Sturm und Drang over Woodford, Wales, the World

June 20, 2016

Wales v England Football in the 2015-16 European Championships finals  in France.  Dragons against Lions, as one primary school pre-teen described it.  I can’t remember their last competitive game.  I was much younger then, although not pre-teen

The Pool stages involve groups of four.  The first two in each Pool will float out to the shores of the knockout stage, together with a few of the third-placed teams. England and Wales are competing with Russia and Slovakia in Pool B.

In the first round of matches, last weekend, England demonstrated their skills, threatening to overwhelm Russia with speedy attacks. But the skills were not matched with accurate finishing.  Pundits in the studio called for another set of strikers off the bench. Roy Hodgson, the England manager responded.  England scored. Time was running out for the team and Hodgson, and more replacements arrived.  Now the changes were defensive.  England loses the initiative and Russia grabs a late goal and a draw. Much frustration and noise of dashed expectations.

In a somewhat mirror-image performance, Wales scored first against Slovakia, a brilliant free-kick from Bale. Then Wales defended, and like England, conceded a goal.  Unlike England, Wales stumbled in a winning goal. After that first round of matches, Wales heads group B, and a draw against England would give them every chance of progressing.  England would need a win against Slovakia in their third and final Pool game to qualify and would be under enormous pressure.

Today England has to play an attacking game against Wales.  All this is argued over in a multitude of broadcasts, pubs and print media. There is also off-field drama. English and Russian fans are competing for Louts of the tournament, are under notice of exclusion if their violent and drunken behaviours continue.

Man for man, England’s squad outguns that of Wales. The mind-games start before the match as Gareth Bale, the only only superstar among the Welsh, says there is no player in the English squad who would get into the welsh team. This is at least in part a bit ironic. As this is a rare commodity in the football world, it provokes non-ironic responses.

Home Alone

The day of the match arrives. I am at home.  Alone. Thursday June 16. Kick off is 2pm British Summer Time.

I am ready. But there is a problem.  However often I compute, I know I have to leave downtown Woodford to drive the mile or so to nearby Bramhall, before the match ends.  The latest I will be able to leave, is when the match will still have a few minutes at least to run.

Outside, the sky darkens, and there is the loud crack of thunder.  A storm is approaching from the North West. Inside, the TV screen blanks out momentarily, confirming the approaching storm.

The match starts

The match starts. England attacks menacingly.    But the strikers who misfired against Russia are misfiring again against Wales.  I make myself another cup of boiled teabags to replace the now cold one in front of me.

Another crash of thunder, but still no rain. Then a free kick for Wales, too far out to trouble Hart in the England goal. Bale, ignoring statistics, steps up.  There is jagged slash of lightening, closely followed by a mega-explosion of thunder. Is it putting Bale off?  No, it’s a gale warning which gave the keeper a hart attack. (Sorry, the tension has interfered with my pun regulatory mechanism).

Bale’s evilly-struck thunderbolt smashed into the back of the net. Funny thing, watching alone.  You don’t shriek or do a Hail Mary. The emotions are discharged as if your body is a lightening conductor. I sip the cold cup of tea bags, not the freshly made one.

I don’t remember much more, until England make changes. Now they need attackers. Another pair of top guns are whistled on. The rain is now pouring off the roof like a waterfall. The England attackers are likewise pouring through the Welsh defence.

Nearly time to leave

The time creeps closer to when I have to leave. I start mini-sorties to collect what I need, saving a minute or so last-minute viewing time. Wales players are now all closer the fans behind the goal than they are to the edge of the penalty area. Sooner or later the flood defences must break.

They did. The substitute Vardy taps the ball into the net beyond the half-drowned defence. One all. The time creeps pettily on.  My calculations are right. I will not be able to watch the finish of the match.

Time to leave

I rush to the car, getting seriously drenched, checking that my oilskins are in the back. The game continues as the storm rages and the radio transmission crackles.

I approach Woodford, which is still mercifully above water. It is extra time. The storm shows no signs of abating, either in East Cheshire, or around the Welsh penalty area.  But only another minute to survive.Alan Green, the BBC commentator, is in a frenzy of loathing at Hodgson’s tardiness in selecting England’s best attackers. His voice breaks in a cracking of static, then swells to a scream. Substitute Sturrage has scored.

