Fables for Leaders includes 100+ short stories of talking animals and trees…. and my ruminations on each. I emphasize the philosophical and ethical aspects in these stories – from across the centuries - to my own on-the-job experiences, - successes and failures - and relate them to our contemporary behavior and decision-making. We relate to stories, we remember stories, and these fable stories may help in thinking through and solving, in untraditional ways, problems on the job.” Whimsical illustrations by international artist and paper cutter, Béatrice Coron, capture the charm of this ancient literature and add to its comprehension and enjoyment. Each entry -in 7 chapters- sets forth the original fable followed by Lubans’ commentary. And, many fable feature a “My Thoughts” space to explore how this fable relates to the reader. The seven chapter heads: “Us and them” “Office politics” “The Organization” “Problems” “Budgeting and strategic planning” “The effective follower” “The effective leader”. Topical sub-heads include: “Perspective makes a difference” “Where is the cooperation?” “Hiring decisions” “Performance appraisal” “Pretenders” “Kindness, loyalty and respect for the boss…or not” “Have you heard of the Tall Poppy?” “Gossip and envy” “Are you leading or am I following?” Etc.

Phaedrus. The Stone and the Man*

Posted by jlubans on April 20, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Aesop was sent one day by his master Xanthus to see what company were at the public bath.
He saw that many who came stumbled, both going in and coming out, over a large Stone that lay at the entrance to the bath, and that only one person had the good sense to remove it.
He returned and told his master that there was only one man at the bath. Xanthus accordingly went, and finding it full of people, demanded of Aesop why he had told him false.
Aesop thereupon replied that only he who had removed the Stone could be considered a man, and that the rest were not worthy the name.
One moralist sums it up neatly: “A true man helps others.”
Why does the one man do what he does? He could, like the others, step over the stone and forget it.
Why does this “true” man take ownership and move the stone?
When I suggest you (the worker) should act like an owner, what is your response?
Hell, no! I am not paid enough to worry about anything outside my job.
Not my job!
In the workplace, the “true” person is one who - seeing something to be done - does it, regardless of his/her job description.
Humans helping (cooperating with) others make us unique and, while not everyone acts like an “owner” many do.
These many “owners” often make the difference in how an organization is perceived.
Hire “owners”; let others hire workers.

*Source: AEsop's fables / illustrated by Ernest Griset; with text based chiefly upon Croxall, La Fontaine, and L'Estrange. REVISED AND RE-WRITTEN BY J. B. RUNDELL.
London, New York: Cassell Petter and Galpin, [1869]

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership – and how to deal with the stones in your path - get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon.
For the cooperative reader, ask your library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs?”

Posted by jlubans on April 17, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Steel Roofing Nail

