“Leading from the Middle", by John Lubans*, is about freedom and democracy at work, teamwork, and leadership. Philosophy: the best work places empower staff to achieve their full potential; the less command and control, the better the product and service.

Seeking Solitude

Posted by jlubans on May 23, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption. Tree on my solo, Mt. Baldy Trek.

Smart people tell us that we are too much “on the grid”; that our “hand helds” never permit us to have “downtime”, those moments of lassitude when we can reflect and ponder*.
Instead, it appears, we must be entertained through any spare moment. We bow our heads in prayer to the silicone god. Look around you? How many people are now saying grace over their smart phones? Biblically, there’s “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills”. In the home office, lift your eyes from the computer screen.
Of course, technology helps us do some things better, but too much of anything can get to be less than wonderful.
Some suggest the over-teched pull a Walden Pond. Actually, Mr. Thoreau was hardly alone at the Pond and he had regular dinners out with the neighbors, but you get the idea:
Go off by yourself and de-tech.
Then, what? Like a dieter who loses 50 lbs only to put on another 50 lbs post-diet?
My favorite suggestion (and personal practice) for a cure is taking solitary walks, daily. Lots of people praise and practice those walks. Famous people walked regularly.
Rousseau said, “I can only meditate when walking.”
PG Wodehouse took long walks around Remsenburg where he lived for twenty years at the tip of Long Island. On those saunters, he’d figure out the intricate and elaborate ways for Jeeves to extract Bertie Wooster from his latest mess. He knew the power of walking and observing and letting his mind wander into solutions.
Einstein walked regularly.
Darwin took an hour’s walk every day; he’d learned how to walk silently when on scientific explorations, so often came upon wildlife on those daily expeditions.
Darwin also, it is claimed, worked in 90 minutes segments for a total of 4.5 hours per day. Does that qualify him as a “slacker”?
It seems the internet has much to do with our inability to be alone, to be lonely in a deliberate way.
Why does that matter?
Well, because when we are mooning at the screens in our lives, or responding to beeps and buzzes, we are distracted. We are “driven to distraction.”
We need quiet time, we need restful time. Many of us probably could do with time away from the maddening crowd. Studies suggest, too much madness in our lives – traffic, noise, crowding - results in spells of “rumination” or self-criticism and depression. Walk in sunny fields, lower the rumination index substantially.
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Caption: Not ruminating. My snow sculpture on Mt. Baldy in California.

*Last year, a Google incubator released “Uptime”, a group video messaging app that lets you watch and share videos with your friends in your downtime! Just what you and I need when we are on a solo in the wilds.

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($9.99) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Sir Roger L'Estrange’s, “A Stag Drinking”

Posted by jlubans on May 18, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Illustration by ARTHUR RACKHAM (1912). Available at Gutenberg.

“As a stag was drinking upon the bank of a clear stream, he saw his image in the water, and entered into this contemplation upon’t. Well! says he, if these pityful shanks of mine were but answerable to this branching head, I can but think how I should defy all my enemies. The words were hardly out of his mouth, but he discover’d a pack of dogs coming full-cry towards him. Away he scours cross the fields, casts off the dogs, and gains a wood; but pressing thorough a thicket, the bushes held him by the horns, till the hounds came in, and pluck’d him down. The last thing he said was this. What an unhappy fool was I, to take my friends for my enemies, and my enemies for my friends! I trusted to my head, that has betray’d me, and I found fault with my leggs, that would otherwise have brought me off.”
“Moral
He that does not thoroughly know himself, may be well allowed to make a false judgment upon other matters that most nearly concern him.”
____________________________
Specific to the case? Not necessarily. That’s the appeal of fables, they have many levels, not just the literal. So, one may value some personal scintillating attribute at the expense of more homely, take-for-granted qualities like honesty or a resolve to keep promises.
We may, like I suggest in the mister Men blog, “Recruiting the Best”, value in others one quality and diminish a more important one (papers and degrees vs. likeability and attitude). We discover to our dismay, in the Academy, that the newly hired PhD really detests teaching freshmen and shows it, while someone without an advanced degree loves to teach and sparks intellectual curiosity in students. The latter gets outstanding evaluations, while the former gets mediocre. Which one do you think gets to stay?
Alas, the “branching head” usually wins over the “pityful shanks”.

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

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($9.99) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

The “Vision Thing”

Posted by jlubans on May 15, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Leaders Aiga Vihmane and Inga Veidere standing on side with Armands Kalniņš right of center.