Wales’ defences are breached.  I am waterlogged.  The trees around the Station car park are swaying dangerously. The strangest thing. I am sealed off from the passion and emotions of the crowd and a grieving nation.

Despair

I was soon to re-enter a world in which there was a far deeper reason for despair. I learn of the brutal and frenzied murder of MP Jo Cox, thirty miles away to the East, across the Pennines.

 


Rainbow leadership. Let’s not do a black or white on Green

June 15, 2016

Retail billionaire Philip Green appears before a parliamentary committee over his governance of British Home Stores.  He is already cast in the role of villain by some, and a heroic defender of entrepreneurial success for others. There is need for more rainbow leadership, as I will explain

The specific news story in this post deals with Sir Philip’s appearance before the Work and Pensions Committee. I also introduce a new approach to leadership, which I have labelled rainbow leadership.

What is rainbow leadership?

Rainbow leadership attempts to relocate leadership understanding through the ‘whole spectrum’ metaphor of a rainbow.

It stands alongside earlier attempts to present alternative images of reality, such as are found in the classic text Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan. The existing and familiar metaphors include the machine metaphor, the network or brain metaphor, the culture metaphor, the organic metaphor, and so on.

The rainbow metaphor connects particularly easily with interpretational approaches to exploring the real and the imagined.  In my own writings it is implied in my various treatments of creative thinking, and most recently in Dilemmas of Leadership, earlier this year. Specifically, there is emphasis on ‘Yes and’ thinking, and its comparison with Either Or thinking, for which the metaphor is often black and white or binary thinking.

What’s black and white and red all over?

What’s black and white and red all over? The Christmas Cracker teaser only works if it is spoken not written. Rainbow thinking is, according to its metaphor red, green, blue and other colours which together may recombine into white.  Rainbow leadership recognizes this part-whole issue and deals with it rather than trying to over-analyse (splitting it down to its parts).

Black and white and Green

Leaders we deserve has followed the turbulent career of Philip Green since our blog started ten years ago. His titanic battles for ownership of M&S revealed Green’s pugnacious (sometimes literally) leadership style in the heavyweight category against Stuart Rose.

His appearance today [15 June 2016] focuses on his sale of his vast retail interests in British Home Stores for a peppercorn £1 with a modest sweetener towards its huge pension liabilities. The new owners were either a brilliantly visionary group of entrepreneurs, or a bunch of body snatchers.

Its new leader, Dominic Chappell, was described earlier by The Mirror as

an ex-racing car driver and former bankrupt. In a last desperate effort to rescue the company, Mr Chappell was reported to have moved £1.5 million from the company in an imaginative but ill-fated manoeuvre more suited to the racing track. He has since paid most of it back.

The Chairman of the select committee, Frank Field, spiced up today’s contest in advance. His remarks were followed by Sir Philip’s calling for his resignation, and threatening to pull out of the ‘invitation’.

This risks further censure. Calls have been made for his Knighthood to be withdrawn.

Back to rainbow leadership

The select committee has been accused of lacking the Rottweiler style of its former Chair, Margaret Hodge. My viewing last week suggested that their conversations  with Mike Ashley showed more than a hint of rainbow leadership.

Ashley, famed for his impulsive and confrontational style, was himself more conciliatory, accepting his corporate deficiencies. He even accepted that his company had broken the minimum wage employment legislation.

It will be interesting to see whether Sir Philip also enters into this spirit of rainbow leadership today.

To be continued


And the leader of the week was …

June 14, 2016

Chosen from the eight candidates battling for votes in the ITV referendum debates

The debates were two hours long with a similar format. The leaders had a brief chance to outline positions, then faced well-thought out questions from what appeared to be audiences representing the main demographics (gender, and political persuasion were particularly well balanced).

The moderator Mary Nightingale would have been a strong contender, managing as well as any to have ‘control over the borders’ of time permitted to the panellists obviously not used to such a treatment. (I was reminded of the approach of the horse whisperer Monty Roberts, which has a well-constructed but unobtrusive approach to keeping critters moving where he would like them to go).