The resolution of Tom T. Hall’s mournful song about a hospitalized pig farmer set me to thinking about work, the dignity of work, and perspectives on work. The song ends:
“Well, the doctors say they do not know what saved the man from death
But in a few days he put on his overalls and he left.”
(All to feed and care for them hogs!)
The song’s about work’s dignity and its life-giving purpose.
Given work’s power, it’s positive influence on all of us – but for the most derelict - why is one type of work presumably better than another? Why the demarcation between blue collar vs. white collar?
The blue collar ones are the people who do things. They work with their hands, mind and muscle, yet, somehow our culture diminishes the importance of their contribution.
The most important worker, I was told by the deli counter manager at NYCs famous Zabar’s grocery store, was not the owner Saul Zabar, but the guy hauling away the trash!
These are the people that keep your car running, clean your office, paint your house, clear the stuck drain, and renovate your house.
Sure, you might think you can do it yourself, but most of us can’t nor do we want to.
We want, if we can afford it, for someone to come in and do it right the first time.
And, if a blue collar career is managed right, one can make a living from doing what others don’t want to, don’t have the time, or are not bit by the DIY bug.
The Wall Street Journal focused my attention several months ago on the topic of celebrating unheralded work: “The Thrill of Victory in Welding, Baking and Bricklaying”. The article talks about going for workplace gold: with over 1200 young workers showing off their vocational skills” in 51 jobs.
Bricklayers, cooks and florists may be unsung jobs, for sure, but are they not mainstays in our economies?
In my business, I was most drawn to the “support staff” doing the work. I turned to them for ways to improve.
While some, due to poor leadership, were reluctant to speak up, I was able to convince more than a few to share what they thought.
These ideas, coming from the people doing the work, helped clear major roadblocks and bottlenecks.
Certainly, a professional – those someones we pay to think – may come up with an idea, but often, lacking will it may go unimplemented or, worse, it may, when adopted, only aggravate the bottle neck or create a new one.
Have you found yourself marveling at how a craftsman can quickly, skillfully, assess and zero in on a problem?
I recall a leaky roof; do I ever!
Replacing the roof did not fix it. Nor did caulking or creative ways for draining water off the roof.
The leaks stopped when a master roofer traced the leaks by deftly lifting up a dozen row of shingles, and then looking for the likely source: rusty nail heads. I was on the roof and got to see what he was doing.
The first row of shingles did not reveal what he was looking for, the second ditto, but the third row, was the Aha!
There were the rusty nail heads, driven though the rubber plenum.
Once the heads rusted out (from earlier leaks), the water followed down the nail shaft into the house.
That skilled craftsman solved a chronic problem and I was able to sell the house with a clear conscience. I did not have to be like Frank Lloyd Wright who famously responded to an owner complaining about the leaky roof:
“So? It’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house!” In other words, get used to it.
Getting back to my line of work, I often wonder what it was that I brought to the organization.
Many people I supervised did things far better than I ever could.
So, how did I add value? Well, there were my ideas on what we should be doing a la the big picture.
I demonstrated and promoted innovation.
I made a contribution, but as for the day-to-day, the bread and butter of our work, I contributed seemingly little.
I was an asker of questions and I queried what customers were thinking and brought those answers to the workplace. Sometimes those questions and answers led to improvements, but only if the people doing the work did something about it.
Unlike most of my peers, I was not very good at exerting the types of power that come with a name on the door and a rug on the floor.
One way my leadership helped was through freeing up people to think about what they did and how to improve it, no small accomplishment.
When those ideas were forthcoming, they made a big difference to the organizations.
How does an organization quantify the result when a leader frees up people?
Or does the organization - made up of would be experts – recoil at the very idea. As experts, my freeing up workers was giving away their jobs!
So, I am left wondering if those of us who liberate workers are not perceived to be like the comical slacker philosopher in Jerome K. Jerome’s novel, Three Men in a Boat:
“I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.”
For more insights into the work world, buy Lubans’ new book“Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or, be frugal and get your library to order a copy! Just tell them you want it.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Phaedrus’ “Aesop and the Writer”*

Posted by jlubans on April 13, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)


(On a bad author's praising himself)

“A man had recited some rotten writings
To Aesop, containing some excessive compliments
To himself, at elaborate, infelicitous length.
So, eager to elicit the old man’s opinion,
He asked anxiously, “Am I being arrogant?
I trust no. I ‘m confident in my talent.
Aesop, exhausted by interminably listening
To such sorry stuff, said in reply,

“I approve of your lavishing praise on yourself.
From no other quarter will it conceivably come.”
As an indie auth
or, a self-promoter and self-booster of his own book - Fables for Leaders - Phaedrus’ words from the first century do sting a bit.
Many reviewers – dismissively unwilling to review an indie book – might turn to Aesop as justification:
“Go right ahead and praise yourself, since no one else is likely to!”
Yes, the truth hurts.
Such are the life and times for the indie author.
But, there is a difference between my book and the “sorry stuff” from the first century.
Most would agree that Fables for Leaders is a beautifully designed (Alise Šnēbaha) and creatively illustrated (Béatrice Coron) book.
My contribution, the content, may not meet your eclectic tastes but the book itself is a splendid object.
In the workplace – since this blog is about working – we may not have self-congratulating authors, but we certainly have a goodly number of people who let everyone know how important they are to the organization, if only it would listen.
Unappreciated, unrecognized.
Alas, so it will be until “praise comes from another quarter”. If that fresh breeze from halcyon fields never springs, you can take pride in doing a good job, whether anyone hits the like button or not.

*Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

Speaking of moderate self promotion, here’s the Fables for Leaders Library of the Week:
Radford University McConnell Library, Radford, Virginia, USA

“A valuable book.”
And, amidst this noisy tooting of my own horn, comes an unexpected and unsolicited positive note from Creighton University’s distinguished Fr. Fred Carlson Fable Collections:
“I enjoy this book and even find John Lubans something of a kindred spirit. The heart of the book, I would say, is a collection of traditional Aesopic fables. To these Lubans adds a number of things. First of all there are what I would call ruminations, reflecting well on how the fable applies to life. Then there are fables from others, including especially himself. My hat is off to anyone who, after the thousands of fables that have been created in our literary tradition, makes a new one. I do note that Lubans' fables seem longer than the traditional Aesop fables he uses. To these texts are added simple, pleasing silhouettes, like the dramatic gesture outlined on the cover. The book also makes room for personal notes from readers. It all adds up for me to a valuable book. The fables are grouped by themes under seven chapters, with two to eight themes per chapter. Bravo, John Lubans!”
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10504/117110

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Invading Privacy vs. Making Money

Posted by jlubans on March 26, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Exposed.

