The Poorest Community in America Challenges Preconceived Ideas

April 25th, 2011

Very interesting article in the New York Times about the poorest community in America. It is not in the South or even the Appalacias. It is in New York state. The community, Kiryas Joel, actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. The thing I find interesting about this article is that it fundamentally challenges a lot of myths about poverty, crime and happiness. Does crime come from poverty or lack of community? Many researchers have found that what is more important for children is to have both parents in their lives, belonging to a community and not having the lastest tech gadget from Nintendo/Apple/fill in the blank. Do our own preconcieved ideas stop us from fighting the real war on poverty and crime? Food for thought.

What is Real Leadership and Courage

April 18th, 2011

I have written extensively about leadership in the past. It is definitely a subject that interests all of us. Especially when we see the succession of mediocre politicans who rise to positions of leadership and then simply fall back on politicking rather than problem solving.   Bad leadership simply fans the flames of extremism in order to maipulate.  I was recently thinking about the late Congresswoman Gifford, who was killed by a mentally ill person.  The first thing the sheriff did (who is elected) was to play politics. 

The last circle of hell, Dante wrote in The Inferno, is reserved who those who sit passively by during a time of great moral crisis. When we have a politician who sits in a racist church for 20 years and ‘sees nothing and hears nothing’, we are wrong for… overlooking that. Likewise when we have a congresswoman who is shot for simply trying to help make this world better, we need to condemn those who incite the hatred and anger that caused her shooting. Congresswoman Giffords was a strong and brave person 

It is now time to condemn those who incite hatred on both the right and the left and won’t allow healthy debate and differences to flourish. Arguments with respect are great things because they help us to form new ideas and perspectives. Sloganeering and demonizing your opponent serves only to silence those who want to help solve problems and promotes those who only wish to promote themselves.

The best lack all conviction/ While the worst are full of passionate intensity – W.B. Yeats

We now need real leaders, even those who will stand up to their ‘base’ instead of pandering to it, take a stance and lead.  It is something we have rarely seen.

Listening to Mark Twain

April 16th, 2011

I recently had a series of e-mails from a person whom I was considering going into a new business venture with and it reminded me of Mark Twain’s famous dictum that it is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are stupid than open it up and prove them right.   The problem was that I asked for a written agreement and to put together a business plan before doing a lot of work on this project.  What I discovered was that this person was a control freak to umpteenth degree and really wanted to simply be a ‘big shot’ and have me do all of the work and then eventually shoulder all of the blame.  Although he had this idea for over two years, he had done nothing with it.  He did not even want to invest $10 to register a domain name.  There is nothing like being lazy as well stupidly cheap.

After asking him for a reasonable request (which would have also helped him), he wrote me a series of  long e-mail that was particularly scathing.  I guess he had time to write these e-mails but not register a domain name and was upset that I did register the domain.  The gist of his e-mail was ‘I will tell you what to write and you will write it!’.  The funny part was that I had to prove my ability to write to him, even though I have written countless articles and books and am all over the internet, while he does not have to prove himself (even though you will not even find a LinkedIn profile of him).

There are two points to this.  One, with technology and instaneous communication, it is a great idea to think about things before commiting them to paper.  You definitely cannot take back words and even more so with e-mail.  Sometimes it is better to simply let things go or give it a few days before you write things down.  Also, silence can be powerful.  Better to be silent sometimes and let people ‘think’ they know what you are up to, than to tip your hand and show them.

The second lesson is on leadership.  It is obvious that this person will never do anything.  He is all talk and if after 2 years of an idea he does not even both to register a domain name (cost $10), then he will never do anything.  Instead of trying to inspire and collaborate with people to get things done, he simply wants to bully them to do it is his way.  Obviously after two years of going nowhere, you would think he might figure out that his way isn’t workinng.  For that, however, he should take Ben Franklin’s quote to heart.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The idea of innovation is not simply having an idea, but having the dedication and openess to execute it and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Fear, Change and Politics

April 14th, 2011

In the new television commercials for Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian Liberal candidate for Prime Minister, he tries to scare Canadians that the current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is going to create a “U.S.-style healthcare system’ if he is elected to a majority government. Meanwhile south of the border, in the U.S., the Republicans are threatening Americans that President Obama is trying to create a Canadian-style healthcare system there.

What the politicans are doing is using fear as a campaign tactic. It is a very basic fear – the fear of change! Many people fear change – even if it is for the better. I think that there are people who would rather be kicked every day in the most sensitive parts of their body than embrace a change where the person stops kicking because their leg gets tired. Wtih fear comes uncertainty (‘the devil you know’). With change, however, there also comes growth and opportunities. Most Americans and Canadians recognize that there are problems with their healhcare system. Yet the decision-makers are focusing people more on fear than solutions.

Why Is Leadership So Difficult?

April 12th, 2011

The problem with leadership ‘solutions’ is that so often the people giving them couldn’t lead their dog for a walk. So many people rise through organizations on being ‘politicians’ (including in our respective countries). Mediocrity rises to the top because it knows how to ‘play the game’ and manipulate both the system and others. Often times we substitute designations (i.e. MBA, PhD, etc.) or schools (he went to Harvard so he must be smart) for leadership. William F. Buclkey once famously said that he would rather be lead by the first 500 names in the Boston phonebook than by somebody from Harvard. Samuel F. Bacharach has an excellent litle blog posting on why leadership fails (hypocrisy, elitism and emotional deception) that I think says it all fairly well and straightforward. It is the problem that we see over and over again with our national leaders (i.e. Barrack Obama and Michael Ignatieff) and most major consulting firms (having worked in one I can tell you that they certainly do not live what they sell). It is why so many organizations are on the leadership merry-go-round and there is a constant stream of ‘leadership training’. The problem is that you cannot train people who do not want to learn. If you have been rewarded for being a jerk and manipulating others, the odds are you are not going to suddenly change because of a workshop.  Perhaps what we need is more REAL diversity in leadership.

Neuroscience and Organizational Development

April 12th, 2011

Why can’t people change their minds???? Why is change difficult? How come you cannot overcome myths with good inforamtion. Interesting new article in strategy+business from Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, et al about the effects of brain research into o.d. Good follow up to my previous article on Why You Can’t Replace Myths with Good Information.