Tuesday, August 31, 2004

New Zealand News - NZ - Auckland mayoral contest shapes as a two-horse race

This story doesn't surprise me one bit. Everyone knows what Dick Hubbard stands for, and he has a good image, so of course people will choose him. He's also never been a politician, which will also make him more popular.

Interestingly, Hubbard hasn't used any billboards. He doesn't need to. All the other candidates have billboards, but I noticed that none of them really say anything about ... anything!

The other day I noticed that the billboard for candidate Bruce Hucker had been.. um.. adjusted so "Hucker" said something else (not Sucker).

As a good citizen I wanted to contact the campaign so they could repair it. But the billboard has no contact details. So I Googled - and found a special website had been set up especially for the campaign. Why isn't this website address on the billboard?

It's time political candidates took a few lessons from the world of branding - you've got to stand for something, and you've got to have a call for action (and no, "vote" is not the logical next step if your prospect knows nothing about you.)

I hope Dick Hubbard becomes mayor. I've had the pleasure of meeting him once, and he is every bit the gentleman that his image says he is.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ever heard of Mo Ostin? His ignorance was his genius

Mos Ostin was the guy who ran Frank Sinatra's record label Reprise in the early 1960s.

In 1963 Reprise was bought out by a film company that was branching out (again) into the record business: Warner Bros. Ostin thought he'd be a casualty of the merger, but found himself to be an essential part of the Warner/Reprise combo.

Ostin was anything but a rocker. He had built what Jerry Wexler called "possibly the most tasteful and commercial record lable of its day." He also signed up far-out rock acts like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Tiny Tim and The Kinks.

How did old-school Mo have the ear to pick such winners? He didn't. A workmate, Stan Cornyn, described Mo like this:

"He attended few record sessions, and even when he did, never leaned over the engineer's shoulder to suggest a thing. He never partied 'til four. He took no drugs. He didn't dance, couldn't even hop well."

So how did he pick bestsellers who were "on the edge" for their time? He asked people. Stan continues:

"With a growing appetite for individuality, Mo began stunning us with side-of-the-ditchers like the Fugs, Tiny Tim, Zappa, the Kinks, Hendrix, what is this stuff, Mo? ... Mo's signings took on the courage of a believer, often like Galileo in Rome, when no one could understand it. Mo sought the dedicated, non-usual artist. Not only that, he stuck with the ones he signed ... Mo's Warner/Reprise became a Field of Dreams, whose motto read 'If you let them play their music, the people will come...'"

Stan really nails it at the end of this, his programme copy for Mo Ostin's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

"Other record companies didn't catch on. They thought this odd music was noise. Mo knew better. If he could not understand what he heard, he'd listen more, and ask more people."

That's the key. Know what you don't know!

There are plenty more stories like this in Where Have All the Good Times Gone by Louis Barfe, a very entertaining, interesting read if you want to know anything about the music business, business in general, people, history or Thomas Edison. It's a big book, but unlike other big books I've taken on, I actually want to finish it and I won't stop until I have (honest!).

Monday, August 23, 2004

Some marvellous quotes

Thanks to Mike's Funnies for these - some gems of profundity in amongst the funny stuff.


May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house. -- George Carlin

Love your enemies; it will drive them nuts. -- Eleanor Doan

Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove.-- Ashleigh Brilliant

Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today? 1. Writing his memoirs of the Civil War. 2. Advising the President. 3. Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin.-- David Letterman

For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.-- Johnny Carson

A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular in what's left of your unit. -- In the August 1993 issue, page 9, of PS magazine, the Army's magazine of preventive maintenance

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. -- Plutarch

The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad. -- Salvador Dali

Sacred cows make the best hamburger.-- Mark Twain

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."-- Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" [Charles Schulz]

Calvin: People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.
Hobbes: Isn't your pants' zipper supposed to be in the front?

