A top crime-writer looks at leadership

July 5, 2016

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Patricia Cornwell has rightly earned her reputation for her crime-novels, and in particular the series starring her forensic heroine Kay Scarpetta

Her stories are procedural but with flashes of creative insight. I found one such observation in a recently published (2015) novel, Depraved Heart.

A Special Ops team arrives to support forensic scientist Kay Scarpetta and her loveably crude sidekick, detective Pete Marino.  The author muses on what makes these action men (and women) so special? Here’s how Cornwall sees it:

When they shift their weight or move they are subtle and silent. They’re agile and non reactive. They’re disciplined, stoical, what I consider the perfect hero blend of selflessness and narcissism. You have to love yourself if you’re going to fight gloriously and bravely..

Selflessness and narcissism

Cornwell is commenting on the heroic person, and what sets them apart.

The only named member of this group of special people in the book is Ajax. After a little checking, I remembered that Ajax figured in Greek mythology as a heroic figure. (So did Hero, another point worth remembering). Let’s just say Cornwell knew what she was doing. Ajax was a warrior with magical powers. Homer’s Ilead leaves Ajax alive, but in the nature of Greek tragic drama, Ajax eventually over-reaches himself, carries out an unworthy act of violence, and commits suicide at the disgrace it brings on his name.

When Cornwell nods

I found Depraved Heart rather plodding, one of the weakest of the Kay Scarpetta novels.  My view is shared by other reviewers, but even when Cornwell nods, she is capable of flashes of insight.  She concludes the episode involving super-agent Ajax and team with an oxymoronic comment on the nature of heroism, which  might apply to notions of the great leader.

It’s a contradiction.  It seems illogical.  It’s not a stereotype or a cliche when I say that special ops aren’t like the rest of us.

 

Beware of stereotypes, she is telling us, they are too one-dimensional.


John Whittingdale: The BBC bites back

April 13, 2016

The culture minister John Whittingdale is embroiled in a story about his relationship with a consort considered unsuitable for a minister of the crown.  It is tempting to link his story to that of the affair of the hapless John Profumo, many years ago

 The context to this story is the febrile political atmosphere in the UK, where there is an appetite for political mischief in the run-in to the EU referendum.

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The story of FIFA: Update on a permanently failing organization?

April 8, 2016

 survivors

FIFA is where National Ground Hog day meets Inspector Clouseau. The mega leaks from The Panamanian sieve, aka Mossack Fonseka, have already brought about the downfall of Iceland’s President, and considerable embarrassment to numerous other powerful figures. It was more inevitable than surprising that FIFA would have a bit part to play in the drama.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sharapova shows her class facing professional humiliation

March 9, 2016


The story has shocked the tennis world. Maria Sharapova admits charges of taking performance enhancing-substances after failing a drugs test during the Australian Open

The superstar deals with the career-threatening blow with remarkable panache. This week [March 7 2016] a hastily-arranged press conference attracts a huge gathering of media journalists from beyond the world of tennis. A ‘significant announcement’ is promised.

It was assumed that Sharapova was going to announce her retirement after increasing effects of injuries. We didn’t see what was coming.

A contrite superstar fronts up

Looking upset but controlled, the superstar announces that she has continued taking taken a substance for medical purposes that was placed on the banned list as recently as January.

She accepts the error contravenes the WADA guidelines. However mistaken, she accepts her guilt, while hoping that mitigating circumstances will lessen her punishment.

An example must be made

The sports world splits into those calling for the most severe punishment possible (pour encourager les autres) and those accepting her mitigating circumstances includes her honest admission of guilt.

From a business perceptive, she behaved in the approved fashion and demonstrated leadership abilities rarely seen when a PR crisis blows up.

women in business, Maria Sharipova, Tennis, sports management, WADA, drug abuse, Olympic Games 2016, crisis handling, leadership the business magnate

Sharapova was world number one in tennis, and is proving a world-beater in her business ventures. At one stage, with injuries holding back her tennis, a story developed that she was considering changing her name to Maria Sugarpova. I leave readers to decide whether that was branding candy floss. In any case, the Sharapova brand is highly successful. In 2012 her on-court earnings at $5 million were dwarfed by her endorsements of $20 millions.

Damage limitation

This is damage-limitation big time. Within days of her press conference, three of her lucrative sponsorship contracts were terminated.

She still receives support from her national sports organization in Russia, itself suffering serious allegations about institutionalized drug-taking. The intention is that Sharapova will be in the Russian tennis squad to compete in the Olympic Games in Brazil this summer.

Reckless beyond description

Dick Pound, the instigator of the bombshell of a report into drug testing recently, described Sharipova’s actions as reckless beyond description. Brilliant PR and communication skills sometimes are not enough to protect a train wreck from taking place.


Independent Judgement. I will miss you greatly

February 15, 2016

Obituary for a dear friend

Indy Paris RotatedThere was an inevitability about the passing of the print version of The Independent. I will miss a quirky friend who made morning coffee the more enjoyable for several decades.

My not particularly guilty secret. I became addicted to the print version of the Independent for a bundle of reasons. Now I have a tough decision. What will take its place in my affections?

But that decision is for the future. Now is time to recall the best of friends, brilliant, contrarian, instinctively liberal.

The Indy was not always reliable. It could never be guaranteed to turn up as regularly as I could have liked. In the three Newsagents closest to me, one always ordered a reasonable supply. One gave up stocking the paper a few years ago, and the third resolutely refused to double its numbers of copies, meaning that at times I was thwarted by someone else with a minority taste in the news they preferred, and the way in which it was presented.