How to rate the leaders

I decided on a context-specific rating approach as found in such reputable scientific journals as Which, Ryan’s Air best deals, Delia’s dozen best flans, Celebrity hottest oboists.

Three factors of performance

After some thought I decided that the key measure of the leadership performance was on the influence or impact achieved by the performance on three groups of votes.

IOU: Impact on undecided (to swing to his or her side or the other side)

IOS: Impact on supporters (to stay as supporters, become unsettled, or switch)

IOO: Impact on opponents (to stay, become unsettled or switch)

Given time and a research budget I would arrive at a reasonable set of scales for each of these three factors. As I have neither, I resorted to another approach sometimes known as first impressions to help me fill in the matrix.

I read as many articles as I could find about the two debates may have been influenced by them, or (more likely) my own bias which is more strongly towards remain than it is towards the politicians and their advocacy of their cause.

Candidate Impact on undecided voters Impact on supporting voters Impact on opposing voters Notes
Cameron 4-5 5-6 3-4 12-15 Same old same old
Farage 2-3 7-8 2-3 11-13 Same old same old
Johnson 4 5 4 13 Needed plan B
Stuart 5 6 4 15 Bit bland
Leadsom 5-6 4-5 4-5 13-16 OK but forgettable
Sturgeon 6-7 6 3-4 15-17 Most authoritative
Eagle 3-7 5-6 3-4 11-17 ‘Marmite?’
Rudd 4-7 6-7 3-5 13-19 ‘Marmite?’
Range 2-7 4-8 2-5 11-19

What if anything does all this mean?

It’s just one of the thousands of ways you can set up your own thought engine, to help you get underneath the surface of arguments. These matrix methods do not give answers so much as suggest new possibilities.

My interpretation of the debates is that we have no game-changing speaker out there at present. And, of course my judgement about the impact of a speaker is unlikely to capture the views of the voters be they decided or undecided.


Mike Ashley to run for leader of the Conservative party

June 8, 2016

shirtless-newcastle-fan.jpg

It is rumoured that self-made billionaire Mike Ashley is to run as leader of the Conservative party. The plan was put in place after secret meetings with Donald Trump, Lord Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell earlier this year

Mr Ashley’s chances of becoming leader of the Conservative party was rated as “a good bet at 1000-1” a figure now famous for the odds available at the start of the season for Leicester City Football Club winning the league. Now, after his effortless intellectual bettering of the Commons Select Committee this week [7th June, 2016] the odds are likely to drop even further.

Getting a safe seat

He is, at present, ineligible to stand, but  a safe seat in Parliament has been identified from a short-list of current MPs who are in danger of being deselected, declared insane, or imprisoned for various criminal offences.

The Press Magnet

Sociologist Tony Scrivener of Urmston University says that Mr Ashley has the characteristics needed to get to the top in politics.

“He has a track record of success in business. He is seen as not a member of the ruling elite. He is a ‘press magnet’, a larger than life charismatic personality, not afraid to take on the establishment. He will build on what he will call his triumph over parliamentary attempts to lock him in Big Ben for contempt.

His physical bulk, and his macho image also work for him, often appearing in the style of President Putin, stripped to the waist surrounded by adoring fans at Newcastle, the club he owns.”

Abolitionist firebrand

He intends to bring in advisors to help in his plans, which include the abolition of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, as ‘wastes of time and space’, the creation of five million zero-hours jobs, and winning the World Cup with the English football team.

The Ashley team

We have not been able to confirm the names of the advisors, but they are believed to include a top BBC football pundit who once worked for Mr Ashley, and possibly the Portuguese media specialist Hose Nourinho, to strengthen his PR department.

The Queen is safe

He intends to preserve the monarchy until after the demise of the Queen, but after her departure he is believed to  favour of an elected head of state who knows a bit about business.

My Pal Donald

He believes he will turn the criticisms about his own business affairs to his advantage. In this, he is being advised by someone he refers to as “my boony pal Donald”.

Other parts on his brilliant vision include the purchase of The Sun from another of his close friends, Rupert Murdoch, and holding mass rallies at Newcastle United Football Club. During each of these,  he will descend in a massive balloon bedecked in the club’s famous Black and White colours. [The balloon that is, not Mr Ashley], who will emerge, shirtless, displaying his Putinsque Six Pack, to the thunderous chords of Local Hero.