I googled moving boxes, the kind you pack with. I found what I wanted and closed the browser.
An hour later, I clicked for a weather projection. With it came an in-your-face ad from an office supply company - a quarter screen, promoting guess what?
How do you think that happens? Coincidence? Who pays what to whom?
Many, we are told, are aghast over recent reports of data mining and exploitation of “private” user data at Facebook.
While we have known about and participated in sharing personal information since the beginning (do you remember when you bought a diamond ring or a washing machine on Amazon, the “Zuke” would alert all your “Friends”?. Presumably, a bit of a prompt for “keeping up with the Joneses”, an ancient advertising trick.
For the longest time these practices, maybe a tad tawdry, were OK.
Why no longer? Maybe its the realization that Facebook et al. do not discriminate – when there’s money to be made - among political parties or political philosophies or friends or enemies or love or hatred, bigotry or tolerance.
The naked truth: Facebook (Google, Twitter, Linked-in, et al.) make big money by selling away our privacy, including our every click.
The super cool dudes and dudettes in Silicon Valley may espouse egalitarianism but they behave like robber barons. How else can they afford to live in downtown San Fran?
Whoever has the most money - Russian rubles, Ukrainian hryvnia, Saudi riyals, Iranian rials, and Chinese yuan accepted - the greater your access to private data for whatever purpose you wish.
Facebook and Google are worried – no, not about America’s growing mis-trust in social media - but the hit to the wallet kind of worry.
On March 25, the WSJ ran this story:
Facebook and Google Face Emboldened Antagonists: Big Advertisers”
So I am reposting my (prescient, eh?) February 28, 2018 indie author’s perspective (revised) on how this works out for the little guy:
“Information Wants to Be Free” (Almost)
The qualifier – almost - explains why since back in the day (1984, no less!) we have competing systems: vast ranges of free information and numerous fenced in sources of information.
We now know much of the Internet is not free.
Nor is there a middle class in the Internet economy.
There are the Have Nots, all of us under the long, long tail of the Internet (steerage) and there are the Haves up in First Class.
The Haves are a peculiar sort, because they do not provide content – the words, pictures, videos, selfies, and essays.
The Haves arrange the content and control the content, and husband how it is used. They manage it and they sell it to make money.
In other words, never have so many written so much for free to be read by so few so what they write can be monetized by a few, namely Google and Facebook through advertising revenue.
It is as simple as that. There is nothing innovative about this. What is new is that the exploitation – dare I say collusion? - has never been so complicit or gigantic.
When will content providers (including those of us who share cute cat videos or who write blogs) come to terms with this?
To their credit, the Haves created mechanisms for the “sharing” of the content and for linking to the content.
What about the Have Nots?
Yes, we are willing participants.
We seek “likes”, we seek “comments”, we want to be read – often we are happy to make our information free.
But do we really want to do that so a very few benefit while we get nothing back beyond a little recognition or fleeting pleasure?
A few days ago the WSJ wrote about proposed legislation that would permit publishers to engage in collective bargaining with those profiting from their content.
Facebook’s news stream, visited by millions we are told, does not pay for the news to which it links.
It does pay for the mechanism of spotting trends (however slanted) via human or machine means, but the linked-to content is free to Facebook or to Drudge or to Google.
Presumably, the content provider does have the opportunity to advertise or to push readers to buy their publications. However, this incidental revenue is tiny when compared to the ad revenue earned by the aggregators (and those who hold and share for a fee millions of bytes of personal information on millions of consumers and voters).
Understandably, the publishers seeing their profits declining, newsrooms depleting and the aggregators’ profits sky rocketing, want a piece of the action.
The legislation would allow publishers, as a combine, to set prices and to seek compensation from those making profit from their work.
How much?
Well, the WSJ has this to say: “Facebook... generated $40 billion in annual revenue from its ability to narrowly target advertisers’ messages to receptive audiences." I am not at all sure about how "receptive" any of the audiences are!
Well, then, what about this blog? I do not seek a profit (nor should I since under the present system revenue is almost impossible.) You could say my information really does want to be free, almost has to be free, if anyone is to read it!
If I want to “boost” this blog post (the one you are reading) according to Facebook, I can pay them $53.00 to “reach” 48,000 (targeted) strangers on Facebook. That’s for one post.
I suspect were my IP address in Moscow (Russia not Idaho) my post would be boosted as well as long as my credit card paid for it. Add several thousand rubles and I can "reach" several hundred thousand strangers.
The “reach” is manifest in those annoying “boosts” of opinion and products, etc that come out of nowhere on your personal Facebook page mixed in with updates from friends.
Facebook assures me, “Others like you are doing this”. In other words the already congested and polluted pages of Facebook are to become even more cluttered and I am to pay for it.
What’s the sense of that?
As well, I imagine I could do some advertising or "boosting" on Google. As long as I pay for it.
One small step.
I will close the archives to my Leading from the Middle blog (published twice weekly since March of 2010). I will re-gain control of my work by taking it off the grid. If others like me do the same, the Haves might need to come to terms with adding value to our work.
So, does "information want to be free"?
Let's return to the failed premise from which that 1984 quote arose: "information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time." The costs of "getting it out" may indeed be ever decreasing, but the costs of creating it have never been higher.