I think animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.-- A Bit of Fry and Laurie

What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.-- Richard Harkness, The New York Times, 1960

My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right. -- Ashleigh Brilliant

Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world.-- Dave Barry

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants. -- A. Whitney Brown

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.-- William James

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it--and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.-- Mark Twain

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.-- F.P. Jones

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.-- Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

I think that all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I'm certainly not! But I'm sick and tired of being told that I am!-- Monty Python

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.--Helen Keller

(Love that last one - SY)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Slightly off-topic, but here's an example of leadership

Jack Yan is a friend of mine whom I met on the New Zealand discussion group. Like all kiwis he's quite understated in his way of doing things, but at the tender age of ... can't remember exactly, but early 30s ... he has grown a global, virtual business embracing the best practices of tomorrow.

While Jack Yan & Associates could be described as a global empire, it bears little resemblence to the "empire" part save in its scope. Jack's management style is one of partnership, where the people and companies he works with truly are "associates" in the best possible sense of the word.

Anyway the reason for this post is the long-awaited launch of the print version of Jack's online magazine, Lucire. Well, it's more than "Jack's Magazine" but he had a lot to do with it, y'know.

Here's the press release about it I received today:

Fashion monthly Lucire, ‘designed for agencies’, nears launch

Wellington and Auckland, August 23 (JY&A Media) On October 4, 2004, New Zealand’s first fashion monthly, Lucire, will appear on newsstands across the country. It has spawned from the world’s most successful online-only fashion title, which began in New Zealand in 1997 and claims upwards of 40,000 readers a week.

From the start, publisher Jack Yan had sought input from advertising agencies and media buyers, which helped the magazine decide on its 235 by 335 mm format, 20,000 initial run and monthly frequency.

‘I attended a meeting with a major agency in January, going in thinking we would do a quarterly. I was convinced that to provide a real alternative to Fashion Quarterly, we would have to provide advertisers with a premium-positioned monthly,’ he recalled.

‘Since we have the regular content and the country’s largest international network of fashion correspondents from our web site, I didn’t see a problem.’

Market research at Lucire had already shown consumers favoured the larger 235 by 335 mm format, similar to Urbis, over a standard A4.

The green light was given in November 2003, in the wake of the magazine’s successful L’Oréal New Zealand Fashion Week guide, distributed as an “ebook”.

On December 5, 2003, Mr Yan contacted a major advertising agency with which he had been discussing another matter, to see if Lucire could fill the gap left by Fairfax’s cancellation of Style.

By the end of January 2004, he claimed that the magazine had become ‘New Zealand fashion’s worst-kept secret,’ after convincing numerous leading players in the industry that the magazine would proceed.

Overcoming doubts
Despite publishing for 10 years online and with experience with some print contract publications, Mr Yan said he faced some doubts from those less acquainted with Lucire and the internet medium.

‘Some did not believe that New Zealand fashion could be reported as part of a global society. Others did not believe that web publishing was “credible”, even though we held the highest standards on the internet, from copyright management to a strict adherence to Hart’s Rules,’ he said.

Therefore, two prototypes of the print issue were produced. These hard copies—Mr Yan argues that they are not ‘dummies’ as they contain full, original content over their 108 pages—demonstrated that the magazine had the capability to take its international formula into print, overcoming the seasonal issue by careful trends’ coverage.

Five copies of each were digitally printed and hand-bound, and used by distributors, agencies and Lucire’s own staff. They were also made available to the public via Lucire’s web site at www.lucire.com, which has a huge following overseas (95 per cent of its audience is offshore). The public could download the May and August 2004 issues as PDFs to critique on them.

Feedback, according to Mr Yan, was ‘phenomenal’.

‘We made mistakes on the May 2004 issue, such as having too dull a cover. We learned about scheduling and we identified the bottlenecks.

‘But the public was thrilled with the look, the writing style and the international slant to the content—and that included New Zealanders who were happy, for once, to see New Zealand fashion covered in the context of a global society, not an isolated country,’ he said.

The August 2004 issue, now available at www.lucire.com/2004a/0726ll0.shtml, and in full for agencies at www.lucire.net/images/0408-lucire.pdf (7 Mbyte), received even greater acclaim. Comments on the Lucire StyleTalk forum indicates great anticipation for a US edition, which Mr Yan has promised for ‘a September 2005 launch at the earliest or a February 2006 launch.’