Each semester of my Democratic Workplace class I have students take part in a vision-sharing exercise; it’s called “Mirage”*.
The term Mirage suggests that a shared vision can be illusionary; we may be kidding ourselves that everyone understands the vision and once they do, that they are all on board.
Unfortunately in the world outside the classroom, some followers who understand the vision may resist and seek to undermine it.
Worse, they may pretend to go along, but sabotage is ever on their minds.
If you, the leader, can get the alienated to speak up, you are half way to converting them. If they do not admit and explain their opposition, then you have an enemy in your camp.
Obviously, being able to convince followers of one’s vision is an essential component of effective leadership. When the vision is understood, the better people know how to do their jobs.
It is likely the quintessential thing that leaders do – share their vision so there’s no doubt as to what the challenge is, what the day’s effort is about, what our business is and why it is important to deliver the product or the service. We know what to do.
My usual way of doing Mirage is to select three or four leaders who take turns at explaining the vision.
I show each leader the same image he or she is to communicate to the group at large. Each refers to the image but cannot show it to the group.
Leaders are limited to words and gestures, no drawing. Each leader has four minutes in front of the group to articulate his/her vision. Questions are allowed and encouraged but tend to be few.
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Caption: What the leader sees.

The team’s drawing shows whether they can replicate and confirm the leader’s spoken vision.
Easy to do? Try it.
Just like real life, not everyone hears the same thing, nor wants to hear the same thing, nor upon hearing it, can replicate it exactly.
If followers do not ask questions of the leader, then the drawing may be left up to one person who “gets it” but the rest of the team sits by in silent observation.
If they don’t “get it” their drawing of the vision won’t be congruent with the leader’s. How can any team move forward on a leader’s vision if they do not understand it?
In any case, it occurred to me to do the mirage class activity in a different way.
Why not use three leaders – a leadership group?
Three students volunteered: Aiga Vihmane, Inga Veidere, and Armands Kalniņš.
Then, abiding by my mantra of self-organization, I had the three leaders decide how to use their 12 minutes.
I only had one drawing so the trio had literally to share the vision; in other words, they had to know it among themselves.
Each had to check in with the other and could and did make corrections to individual interpretations.
Sure, there is bound to be confusion at the start of the “vision thing” - as a former US president termed it.
At first the trio stayed together. Then they split and consulted with individual teams, all the time referring back to that one piece of paper.
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Caption: Inga Veidere, vision in hand, clarifying.

How did they do? All three teams got the vision and probably more accurately than in my former leaders-taking-turns model.
The drawn perspectives were a bit different, e.g. what looks like a teepee was smaller or larger depending on team and leader, but it was the image, the vision as described.
Of course, perspective suggests that even when we have a shared vision each person may view parts as larger or smaller or more important or less so depending on who we are.
Besides the shared leadership, I noted that with this less formal approach, the teams were much more willing to ask questions. And, three concurrent leaders – all on the “same page” could advise the teams, even better. Three knowledgeable and collaborative “heads” may indeed be better than one; after 12 minutes all three teams had the vision.
Pretty effective sharing of a complicated vision!

*Source: More than likely my version of Mirage comes from one of the several Project Adventure playbooks of adventure learning activities.

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in September 2017 as an e-book ($9.99) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. “The Image of Mercury and the Carpenter”*

Posted by jlubans on May 11, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Anonymous illustration from an 1867 edition of Samuel Coxall’s “Aesop”. Coxall lived 1689–1752.

“A VERY POOR MAN, a Carpenter by trade, had a wooden image of Mercury, before which he made offerings day by day, and begged the idol to make him rich, but in spite of his entreaties he became poorer and poorer. At last, being very angry, he took his image down from its pedestal and dashed it against the wall. When its head was knocked off, out came a stream of gold, which the Carpenter quickly picked up and said, 'Well, I think thou art altogether contradictory and unreasonable; for when I paid you honor, I reaped no benefits: but now that I maltreat you I am loaded with an abundance of riches.'”
_______________________
This fable is also known as “A Man and a Wooden God.” Here is L’Estrange’s moral to his version from 1692:
“Most People, Clergy as well as Laity, accommodate their Religion to their Profit, and reckon that to be the best Church that there’s most to be got by.”
Early Babbitry.
But, our Mercury version offers an alternative. Mercury, according to the Britannica, is “the god of shopkeepers and merchants, … and thieves and tricksters” (emphasis added).
I imagine Mercury having a good laugh at the carpenter as he finally breaks off his routine of making daily obesiance while suffering personal hardship.
The carpenter’s storms, “No more! The hell with this,” and tosses the wooden god on its head. Out pours the treasure!
Is this not Mercury rewarding the carpenter for finally taking action instead of hoping Mercury will? In other words, “The Lord helps those who help themselves."
And, so, it can be O-T-J. When we decide to chuck what’s safe and secure, we may enrich our lives. How many of us, to get a paycheck, put up with a toxic boss?
May you always remember when you said “No more!” and slammed the door on the old and opened a new door to opportunity.