So, stand up to Social Media’s Big Bosses and Minions, buy the peck of Aesopic wisdom to be found in “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or, be clever like the Zuker and get your library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Aesop and the Stone*

Posted by jlubans on March 23, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Not the Rope PUSH

A mean fellow,
seeing Æsop in the street, threw a stone at him.
'Well done!' was his response to the unmannerly action.
'See! here is a penny for you; on my faith it is all I have, but I will tell you how you may get something more.
See, yonder comes a rich and influential man.
Throw a stone at him in the same way, and you will receive a due reward.' The rude fool, being persuaded, did as he was advised.
His daring impudence, however, brought him a requital he did not hope for, though it was what he deserved, for, being seized, he paid the penalty.

Like an old West gunslinger, Aesop was always prepared with a masterly shot to the head. However, this gift - straight from the Muses - did make for enemies.
Eventually his quick-draw tongue got him hurled off of a cliff to his death.
In my 9-5 realm, I knew only a few people able to parry undeserved character attacks.
Most of us deal with verbal assaults either by avoiding or hurling back a similar insult.
It is only later, in quieter moments, when we think about what we should have said or done.
At a team building session I led, I recall a most unusual event.
I’d taken the group outside to do the “Rope Push”.
Instead of a tug-of-war in which one side seeks to pull the other over a line, the topsy-turvy point of the rope push is to give away the rope.
The group, while low energy, did give it a lack-luster try.
Then the unusual happened. One of the group, Harry, ran off with the rope and stood about ten yards away, taunting.
Had I been able to channel Aesop, I would have asked the group, "What is the rope?” Then, given the history of this group (low morale, high mistrust) I would answer my own question, like Aesop did in the Man & the Bow fable,
Maybe not. Maybe the situation - with the bullying Harry out of the mix - would have precipitated a candid discussion of group dynamics.
How might you have handled what happened with the Rope Push? After all, one of the reasons for us to revisit these historic stories is to learn for ourselves.

*Source: Thomas Newbigging. “Fables and Fabulists: Ancient and Modern.” 1896

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership – and how to turn lemons into lemonade - get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy!

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week
: Bethany Lutheran College Memorial Library. Mankato, MN, USA.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Curates We Know

Posted by jlubans on March 20, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Wilfred M. McClay, writing in the Hedgehog Review is not amused by the devaluation of the verb “curate”. No longer the particular purview of the puffed-up, e.g. exquisite Museum exhibits curated by one authority or another, the verb has been further debased, now rubbing patched elbows and shoulders with the hoi polloi:
“The Altoona Truck Stop features a finely curated selection of wines and vittles including a lovingly decanted sauvignon blanc from Saskatoon and a 64 oz Gallo red screw top from Sausalito.”
This degradation somehow reminds me of an octogenarian, in yoga pants, doing a back flip.
Reading this bit of Hedgehog umbrage, took me back to my use of the noun, “Curate”, in May of 2015 when I wrote about the “Curate’s Egg” and its relationship to leading and following.
Below is the stage-setting cartoon followed by a paragraph or two of what I had to say back then:


G. du Maurier’s cartoon, famously known as “The Curate’s Egg”, catches some of the dilemma each of us faces when being a Yes Man (or Woman) – or as PG Wodehouse has it, a “Yesser”. There’s also a bit of the compliant Sheep in the young curate and most of all, the Survivor.
How times have changed, or have they?
The winner of a recent caption contest for this cartoon, has the milquetoast slanging the Bish, “You’re bloody right, this effin’ egg is off!”
While refreshing for its candor the curate’s response – given the power imbalance between the two – would hardly help advance the curate’s career. But, then stranger things have happened. Perhaps the Bishop will slap his knee, and say something like: “You s.o.b! I sure do like a man who speaks his mind! You can do my sermon this Sunday! And, yes you can marry my daughter, tonight, if you wish!”
In Wodehouse’s literary world, the curate was a poor assistant to a vicar, striving to get to the next level, a vicarage of his own. Usually, that meant a guaranteed salary – a sinecure for life, and enough money on which to marry. It was all up to the bishop. So, there was more than a little motivation to not ruffle the bishop, at least not until you got booted upstairs.