Stop Press

I have been unable to confirm [8th June, 2016] that Mr Ashley is about to join the Remain campaign to add his formidable communication skills in a last desperate attempt to win over supporters swayed by the brilliant rhetoric of  Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and particularly Michael Gove.

 


Muhammad Ali: the charismatics’ charismatic

June 7, 2016

 

 

At times, there is little to add to what has already been said and written about Muhammad Ali. This is one such time. In the twenty-four hours after his death, the story dominated the headlines around the world.

I would like to add one personal observation

I should have written more

Leaders We Deserve has posted examples of many charismatic leaders.  I should have written more about Ali. If he had no talent beyond his sheer physical appearance he would have been discovered (and possibly been exploited) into super-celebrity status.

Against exploitation

His life, in complete contrast to one that could have been a passive acceptance of fate, was an articulate gesture against exploitation. Against treatment of black people in America. Indirectly against exploitation of all those American soldiers fighting in Vietnam.  Against what he called his “slave name” CassiusClay.

And within these broader beliefs, he fought against his own exploitation, and found his personal resolution in adapting the Muslim faith.

He put to use his great talents. A dazzling speed of thought and movement which propelled him to the world championship in boxing, and an astonishing display of verbal dexterity and self-promotional skills in his very public appearances.

His career was illuminated and at times seriously disrupted as he was seen as an uppity and dangerous enemy to the American establishment.

Towards a post-charismatic world?

There is little dispute about the uniqueness of his talents. Historians will have to reach conclusions about his impact on the twentieth century and beyond.

To say there will never be another Muhammad Ali, is another way of saying that we are moving into a post-Charismatic World, and trying to figure out the implications of that process.


Fame, wealth, celebrity. What more could a top sportsman want?

June 3, 2016
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

The answer, if you are Novak Djokovic, is the unconditional love lavished on his two great tennis rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal

Read the rest of this entry »


Premiership wins a license to print money, but who profits?

June 2, 2016

Claudio Ranieri

While international success continues to elude English football clubs, its Premiership has acquired a license to print money. But who profits from it?

Next month, the European Football Championships begins.  Of the so-called home nations, England, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, and Wales have all qualified. Scotland, riding high politically in its efforts to make a break with the rest of the United Kingdom, continue the Brexit process by making a break from qualifying this time around.

In a league of its own

But financially as well as literally, England is in a league of its own. The Premiership continues to strengthen its economic prospects. This is rather strange, as its success is not matched by the performance of its international team, or of its Premiership big hitters. In recent years these have been Manchester United, joined by billionaire backed Chelsea, together with the Mancunian noisy neighbours City, and the well-heeled Gunners of Arsenal.

Even the iron rule of ‘big bucks rule’ broke down this season, with the thousand to one outsiders of Leicester winning the premiership. [Manager Claudio Ranieri pictured above.]

What is happening? Where will it all end?

Deloitte, a financial organization, takes a favourable view. The future is bright.

This is based on financial projections. As another commentator remarked,

Football is the global sport.  Interest is still growing. The Premiership is the hottest football franchise of all, with huge TV rights, sponsorship, and is increasingly attractive to all vut a few of the the top players.

As with the current EU debate, the argument could be contested, but it carries some weight. Football Premiership style is fast and exciting. It is also technically rather flaky, and more physically demanding than other top leagues such as those in Spain and Germany.  The recent results in the top team competition, The Champions League, confirm this point.

The Leadership Question

On the leadership front, the general position is that top clubs seek out the top international coaches.  Manchester City has moved to obtain Pep Guadiola to add the final piece to the jigsaw puzzle to become world beaters.

The response from Manchester United was to hire the self-styled special one Jose Mourinho to nullify any competitive advantage.

A great coach might be a necessary ingredient for success. Necessary but not sufficient.  And a coach may achieve great results with fewer resources than the competition.  Jurgen Klopp (now galvanizing Liverpool, and Mourinho started his rise to fame that way, as did Brian Clough a generation earlier, and arguably the great Sir Alex Ferguson, whose shadow Jose now has to step away from. Such a coach will attract and retain the key match winning players also needed.

 


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