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.

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

“All Hat, No Cattle”: The Fly and the Mule.*

Posted by jlubans on March 02, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Engraving by Christopher Hagens, 1667.

A Fly that sat upon the beam
Rated the Mule: " Why, sure you dream?
"Pray get on faster with the cart
Or I shall sting you till you smart!"
She answers: "All this talk I hear
With small attention, but must fear
Him who upon the box sustains
The pliant whip, and holds the reins.
Cease then your pertness - for I know
When to give back, and when to go."

This tale derides the talking crew,
Whose empty threats are all they do.
“All hat, no cattle”, one might say of the fly.
In the workplace, it is good to know the difference between the petty and the consequential.
Our friend the mule knows who’s boss.
Do you?
The fly’s sting is of no concern to the mule; far more concerning is the whip and bit.
And, figuratively, the presumptuous fly can represent the busywork in our lives, those daily detours from the quest.
While facebooking, twittering, or snapchatting (or any other Circe-like daily dalliance) you can get lost in the shrubs and forget to lift up your eyes to the sky.
As an antidote to getting too caught up in the daily grind, the Nordics, we are told, practice friluftsliv or “open-air living”, a literal going off of the grid to regain perspective, to reflect on what’s important and what’s not.

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

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!

Peculiar pricing on Amazon! Three re-sellers are offering Fables for over $53 a copy. These are not, alas, rare book dealers recognizing a beautifully illustrated and designed book, but just Amazon wannabe's hoping to market to unsuspecting buyers. $19.99 is still the going price at BookBaby, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“Information wants to be free” (almost)

Posted by jlubans on February 28, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

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 and there are the Haves up front.
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. They manage it and they monetize it.
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 has never been so complicit or gigantic.
When will content providers (including those of us who share cute cat videos or travel photos 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 share – 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.
Understandably, the publishers seeing their profits declining, news rooms 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 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 and political rants.
Facebook assures me, “Others like you are doing this” so I too should join in boosting. 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 Leadig from the Middle blog (published twice weekly since March of 2010). My doing so will have zero effect but for me to gain control of my work. 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.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“The Wise Old Bunny”: The Hares and the Frogs*

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

Caption: Edward Eksergian Self-portrait, illustrator for Thummel’s “Aesop in Rhyme.”

The hares assembled in solemn convention,
Resolved it was their united intention
To die, life being naught but trembling and fear;
For waking or sleeping some danger was near.
‘And we prefer death. Now, what route shall we
With one voice they all cried: ‘Let’s drown in the
Neither old nor young would wait for the morrow,
But made haste to the lake to there end his sorrow.
By the side of the lake some innocent frogs,
Were hopping and jumping among some old logs.
These hearing the hares, and ‘most frightened to
Jumped into the lake, each holding his breath.
Then one old hare, who from age had grown wise,
Cried out: ‘Hold, brothers!’ much to their sur-
‘By this act of the frogs it seems clear to me,
There are more unfortunate creatures than we.’

Though your burdens are heavy and hard to bear,
Remember that others have also their share.
As absurd as the suicidal Soviet dissident, gun to temple, who when surrounded by the gun toting KGB, exclaims: “Don’t shoot!”
So, the wise old bunny sees an honorable way out of the suicide pact and saves the hares for another day of sweet life, sunrises and sunsets, however near danger.
In the workplace, it is often the contrarian view that jostles us out of our groupthink and brakes our slipping over the precipice.
Always encourage the workplace’s lovable fool or jester or contrarian; his or her patter may save us from a like-minded rush to disaster.

*Source: Aesop in Rhyme by Mary Leone Gilliam Thummel with illustrations by Edward Eksergian. St. Louis, MO? 1906.
A Note on Finding Ms. Thummel.
Suggestive of search engine flaws, is what we DO NOT know about Mary Thummel.
Google offers us no obituary, no notices from the local papers of St. Louis, no listings in author directories.
All we know is that she authored two books, the Aesop and another about government, a school textbook from 1897.
Turning away from the “World’s Information Desk” (Google), other sources might reveal much more about Ms. Thummel.
You’ll find those sources either blocked by pay-walls or only in print-on-paper format: local newspapers, street directories, tax records, state and national directories (like Who’s Who), local histories, birth and death notices, and records of literary societies, etc.
Libraries are the only places to find non-digital formats.
And, the better the librarian the more you will learn.
Forget the notion that all you need is on Google. It’s not.
Apropos of Ms. Thummel’s St Louis, the Fables for Leaders Library of the week is the St. Louis Public Library, Missouri, USA!
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 person you want the book!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Malicious Mouser*

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

Caption: Getting an earful. Illustration by Edward Eksergian, 1906.

“In the top of a tree was an old eagle's nest,
Where she and her young with contentment were blest.
A sow and her family took up their abode
In the hollow trunk, just close on the road,
While a wild cat reposed in a hole in the middle,
And all went as happy and gay as a fiddle,
Till the cat, with her evil and treacherous mind,
Which to trouble and mischief was always inclined,
Crept up to the eagle and said, ‘Woe is me!
The old sow I am sure is uprooting the tree!
She will root all around till down it will fall,
And then she'll devour us, young ones, and all!’
The eagle, affrighted, would not leave her brood,
Lest they all perish while she went for food.
This done, the old cat went down to the sow,
Saying, ‘Friend, I'll tell yon, you'll have trouble now,
The old eagle is watching till you go away,
To get one of your piggies for dinner today.’
The sow was now frightened as much as the eagle,
And nothing could her from the hollow inveigle,
So both of these families were starved in the tree,
And the wild cat and her young ones feasted in glee.
The friend who drops in to slander a neighbor
Is more to be shunned than a foe with a saber.”

And there you have it, how to sow dissent in an organization.
The Malicious Mouser, seen at tree’s base, undermines trust and brings ruin with her slander.
How often have I fallen for this ploy? How about you?
The antidote has always been for direct communication between the aggrieved; go direct to the alleged wrong doer. You’ll discover no wretched plot or plan, other than that cooked up by the go-between.
The go-between – inclined for “trouble and mischief” - always has his or her own agenda, as they say, and I can assure you it is never for your benefit.
Is not that the point of all gossip, to turn one against the other, to pretend a moral superiority to others?
Samantha Hines review of Fables suggests that the book could be a way to broach and air workplace problems.
Thummel’s clever verse just might get people talking about trust and how to keep it strong and sturdy.

*Source: Aesop in Rhyme by Mary Leone Gilliam Thummel with illustrations by Edward Eksergian. St. Louis, MO? 1906.

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week: University of Arkansas University Library, Fayetteville, AR, USA

Get your copy of Fables for Leaders at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“(T)horoughly enjoyable both in content and in design…”

Posted by jlubans on February 14, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Samantha Hines, the editor of the PNLA Quarterly, reviews “Fables for Leaders” in the February issue.
You can click on the review from the table of contents.
Or you can go directly to the review by clicking here.
Ms. Hines thoughtful and insightful review includes suggestions for using the book for raising staff awareness and understanding of organizational issues.
Quoting Hines:
“The presentation of the fables and accompanying text provides an excellent launching point for conversation among fellow library workers. I could see this book being the basis of a leadership discussion group, with meetings to discuss one or two of the fables at a time. Discussing a fable might also liven up a staff meeting or serve as an icebreaker activity for an association or organizational retreat.”
So, “Hear ye, Hear ye” aspiring leaders and followers: Get a copy of “Fables for Leaders” and try out her ideas. You will not regret it.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018