*Source: FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop’s fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886. Available at the Gutenberg Project.

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($9.99) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Recruiting the Best

Posted by jlubans on May 08, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Little Miss Brainy: Talking a pig out of a tree.

A BBC article, Happy Hiring, describes a technique one company uses to recruit staff. Timpson is the featured company. It sums up each recruit by applying the Mr. Men/Little Ms. characters (e.g. Mr. Grumpy, Mr. Chatterbox, Mr. Clever) to the interviewee.
Suzanne Bearne, the BBC writer, told me that “each of the recruiters/managers (at Timpson) has a page of Mr. Men characters in front of them, and they circle which one (or possibly several) the applicant is like.”
I suspect I was drawn to this since I use children’s books to help my students identify types of followers. “Simplistic!” you might mutter. Could be, but using children’s books has proven to be a helpful way for students to learn more about themselves and their colleagues in and out of the workplace.
The BBC article brought Southwest’s Herb Kelleher to mind.
When asked how he finds the right people for his airline, he replied “Hire attitude, train for skills.”
In my profession, we mostly did just the opposite. We hired for skills and gave attitude/personality a pass except in the most egregious cases of jerkitude.
I agree with Mr. Kelleher, you cannot train for attitude, you cannot train for compassion, and you cannot train for emotional intelligence. Of course one should try to sharpen existing levels of all these qualities; but if you excuse a weak attitude/personality at the interview then you will have a full time job repairing poor hiring decisions.
Worse, if after the hire you avoid the now-problem employee, you will soon have a miasmic pool of legacy employees dedicated to undermining every change initiative and improvement, and let’s not forget, chasing off your star employee, your “Mr. Good”, the kind of person that “will always open a door for you.”
I have long thought that the person that makes the feckless decision to hire a “Mr. Grumpy” or a “Mr. Fussy” or a “Little Miss Splendid” should be counseled not to do it again.
In last week’s class on the Democratic Workplace, I talked about various theories of followership, of conflict resolution, of likeability. Each set of theories charts “types” to raise our awareness of the people surrounding us at work. Are we a Sheep, a Star, or a Yes Man? Or, a Survivor?
Do we resolve conflict through collaborating, compromising or by running away?
Mr. Men characters are not exactly The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)! Nor are they like any other of the swarm of personality tests, all promising to separate winners from losers.
But, the testing industry should take notice. Results at Timpson seem mighty good: an innovative organization, strong return on investment, and considerable freedom for each worker.
I’ve taken the MBTI more than once; but I can never recall my “type”. – that alone must indicate a personality flaw!
One friend who swears by the MBTI and can recite the long list of characteristics for each type and who to mix with whom on task forces.
Another friend was able to score the “type” his boss wanted. In other words, he gamed the personality test.
In any case, the MBTI lumbers on. I suspect using the Mr. Men/Ms.Little characters may be quicker and more effective in identifying the people you want to work with.

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Caption: Mr. Fussy dusting flowers.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Aesop’s “MERCURY AND THE SCULPTOR”

Posted by jlubans on April 27, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: “Hold that pose!” Sculpture by Giambologna 1529 – 1608.

“Mercury was very anxious to know in what estimation he was held by mankind; so he disguised himself as a man and walked into a Sculptor's studio, where there were a number of statues finished and ready for sale. Seeing a statue of Jupiter among the rest, he inquired the price of it. ‘A crown,’ said the Sculptor. ‘Is that all?’ said he, laughing; ‘and’ (pointing to one of Juno) ‘how much is that one?’ ‘That,’ was the reply, ‘is half a crown.’ ‘And how much might you be wanting for that one over there, now?’ he continued, pointing to a statue of himself. ‘That one?’ said the Sculptor; ‘Oh, I'll throw him in for nothing if you'll buy the other two.’"
________________
One translator added this epimythium: “This fable can be used for a conceited man who is not esteemed in any way by other people.”
Poor Mercury, the joke’s on him. The messenger of the gods appears to suffer from an inferiority complex.
The sculptor does not help, heaping on him yet another indignity. And so it may be for all of us who are messengers, the seconds-in-command, the deputies, the associates, and the assistants. If you have Mercury’s ego, you may want to go independent, say start your own wireless radio company! If that’s already been done, well then how about a telepathy company? But, there’s always a but, that would take you out of the middle. Maybe just get back on your bike and deliver those parcels.

