Musical Democracy: “Say(ing) No a Lot”

Posted by jlubans on January 30, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: R.E.M. (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills), looking askance at lead rocker Homer Simpson

A rocker’s guide to management” is a lengthy and engaging exploration of how rock bands - known more for debauchery than strategic planning - run their businesses or not. The author found four models:
Friends (“We can work it out”)
Autocracies (“I won’t back down”)
Democracies (“Everybody hurts”)
Frenemies (“It’s only rock ’n’ roll”)
How effective are these models? On a yardstick of years together or longevity (and financial success), it appears that the democratic model has a good record, perhaps better than the other three.
But, the author seems to favor the Rolling Stones’ model (it’s only business) since they are still making money and still together, however spuriously and speciously. How many more times is Keith going to fall out of a tree before hanging it up?
A highly autocratic example, Bruce Springsteen and his E Street band have done well and have stayed together. Bruce, a top-downer, says the longevity is because he is the boss, capiche?
Steve Jobs, it is said, rescued Apple, singlehandedly and autocratically.
Yet, many top down organizations collapse or fare poorly because the boss micromanages and may be a bit of a jerk. Some top-downers resent strong followers and prefer Yes-men or Sheep. The more of the latter types, the less innovation or anticipation of trends, the less energy to improve.
How many micro-managers have I known? Many and in my traditional field of work a few were exalted – if you do not count unrealized hopes and dreams - as having leadership qualities which in truth they never had.
There are forces at play with any group of people working together or with any way they choose or not to organize.
Take the Open Systems model with it inputs and outputs and equilibrium and entropy – the flying apart of the organization as it winds down to its inevitable dissolution.
Think Apple will be here forever? Think Facebook or Twitter will? Likely not.
Group theory purports that human groups go through phases of development: form, storm, norm and perform and finally, to adjourn.
Yes, all groups go through the development steps but there are variations at each step and we do not know outcomes: good, better, best or indifferent?
I’ve long held that the more a group evades “storming” – confronting openly the fears and reservations of each member - the less likely you will be able to trust each other and become high performing.
If you look at group development as a sigmoid curve, you would see that while all groups have a growth curve, many curves are mighty shallow while a few, magically, live large.
Some garage bands stay in the garage, only called out for the local July 4th fest.
We’re told that “… R.E.M. operated as an Athenian democracy.” Albeit a tiny one with four founders/principals and then, after 1997, only 3.
In any case, “They all had equal say. There was no pecking order.” This was not majority rule: “Everyone had a veto, which meant everyone had to buy into every decision, business or art. They hashed things out until they reached a consensus. And they said ‘No’ a lot.”
Money talks: R.E.M.’s flat governance structure was an egalitarian economic one. “There were very simple rules: you share all your publishing ($) and you don't fight about petty things and it's democratic. Everybody gets a veto vote, not just the singer."
In other words, R.E.M. put into effect the wishful notion “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Eccentric or overly idealistic? Not for this band. In 2011, R.E.M made the group decision that it was time to stop touring and making records; yet it lives on, and the members remain friends.
Give the democratic workplace a try.

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My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:


Also, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Phaedrus' “THE WOMAN IN LABOUR”*

Posted by jlubans on January 23, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

No one returns with good will to the place which has done him a mischief.
Her months completed, a Woman in labour lay upon the ground, uttering woeful moans.
Her Husband entreated her to lay her body on the bed, where she might with more ease deposit her ripe burden.
“I feel far from confident,” said she, “that my pains can end in the place where they originated.”
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Alas, this one did not make it into the Children's Classics of Aesop’s Fables by L'Estrange (1692) more recently published by Knopf in a beautiful hard cover series, the Everyman’s Library.
Imagine the titters from the little ones had it been included, as several rather outré ones were.
For example, there’s L'Estrange’s “JUPITER AND MODESTY” which speaks of “ carnal love” and, his AN APE “(bare-arse”) AND A FOX
Last but not least, there's the pissing donkeys fable certain to prompt a wave of giggling in the nursery?
I can relate to the promythium moral, “one does not return with good will to the place which has done him a mischief”.
An institution with which I parted ways, involuntarily, did not see me back for 15 years and then only because one of my students arranged a tour. I went for an hour and that was the end of it.
While nothing like giving birth, some say getting the boot at work stays with you for a long, long time with nothing to show for it, unlike a sweet, darling child.