Mr Yan said one of the concerns he heard from the advertising community and its clients was that many wanted to see a magazine ‘evolve’ before committing. He claims that the two prototypes take care of that, so that the November issue, out October 4, will already be ‘evolved’.

He does admit that by showing his cards with the May and August issues, he has given some of the formula away to his competitors, but it is part of the transparency he wished to achieve.

One public comment from an American reader stated, ‘I love the fact that it's a global magazine for the global girl. I love the tone—it's conversational without being too casual. It's the perfect mix of Jane and Vogue. And I really love the lifestyle section, with the travel reviews. … I could go on and on. The layouts are terrific—minimalist but not bland. It has quite a European feel, but with a touch of the States thrown in somehow. I will just end by saying that this could very well be my new favorite magazine.’

Intelligent and independent
Mr Yan has insisted that the magazine speak to all women intelligently and independently—something that the web site has always done, and which the prototypes have followed. Therefore, it declines to publish puff pieces, which has earned the web site tremendous respect in New York and other centres.

To continue that formula, he insisted that he would not choose “name” editors, though a few “name” photographers work on the title, such as Metro Young Photographer of the Year 2003 Amanda Dorcil.

Nicola Brockie, a former make-up artist who has the distinction of being Dodi Al Fayed’s last personal assistant, edits the title, after being promoted from Australasian beauty editor.

Miss Brockie ‘fitted into the demographic and psychographic: a well-travelled young woman with an international mindset,’ said Mr Yan.

The magazine’s US beauty editor, Stevie Wilson, has been appointed its chief American editor.

The launch issue will feature fashion week previews from San Francisco and Stockholm (where Lucire is a media partner), Australia, New Zealand and New York. There will be exclusive sketches from designers that preview their collections, an unprecedented step for some of them. Money will be donated to plant new trees in an attempt to neutralize the carbon dioxide emissions generated in production.

Publicity seekers

Publicity for the title will include flights on radio and extensive PR, with Mr Yan believing that saturation would go against the Lucire brand which tends to be more ‘for the cognoscenti.’

Lucire’s print plans were already covered in the American fashion trade "bible" Women’s Wear Daily in June.

Press coverage on three network television shows has been scheduled, and confirmed in Australian monthly Desktop.

The October 4 launch in Auckland, called the Lucire Luxe Lounge, is being held with support from L’Oréal Paris and Lancôme, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Sarah Priddy Nails, Christina Fitzgerald, Giltrap Mercedes-Benz, SugarBaby and Dencium Compri, and will be MCed by Miss World New Zealand Amber Peebles. Guests expected include Alison Mau, Erika Takacs, Wendy Petrie, Hilary Timmins and local Miss World licensee Marina McCartney.

IMD is handling distribution. Australia will begin getting copies in November and bespoke foreign editions will begin appearing next year, said Mr Yan.

Flagship printer Format is printing, using the Spekta screening method to provide the magazine’s pages with greater depth. A gloss stock is used throughout, including a gloss seal on the cover. The first issue is being printed in Auckland; the second issue is on an eight-colour Heidelberg press in Wellington.

Lucire appears on newsstands on the first Monday of every month from October.

JY&A Media <http://jyanet.com/media/>Creating digital media since 1994

How do your peers perceive you?

Leadership through a follower's eyes: Inessa Armand on Vladmimir Ilyich Lenin

Truly effective leaders have a tendency to be excessively driven individuals infused with an obsessive passion for their organisations and their ideals. For the great ones over time, it's generally been via the bird's-eye impressions of eyewitnesses that we -- centuries or decades onward -- discover the challenges these greats faced in their day -- perhaps moral, military, or simply organisational.