*Source: AESOP’S FABLES A NEW TRANSLATION BY V. S. VERNON JONES WITH AN INTRODUCTION By G. K. CHESTERTON AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR RACKHAM (Publisher: London: W. Heinemann; New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912). Available at Gutenberg.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Dispatch from the “Slough of Despond” Known as Economy Plus

Posted by jlubans on April 24, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: At less than a penny a mile, I knew what to expect when I traveled on Guatemala's Blue Bird busses.

A couple days before I posted about dis-service (most of it was drafted in a fitful doze on board a United/SAS flight on March 29) there came news of the April 9th arrest and physical removal of a United passenger. And, as I write this, there’s another incident in San Francisco of an American Airline’s employee losing it over a baby pram, offering to do battle, "Hit me! Come on, bring it on!"
Such behavior, I think, is all too predictable. It’s what happens when service is depreciated to not just the economic “bitter spot”* but to the “breaking point”.
A steady degrading of the customer’s value will lead to bad behavior among all involved.
It is surprising violence does not break out more often, although some say it does – not physical violence, but there are reports of agitated customers letting off steam, not just drunks but regular people. Many suffer in silence.
When an airline (or any organization) denigrates its service, the staff become passive/aggressive while customers become aggressive.
What do you think that lady is doing trying to stuff an enormous suitcase into an all ready full-to-bursting overhead bin? No one can get past her and the flight sits.
On our March 29 transatlantic leg on an already 4-hour delayed SAS flight, one woman insisted she was entitled to all five seats in the middle row in Economy Plus because she could not upgrade to the slab seating in first class.
My wife had a sore knee and had moved directly across to that row’s empty aisle seat; the women - stretched out across four seats - kept nudging her with her feet.
No flight attendant intervened until my wife moved to one of many vacant seats a few rows up in business class. Gotcha! An eagle-eyed attendant swooped down on her and ordered her back to Economy Plus.
We all have war stories.
But, I digress.
It was interesting to see the furor over the dragged-off passenger and subsequent responses from management consultants as to what should have been done, what could have been done, and what he or she would have done. Few see any of this as a corporate leadership failure. At least one speculated that if United’s so-called “core values” had been invoked the incident would never have happened.
I have no quarrel with the economic evidence that we consumers will put up with shabby service for a low price – even a 10% reduction will prompt us to buy a ticket on an airline we swore never to fly on again!
Yes, I will pay out hundreds of dollars and put up silently with Draconian seats, no complimentary food or drinks, harried and overburdened attendants, and embittered fellow passengers, as long as I get where I want to go in a decent amount of time.
United’s core values, as claimed by one writer, are the following**:
“Warm and welcoming is who we are;
We make decisions with facts and empathy;
We earn trust by doing things the right way.”
I have rarely seen these alleged core values in practice. Indeed, just the opposite:
Cool and distant is who we are;
We make decisions based solely on profit;
We earn dis-trust by doing things the wrong way
How do you think that happens? What makes decent people, like United employees, become more like abusive traffic cops and passengers more like sullen prison inmates?
What happened on United (and American) is exactly what their corporate practices lead to. Corporate practice trumps any core values however high falutin’.
Just like when the former head of Wells Fargo Bank unctuously declared how wonderful their historic core values were and how splendid their leadership was (of course, led by him).
All the while, senior W-F leaders were pressuring junior staff to sign people up, without permission, for bogus accounts. And, when the juniors resisted, they were tossed aside.
Treat people shabbily, rudely, then forget your declared core values. This applies to any organization, including not for profits, like higher education. The more you pervert your stated values, the more ludicrous and hypocritical you appear.
_______________________
* The bitter spot is not the “sweet spot”, that happy intersection of profitability and excellent customer service. Rather, the bitter spot is the “price point” and intersection at which a disgruntled customer is dissatisfied but not enough to go to a competitor. The underlying rationale being that a “low” price goes hand in hand with minimal or bad service. In other words, comfort and good service are not to be expected, they must be bought. Consider the psychological inhibitions of that last item on service-minded staff.