*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019


How Jerks Happen

Posted by jlubans on January 18, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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While working on my Fulbright sponsored class, Literature and Leadership, I came across an intriguing essay,
The Dark Triad and the Evolution of Jerks
The author, a psychology professor, wonders how jerks thrive.
Most of us, perhaps up to 90%, try to live our lives according to the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. When attacked, we are cautioned to “turn the other cheek”.
So, how do we get jerks, those habitués of the Dark Triad?
The class will make use of my book, Fables for Leaders. As fables go, many are stories about jerks and offer examples and advice.
For example, there’s the fable of "The Travelers and the Purse"
in which one of the two travelers claims full ownership of money the two find on the road, (my good fortune, not our good fortune). When threatened by an approaching posse, the jerk reneges on his claim of exclusive ownership.
And there’s, “A Hedge-hog and a Snake”, about an unwanted guest who ousts the hospitable Hedge-hog from his nest.
Even better, there's Aesop and the Stone in which an injured Aesop tricks the perp into a much graver folly, likely leading to his death.
And, finally, there’s
The Weeping Man and the Birds” about how a man who “weeps” crocodile tears while slaughtering birds for the cooking pot.
Here’s what’s in the Dark Triad: “Narcissism (an excessive focus on oneself), Machiavellianism (manipulating others for one’s own gain), and psychopathy (an overall disregard for others).”
Looking for more information about the dark triad, I discovered that there are tests you can take to find out if you are one of them. Please note that I question the credibility of these tests. Who –when kindness and cooperation are what set most humans apart from other living creatures - would agree with any of these following beliefs/behaviors?
It's true that I can be mean to others.
I know that I am special because everyone keeps telling me so.
Most people can be manipulated.
Hurting people would be exciting.
I enjoy having sex with people I hardly know.
Payback needs to be quick and nasty (see above, "Aesop and the Stone").
I like to get revenge on authorities.
I’ll say anything to get what I want.
Make sure your plans benefit you not others.

If you strongly concur with these statements, then you are probably reading this in a jail cell or lolling in the lap of luxury as the jefe of a drug gang.
Or, if you have more than an occasional lapse or two (“To err is human”, after all), and routinely apply these behaviors to get ahead at work, you are more than likely One Big Fat Jerk (OBFJ) a new type for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator!
So, if most of us value kindness and cooperation, how does the dark side thrive?
Well, according to research, unkind people adapt and use trickery to make gains and to survive against the kind folks they encounter and abuse.
Is it nature or nurture one might ask? Do big jerks beget little jerks?
Some of the dark behavior is what it takes to survive under bad conditions. And one might ask realistically, if it is permissible to fight a jerk with jerk behaviors? That question should make for some interesting class discussion about effective leadership and followership.

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My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Phaedrus’ Fable X. OF THE VICES OF MEN*

Posted by jlubans on January 04, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Jupiter has loaded us with a couple of Wallets: the one, filled with our own vices, he has placed at our backs, the other, heavy with those of others, he has hung before.

From this circumstance, we are not able to see our own faults: but as soon as others make a slip, we are ready to censure.

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This quintessential fable also appears on p. 74 in my “Fables for Leaders” as Jupiter and the Two Sacks.
If there ever was a must-read fable for leaders it is this one.
Our willingness to blame others instead of ourselves was observed millennia ago. The flaw is nothing new. If noted, it was not revealed by Freud, Psychology Today or Dr. Phil.
In a very few words, Aesop/Phaedrus show us man’s seeming inability to look beyond self and “to walk in another person’s moccasins”. A bit of Native American wisdom, there, at the end.
Yet, in corporate suites and the cubicles of the not-for-profit the annual ritual of performance appraisal is celebrated by the master over the servant.
Far better to have a humble conversation on one’s dreams and aspirations than to seek to reduce an individual to a decimal or letter of the alphabet.

*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.


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Caption: Maybe Phaedrus, more likely Aesop.

**Who was Phaedrus?
Gaius Julius Phaedrus was born BC 15 and died AD 50 in Italy. Born a slave, he became a free man in the Emperor Augustus household and was educated in Greek and Latin authors.
He enlarged upon the Aesopic tradition and invented fables of his own
He did much to promote the fable literature, achieving a great popularity, we are told, in the Middle Ages.

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My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019