I recently had occasion to complete Michael Pearson's excellent Lenin's Mistress: The Life of Inessa Armand. Armand goes down in history as the reputed -- despite the most strident and later Soviet efforts to debunk it -- Lenin's 'real wife' (Nadya Krupskaya was, of course, officially) - tasked by none other than Vladimir Ilyich himself with a series of daring clandestine operations his Bolsheviks conducted before and following Russia's 1917 November Revolution. Armand was entrusted with top-secret information for which lesser folk in the months and years to follow Lenin's passing were assassinated, murdered, show-trialled, and humiliated.

I rather enjoy books like Lenin's Mistress because I've often felt very strongly about this apt phrase:"Every general needs a good lieutenant." Like author Thomas Stanley of The Millionaire Mind like to say, the 'very successful' set are statistically proven to be married, with several children, and what he terms 'rooted' - in the economic sense. For Lenin, Armand was his unswerving backup - someone to rely on when push came during the wild and woolly rise of Bolshevik power in the former tsarist dictatorship.

Biographies about leaders over time have tended to be penned by jingoistic sycophantic ghost writers who've taken their cues from a leader's close handlers, penning effusive aggrandising bluster.

To take one step back from a leader's tight inner circle sometimes affords later generations a perspective the man/woman himself would doubtless be reticent to expose. Armand's erstwhile confiscated and Soviet-censored diaries were obtained by author Pearson to form the basis of his book. Armand's detailed accounts of Lenin's directives and exploits provide a refreshing -- read: novelty -- take on the man long-(and rightfully?) vilified by the West. They peer into the life and machinations of a man whose very lifestory seems repetitively accounted for in major Lenin scholarship.

Leaders have much to teach, yet sometimes their approaches can be so woefully labyrinthine and convoluted (though magnificently or horrifyingly effective) it takes a person one-twice-or thrice removed to properly account for the fascination -- or worse -- the cult surrounding the motivational leader.

Enter Armand's scribblings on her boss, lover, and co-conspirator V.I. Lenin.

There are scads of similar titles on the market. Sadly, the responsibility is left for we future generations to penetrate to the truthful essence about these past great and infamous ones. We seldom know in our lifetimes because it takes several years' reflection just to let it all sink in.

Lenin's Mistress was a super read. If anything, because it teaches that despite the wonderful innovations at our pushbutton disposal today - leadership strategies have recycled over time. Continuously improving, morphing, and adapting to the times. And basic human nature remains static.

Since every leader has the potential to be caught up in the euphoria of accomplishment, this delusional state sometimes prevents them from thinking clearly.They overemphasise their contributions, however effective. Others surrounding us have the unique angle of watching them in action, creating the perfect counter.

One thing though...Pearson remains mum on his Communist sympathies. He leans towards neo Lenin-worship, though never made clearly apparent. If so, he's done a remarkable job of masking it. You be the judge...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Expounding further upon Zig Ziglar's dictum

Recipie for being a good leader: Love what you do. Look after yourself. Two simple phrases, yet most profound.

I'd been doing some more thinking about this one, and allow me to share some of my insights.

Love what you do:

When you love what you do, your head isn't cluttered with heaps of negative energy. Most of us have the keen experience of being terribly angry with someone, or about something. It's a well-documented fact -- yes, I realise this sounds more like armchair analysis, and forgive the utter dearth of empiricism -- that it requires tons more juice to stay angry at something, then it is to simply let it go and forgive. When you're loving what you're doing, your mind is free to subconsciously engage in creative strategising, because it's not sabotaging itself.

I suppose loving what you do results in an endless stream of innovative approaches to the things you do as well. Going to work -- be it waking and commuting to an office, or doing it from the cozy nook of your home office -- is no longer an exercise in manual labour. Sometimes, you can't wait to get there. Again, loving it makes you more receptive to ideas. The more readily you're able to generate ideas about a specific area of expertise, the more of an expert you are. Experts can be leaders, but not all leaders are experts. Being at expert at something (logically-speaking) is a **sufficient** condition for leading, though not a **necessary** one. The more you know, the better chances you have at excelling at what you know. The greater the probability others may wish to partake of your knowledge.

Love is a positive emotion that has other positive emotive spinoffs. At various other points in this thread, we've isolated some of the various behavioural characteristics of leaders. Persuasive, high-octane, knowledgeable dispensing of the leadership characteristics are likely outcomes from such love.