** I was not able to find these core values on the United web site. Instead there is a list of actions under the heading,
“Our United Customer Commitment.”
“We are committed to providing a level of service to our customers that makes us a leader in the airline industry. We understand that to do this we need to have a product we are proud of and employees who like coming to work every day.” (Emphasis added.)
Advise about lowest available fares

Notify customers of known delays, cancellations and
Deliver baggage on time

Etc.”
If they really believe their standard of service needs be that of the “airline industry” then they have a very low standard to meet. How about changing the “airline industry” to the “hospitality industry”?

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Lubans’ The Cat, the Man, and the Flying Sausages

Posted by jlubans on April 21, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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A repeat from 2015:
Once upon a time, a hungry man went to the store. He looked and looked – he was a fussy shopper. He picked a big package of sausages because it looked the best of all; it had happy faces on the wrapper that was in colors of gold and green. I said he was a fussy shopper not a smart one.
Well, after frying up a few, he put the rest away in the fridge. The sausages tasted terrible and looked even worse when cooked, all curled up like mottled intestines.
But, whenever he went to the refrigerator, he wondered what to do with those disgusting sausages? Being frugal, of necessity, he could not bring himself to throw them away. When he offered them to his neighbor, she took a look and emphatically shook her head. No, thank you!
One day, looking out the kitchen window of his third floor apartment, he saw a raggedy white cat in the enclosed yard down below, a yard full of weeds and dandelions.
Aha! he thought, I bet that cat would like a sausage. So he tossed one out. Thirty minutes later, the sausage was gone –the cat must have scarfed it up. So, he tossed a sausage out the window each day until they were all gone. The man was happy.
The next day, he heard meowing below. The cat looked up at the man in the window, as if saying, “Where’s my sausage?”
So the man went to the store and bought more sausages. Each day he would throw out a sausage. Those flying sausages, the man thought, must be like manna from heaven.
The man had very little money and soon it was all gone, spent on sausages. He could no longer buy food for himself. He died.
The cat, also died. Not from hunger, but from over-eating.
In heaven, when they bumped into each other, the cat reproached the old man. “You are a kind man, but I have to tell you those were the worst sausages I have ever eaten. I only ate them because I like a tidy yard – after all it is where I live and hunt, under the vines up against the walls. I did not want the yard full of foul smelling sausages. When I meowed up at you that one day it was to tell you to quit tossing those damn sausages into the yard!”
The man was abjectly sorry. The cat flicked his tail, as cats will do, and went his way.

So think twice, my listeners, maybe try an ounce before buying a pound.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.


© John Lubans 2017

“A Captain Since Kindergarten”

Posted by jlubans on April 18, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: In the bow, the young Andris Vilks "steering".

