid. [The Guardian 25 January 2017The Guardian 25 January 2017]

 

Theresa backs down skillfully

May had repeatedly insisted that to make details public would reveal too much to European political leaders in negotiations about the UK’s ‘bottom line’. The wisdom or naivety of her point is open for discussion. It is unlikely to be an effective approach for nuclear negotiations where  the ‘finger on the button’ does not want to conceal the intentions of the owner of the potentially Armageddon-triggering digit.

The week, Prime Minister May broke her self-imposed restraint with a prepared statement helped clarify her previously concealed exit (Brexit) strategy. Then at Prime Ministers Question time, she announced the miraculous birth of a white paper, fully formed, and to be presented to the House. [Wednesday 25 January, 2017]

Out means out. Out of the Economic Union. Out of the shared tariff zone arrangements. Out, out damn plots robbing us of controls of our borders.

Deal or no deal

So what’s up for negotiation? Anything which deprives the UK of getting ‘the best deal possible deal’ Err, not quite so clear. The statement did indicate a ‘deal or no deal’ possibility involving the UK from ‘walking away’ from the negotiating table (note please, it’s another metaphor, although a not-unknown gesture of defeated participants in high and low political practices). The no-deal option which secures ‘the best deal for Britain’ has been dubbed by opponents of the Government as heading the country for a bargain-basement low-wage tax-haven society.

A footnote to history?

 

The years 2016-18 may turn out to be of particular interest to students of leadership. The sweep of events touch on humanitarian crises, environmental decay, to political shocks to the system. Donald Trump is likely to grab headlines as the most unexpected political story of the decade and beyond. from his change of job title as an entertainment host to the most powerful leader in the world.

Both May and Trump are untried in the fog of international negotiations. Each utter words or reassurance to their respective supporters. This week they share headlines with Gina Miller. Theresa May will have more chances to demonstrate her leadership qualities. Perhaps Gina Miller will as well. In any event, she has been guaranteed a footnote in contemporary political history this week.

She is my nominated leader of the month.

To be continued