A cause a day

Then there was a period a few years ago when every day was time for a new cause waged against a national or global injustice, until I felt slightly desensitized in my enthusiasm for for the ‘Cause of the day’.

Looking back

The Indy was born as a reaction against the last big disruption to the print media.

In the UK. Rupert Murdoch was successfully breaking the hold of the old print Unions. A handful of journalists opposing the Murdoch dominance formed The Independent.

The project was always fighting the economics of a declining market recognized so shrewdly by Murdoch whose Empire had the financial muscle to run promotional campaigns that further weakened its competitors. The Independent would have gone under far earlier if it had not been bought in 2010 for nonfinancial reasons for £1 by Evgeny Lebedev who has bankrolled it since to the tune of £60m

Its innovations included messy changes to a tabloid size, and occasional excessive exuberance in design ideas that never quite lined up with user appeal.

Now creative destruction will hit a fair number of the staff, even some among a talented bunch of journalists.

Chess

One of the reasons I stuck with the full rather than the little Independent.

The chess column shows tireless interest in the game by Grandmaster Jonathan Speelman. Maybe the e-paper will give him a nice new platform for his daily offering.

Obituaries

Its obituaries by Meic Stephens gave me a link with my school days. Thanks to Meic I was not even the best poet in the village. Don’t know if he will get a chance to write an obituary or a poem in memory of the print Indy.

Not just a Viewspaper…

Viewpaper accusations by Tony Blair were taken on board unashamedly, as the Independent ironically admitted the importance of opinion pieces. Mr Tony was uncomfortable about the paper’s uncompromising stance over Iraq, and several other of his policy decisions.

Great journalism

I’m among the readers who dote on Mark Steel’s brand of satirical commentaries., Robert Fisk’s foreign affairs polemics, and Rupert Cornwall’s effortless demonstrations of his deep insights into politics to match those of his step brother David, aka John le Carre.

What next?

Do I seek out a new morning partner to gaze at over my coffee? These are early days after a heart wrenching loss.

 

 


Tennis Matters: I didn’t see the match-fixing

January 27, 2016

Tennis Matters Blue

Tennis is the latest sport to find itself embroiled in a corruption scandal.  It is not the problem that many observers expected
Leaders We Deserve was and still remains a blog about leadership and its implications in business.  Sport remains a useful way of ‘back engineering’ into business leadership.
In recent months sport has provided a wealth of examples of issues of global institutions failing in the most basic tenets of social corporate responsibility.  LWD subscribers will be able to track back to the most recent in athletics and football.
So now for tennis.  Over the last few weeks a story has developed in a rather predictable way.  First, a suggestion that a few low ranked players were involved in match fixing.
All credit to the BBC who can still produce world class reporting from time to time.
Silence from tennis authorities. The story builds
World number one Novak Djokovic speaks out suggesting it is a minor problem, although he was approached to fix a match early in his career.  First time I was awoken from my slumbers.  Novak was reported as dismissing the claims as sheer speculation.  oh, no  Novak.  Better to have stayed shtum.
More reports that the problem is widespread.
I start preparing this post.
Then an announcement that an official enquiry is to take place.
Tennis Matters
I recently self-published Tennis Matters, a little book of personal anecdotes. One seeded participant at the on-going Australian Open was given a copy to read.  It includes updates of several LWD posts.  I was advised by a legal friend to be careful of one of the posts which suggested there might be a drug problem in tennis.  So I listened to him, but there is still a hint of my concerns in Tennis Matters.
What I didn’t see coming 
What I didn’t see coming was a different sort of scandal.  Over the years there have been curious collapses from winning positions. Players have been fined for not trying.  Perhaps I didn’t want to see any suspicions.  I was more interested in the tensions that impair ‘thinking clearly under pressure’
This story has legs
You can find my slightly redacted comments about drugs in tennis in Tennis Matters.  Until I put out a revised version, this post will have to do.  I have a feeling the story deserves the customary not quite final words … Watch out for updates.
To be continued

Caroline McCall is early candidate for Leader of the Month

January 6, 2016

EasyJet’s Caroline McCall was appointed Dame in the New Year’s Honours list. Her latest honour is recognition for her services to industry as a business leader over a sparkling career

Most admired leader

Shortly before the award, McCall won recognition as ‘the most admired leader in Britain’.

According to the Telegraph [December 2 2015]:

The airline boss, who is one of just six female CEOs running a FTSE 100 company, is the first woman to secure the title in 25 years of the study, which is compiled by Management Today magazine.

“I hope that this will inspire more women, and that they will want to be in business and do it their way, be leaders of companies in their way,” said Ms McCall.

“Man or woman, it’s an honour to get an award like this. I’ve never underestimated how important it is to be a role model for women but I prefer to do that quietly rather than loudly.”

Easyjet and Earlier Achievements

Her new accolade draws on her success at building up the low-lost airline Easyjet, improving its customer services as well as profits. Her previous appointments have included CEO of the Guardian Media Group and membership of the boards of Tesco and the [then] Lloyds TSB.

LWD has followed her progress as a business leader in several earlier posts. A feature of her leadership style is considerable media skills. Listening to her in a radio interview in 2013 I was particularly impressed by a way of explaining her business without recourse to the business buzzwords that are written in to briefing documents by business schooled aides (OK, mea culpa on this one).

[Do send me your other nominations for January’s leader of the month. TR]

 

 

 


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