The announcement of an architectural award* for the new National Library of Library has me reviewing my year-old notes of several interviews with the Library’s Director, Andris Vilks.
Since I am neither a biographer nor an historian, I've been struggling with how to begin my essay on Andris Vilks and his leadership.
I interviewed him initially in 2011 on a visit to his office in the old National Library building in downtown Riga. I well remember that interview: still recovering from the post 2008 economic meltdown, especially in Latvia, there was little heat and most of the lights were turned off to save energy.
Picking up these early threads, I met with him several times in 2016 when I was back teaching in Riga.
I’ve decided to do the Andris Vilks essay in three phases: Formation, Application, and Future. Today’s blog is the formation of his leadership, mentioning influences from childhood to young adulthood.
My first question – How would you characterize your leaderships? A king and his court, a father and his family, a leader and his team? - prompted Andris to show me a picture from his youth (depicted). He is the Captain of a land-locked boat. He sits in the very bow, (looking toward the camera) while "steering", directly next to a cute little blonde.
It is his first captaincy, a job for which he has "never fought", but one that comes to him.
A basketball player for much of his life, he was, invariably each team’s captain.
“I was not the best player, some were smarter, more knowledgeable. I liked to play; so (it was) important to be on field with other players, so I don’t want to be a coach. I want to be on the field and to play”
Being captain, “I took on responsibility for the team.” And that meant normalizing the team through “demonstrating your enthusiasm” to others. It takes an attitude, “I never like losing”, and “I never give up.”
“As captain, I talked about motivators not so much techniques – to individuals.” Andris’ best friend – a “better player” - wanted to quit the team but he recruited him back. “We needed him.”
Another influence shaping his leadership were the values of his paternal grandmother. She cared for him and he lived with her in a one room apartment until his marriage. (His parents split up when he was 8. His father died, his mother re-married and started a new family, turning away from Andris.) When Andris says he had a “difficult childhood”, I think this is an understatment.
“(His grandmother) worked very hard, was very honest and was very friendly with everybody … she worked (her) whole life.”
“She was very important to my life, always spoke of (an) independent Latvia, told me everything about Latvian history, the Stalin period, occupation, and the prior free Latvia. At 11 years, I understood what was going on in Prague.”
“I was ready for (a) free Latvia.”
He recalled another formative incident from his school days. It was 1968, a time when one had to be careful with saying anything other than what was expected of all good citizens of the Soviet Union.
Andris’ teacher asked the class for the date for celebrating the “Great October Socialist Revolution”. Andris responded “November 18”; a politically incorrect answer because that date, in 1918, was the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia, its first true Independence.
The date the teacher was fishing for was “November 7.
Subsequently, he was informed upon by one of his classmates (Andris knows the name) and was hauled up before a board and castigated, just short of expulsion.
“From that moment,” Andris told me, “I was against the Soviet Union and I began a passive resistance to the Soviet way.” While an adolescent, he understood very clearly what had been done to him; dissent – in any form and at any time – was a punishable offense.
Finally, Andris spoke highly of a professional mentor, Aleksejs Apīnis,
the head of the Library’s Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts, with whom he worked 1978-1986.
Mr. Apīnis was Andris’ “first principal, teacher, and first chief. “Without him I’d never have become what I am.”
“He treated people well – he had the same attitude toward everyone. (He was a) “very strong researcher, good professor, lecturer, (and) manager.
“He was very modest; avoided media interviews, rejected prizes, rejected communist awards.”
“Now, I teach management (at the University of Latvia) and I see (best practices for leaders and managers) in textbooks – but he (Apīnis) knew before textbook.”

Next: Application. How influences from his early years shaped his leadership and management today with a comment from an American peer, Mara Saule, Dean of Library & Information Services, University of Vermont.

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*The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA) have selected the National Library of Latvia as one of 8 recipients of the 2017 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards. Gunnar Birkerts Architects + Gelzis-Smits/Arhetips.

In 2013 I posted on the tree-topping ceremony for the national library.

And, in 2014, I posted on the “Friends of the Library Book Chain” as hundreds of participants throughout the day transported books, from hand to hand, from the old library to the new through the old town, across the river, and through the doors of the new building on a bitterly cold January 18.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($15.00) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.00). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.


© Copyright John Lubans 2017

Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE GRANDEE”*

Posted by jlubans on April 14, 2017  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Ivan Krylov (1769 – 1844)

“ONCE, in the days of old, a certain Grandee passed from his richly dight (clothed) bed into the realm which Pluto sways. To speak more simply, he died. And so, as was anciently the custom, he appeared before the justice-seat of Hades.
Straightway he was asked, ‘Where were you born? What have you been?’
‘I was born in Persia, and my rank was that of a Satrap. But, as my health was feeble during my lifetime, I never exercised any personal control in my province, but left everything to be done by my secretary.’
‘But you—what did you do?’
‘I ate, drank, and slept; and I signed everything he set before me.’
‘In with him, then, at once into Paradise!’
‘How now! Where is the justice of this?’ thereupon exclaimed Mercury, forgetting all politeness.
‘Ah, brother,’ answered Eacus, ‘you know nothing about it. But don't you see this? The dead man was a fool. What would have happened if he, who had such роwer in his hands, had unfortunately interfered in business? Why, he would have ruined the whole province. The tears which would have flowed then would have been beyond all calculation. Therefore it is that he has gone into Paradise, because he did not interfere with business.’
“I was in court yesterday, and I saw a judge there. There can be no doubt that he will go into Paradise.”

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This was, history tells us, one of Krylov’s most censored fables. The censorship is understandable since it takes to task people who, empowered, do “nothing” – they loll around like the satrap - letting others do the doing. Imagine the many “do nothing” among the royalty who would not like being “outed” as incompetent.
The Czar was at an event and heard Krylov read this unpublished fable. He “took him in his arms, kissed him, and said, "Write away, old man, write away." End of the censorship.
After that episode, it is said Krylov’s career pretty much went into hibernation; he rested on his laurels.
Sometimes at work having a boss who gives you freedom to make decisions – which he or she signs off on – can be a pretty good deal for both of you. The work gets done, the boss ultimately protects you and you gain a considerable freedom to carry out your ideas.

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

© Copyright John Lubans 2017