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

ONCE upon a time in the city of Varna, there lived a Brahmin whose name was Deva Sarman.
At the Equinoctial Feast of the Dussara he received the gift of a dish of flour, which he took with him to a Potter's shed; and there he lay down in the shade, staff in hand, among the pots.
As he thus reclined he began to meditate after the following fashion:
“I can sell this flour for at least ten Cowrie-shells, and with them I can purchase some of these pots and sell them at a profit.
With all that money I can buy a stock of betel-nuts and body-cloths and make a new profit by selling them; and so I can go on buying and trading until I get a Lakh** of Rupees—what's to prevent me?
Then I shall marry four young wives—at least, one of them shall be both young and beautiful, and she shall be my favourite.
Of course the other three will be jealous; but if they quarrel and talk too much and make themselves troublesome, I shall beat them like this—and this—and this—“
And so saying, he flourished his staff with such vigour that he not only smashed his own meal-dish, but also broke several of the Potter's jars. The Potter, rushing in, caught him by the throat and threw him out of the shed, and so ended the Brahmin's dreams of a Lakh of Rupees.

Who, e'er he makes a gain has spent it.
Like the Pot-breaker, will repent it.
My first boss used to say,
“There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.” The Brahmin’s dreams come up empty.
Is his loss a form of karma for greedy dreams or is this always the outcome for he who counts his chickens before they are hatched?
OK, enough of the childhood clichés.
Serves him right for his wife-beating. Had he written Dear Abby he might still have his dish of flour.

*Source: Hitopadeqa. Book IV. Fable 7. Adapted from the translation by Sir Edwin Arnold included in Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

** Google says one lakh Indian rupees is worth about $1,500 USD.


Posted by jlubans on April 16, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Black-figure amphora ca. 6th BCE.

How Boastfulness may sometimes be checked.

A Philosopher chancing to find the Victor in a gymnastic contest too fond of boasting, asked him whether his adversary had been the stronger man.
To this the other replied: “Don’t mention it; my strength was far greater.”
“Then, you simpleton,” retorted the Philosopher, “what praise do you deserve, if you, being the stronger, have conquered one who was not so powerful?
You might perhaps have been tolerated if you had told us that you had conquered one who was your superior in strength.”
Like Krylov’s nightingale who bashes the aspiring yet toneless musicians, or Aesop’s harsh criticism of an ego-tripping writer, Phaedrus tells what to say to the braggadocios among us: If you are so great, how can you revel in a victory over someone weaker?
Good point.
I recall, after leading an organization out of its basement ranking to the top ranking among its peers, asking, Who’s the competition?
While we’d done a good job, the answer to that question was to remind me that anyone could have done so. We were fortunate in being given freedom to innovate, to repurpose resources, and to cut red tape.
We’d stormed the hill; the mountains, the real challenges, lay ahead.


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

From Riga: Teaching Leadership & Literature

Posted by jlubans on April 08, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Barefoot Rainis. Look carefully, past BIG Rainis, down the slope in the background, is little Rainis. Big Rainis is about 12 feet tall (4 meters) Little R, under 5’. Big Rainis looks skyward unconcerned of those many taking selfies. Little R, when you are seated next to him, looks disconcertingly into your eyes, wondering who you are and why you are here.
(Photo by Viktorija Moskina.)

On the road again, I am for the next few months in Riga, Latvia. What takes me here? A Fulbright award to teach a short class on leadership concepts and theories at the University of Latvia.
I’ve puzzled on the topic. First, I’d use my Fables for Leaders book and we’d have long discussions about the morals and points of these ancient and modern stories.
But, I began to worry – could we really spend 3 hours (the length of each class) in discussion of a book?
Perhaps another book, but not mine.
I began to revise the original idea, now months back. Un-jelled, each class will change a bit but I think I have got something to run with.
Here’s what’s become clear as a basis for the L&L class:
- Literary and cultural examples of leadership and leadership qualities. In literature, I've included a variety of the other arts.
- How culture (including art and music and politics) affects leaders and followers and vice versa. It’s a two way process; bounded by culture we take from it and we give to it.
- On occasion, I’ll take a separate track and elaborate, briefly, on the prescriptive theories of leadership, management and organizational behavior. This separate track is independent of art, culture and literature. In other words the fodder of management. We’ll add some mustard with paradoxical questions.
- A new twist: hearing from Latvian leaders and artists and their experiences; their use of metaphors, legends, philosophy, and inherited values to influence culture. We’ll consider what it means to act heroically.
- Finally, I’ve added something I call “Artistic Insights”. We’ll step aside to view a propaganda film from 1977 about a successful manager of a Soviet era farm collective: we’ll wonder what Tom T. Hall means when he demands, “Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs?” and, we’ll discuss the meaning of a Latvian pop singer’s take about a national leader/hero, the Poet Laureate, Rainis (pictured).
My first class was last week. Twenty bright students, all with good English and interest in the topic. My next class is this week. I keep revising.
My book, “Fables for Leaders”, is only a click away:

And, my 2010 book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019