To spark one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or ask your library to order a curated copy. Rap your knuckles on the information desk and tell them you want the book, pronto!

© Curated and Copyrighted by John Lubans 2018

Phaedrus’ “THE TWO BALD MEN”

Posted by jlubans on March 16, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Who’s got the comb?

A Bald Man chanced to find a comb in the public road.
Another, equally destitute of hair, came up: “Come,” said he, “shares, whatever it is you have found.”
The other showed the booty, and added withal: “The will of the Gods has favoured us, but through the malignity of fate, we have found, as the saying is, a coal instead of a treasure.”
This complaint befits him whom hope has disappointed.
In verse, one moralist has it:
“They by this tale may be relieved
Whose sanguine hopes have been deceived.”
Life is a rocky road, we are told, full of ups and downs, and that “Many a tear has to fall but – we are sweetly apprised - it's all in the game.”
A ludicrous fable?
Maybe, but the lesson about fate’s “malignity” is there in 72 words.

*Source: The Fables of Phædrus / Literally translated into English prose with notes.” 1887.
For more fables to spark one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or ask your library to order a copy. Rap with your knuckels at the the information desk and thell them you want the book, pronto!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“You didn’t build that!”

Posted by jlubans on March 13, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: W. Hollar's illustration from John Ogilby's fables, 1668.

Following our recent literary bent,
Shakespeare was no stranger to fables and their powerful messages.*
He alludes and elaborates upon the fable of the “Belly and Its Members” in his The Tragedy of Coriolanus:
The character Menenius is speaking to a mob of unhappy citizens:
“I shall tell you
A pretty tale: it may be you have heard it;
But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
To stale't a little more.”
And Wm. S. goes on and on for over 60 lines about the moral of the fable concluding with this little bit of governmental theory (shared by not a few including Mr. Obama):
“The senators of Rome are this good Belly,
And you the mutinous Members; for examine
Their counsels and their cares; digest things rightly,
Touching the weal o' the common, you shall find
No public benefit which you receive
But it proceeds or comes from them to you,
And no way from yourselves. What do you think?”
And yet, as only Shakespeare can, he gives full credit and maybe some justification for the body’s “mutinous members” vs. the Belly’s rule:
First Citizen:
“Your belly's answer? What?
The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye,
The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
With other muniments and petty helps
In this our fabric ... “

*Source: Thomas Newbigging. “Fables and Fabulists: Ancient and Modern.” 1896
For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get thee to a library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“A FOWLER AND A PARTRIDGE” by Sir Roger L'Estrange* (1692)

Posted by jlubans on March 09, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Illustration by CHARLES ROBINSON, 1912.

A Fowler had taken a Partridge, and the Bird offer’d her self to decoy as many of her Companions into the Snare as she could, upon Condition that he would give her Quarter.
No, says he, you shall die the rather for that very Reason, because you would be so base as to betray your Friends to save your self.

THE MORAL. Of all scandalous and lewd Offices, that of a Traitor is certainly the basest; for it undermines the very Foundations of Society.
And so it can be at work.
Has this ever happened to you?
After a leadership change, you find yourself on the outs with the new leader.
Your many years of good effort and achievements are now for naught.
So, in defense and to retain some dignity you turn to a close colleague someone you’ve worked side by side with in improving the organization, vastly for the better.
You ask that person if they will stand by you.
The response, indirectly, not to your face, is “No”. No explanation is offered.
Like L'Estrange’s Partridge, the trusted colleague is looking out for Number One; no risking their future!
I wonder if the betrayer has any regrets? Is the treachery worth it?
It wasn’t for the Partridge.

*Source: Aesop’s Fables translated by Sir Roger L'Estrange, 1692.

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy. Just tell the information desk you want the book!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“Similitudes of men”*

Posted by jlubans on March 06, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Andrew Lang, the Scottish poet.

Here is a memorable quatrain from his poem about Aesop published in 1896:
And in the lion or the frog---
In all the life of moor and fen,
In ass and peacock, stork and log,
He read similitudes of men.”

Andrew Lang was born in Scotland in 1844 and died 1912.
Since I have been working with Aesopian fable since late 2010, I found his brief poem especially insightful. Is not reading similitudes of humankind one of life's requirments?

*Source: Thomas Newbigging. “Fables and Fabulists: Ancient and Modern.” 1896

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018