Now...on to "looking after yourself," the second part of the dictum.

Included in this might be fitness. 20 minutes of regular daily cardiovascular exercise is what most nutritionists and sports physicians would recommend as recommended for the average 'body.' (I know this because both my 55 year-old mom and 32-year old sister are personal trainers). Most people wouldn't spare even 20 mins. of their day for exercise, while they might be perfectly prepared to sit through a 90 minute film, or a 60 minute TV episode with perhaps 15 minutes of commercials -- a quarter of an hour that might have better devoted to one's health. When you are healthy, you think straight. When you think straight, you come up with better ideas. String a few of those days together, and -- voila -- you just might string a few people along with you.

Looking after yourself also means being easy on yourself. Not taking things too seriously. Easing up on the pressure. Fitness plays a very instrumental role in keeping not only your physiology in check, but as a result also your psychology. The more stress you have, the more breaks you'll need, and the more you need to 'look after yourself.' Good leaders are systematised creatures who follow solid routines that aren't necessarily money-based. Take the example of the 'decamillionaires' from Thomas Stanley's 20 year study of the phenomenon in his book "The Millionaire Mind." These people were found to collect coupons, repair their old shoes before buying a new pair, and took frequent vacations.

Lastly, looking after yourself means more than wellness. It means taking the proverbial bull by the horns, and making things happen. When you 'look after yourself' you don't necessarily wait for cues from others (eg. bosses, colleagues, bureaucrats) for the solutions to your life or business problems. Looking after yourself is a proactive solutions-based approach to making things happen all the time, and always doing, deciding, and delivering.

Zig Ziglar means all of this. He's just the quintessential master at distilling his knowledge so anyone can make it their own.

Omar Mukhtar, 1931 -- perseverance personified

I'd had a chance to watch Moustapha Akkad's 1980 classic Lion of the Desert (aka Omar Mukhtar) starring the masterful Oliver Reed and Anthony Quinn. Quinn played the role of the famous Omar Mukhtar of Libya, leader of the Libyan resistance during the Italian Fascist occupation of Libya from 1911 to 1931. Mukhtar was eventually captured and hung by the occupiers, but his story bears a proper accounting as a lesson in leadership by example.

At the time of his capture, Mukhtar was in his seventies. Here was a man who as a septuagenarian was still galloping across swaths of the Sahara on horseback, sometimes for hours on end! Mukhtar was an educator, by training. All he wanted was to lead his small village on the Libyan coast, tending to his flock, and teaching the young boys their Sharia (Islamic law) lessons until the end of his days.

When the Italians under Mussolini -- under the aegis of his emissary, the dreaded General Rodolfo "the Butcher" Graziani -- tightened the noose around their "Greater Rome" colony in North Africa, Mukhtar took his band of freedom fighters and guerrillas to the mountains. They fought successive pitched battles with antiquated rifles against Italian armour and artillery, and confounded and thwarted Graziani's battle plans until a twist of fate had Mukhtar surrounded.

Needless to say it was a successful film, and one of Oliver Reed's most prolific roles -- parts of which he brought to his portrayal of Proximo in 2000's Gladiator. But leaving aside Hollywood's dramatisation of it for a moment -- what made Mukhtar such an inspirational figure? Mussolini was an unrepentant chronicler of the times. It is said that the Italian invasion of Kufra, for example, was very well documented -- over documented, some would say...the Fascists in Italy were expert archivists (guess where the Nazis learned it from?). Images of the captured and shackled Mukhtar abound, and we get a sense of the character from seeing Quinn in the title role.

Deconstructing the lure of Omar:

** Maintain a Principled Approach: Omar refused to abscond to then British-protected neighbouring Egypt. Despite the fact his relatives had done previously so, and, as collaborators with the Italians, dispatching a mission to the mountains to attempt to get Omar capitulate - he refused. He refused to shanghai his men for the luxuriant bribes of the collaborators.

** Get Your Hands Dirty!: Mukhtar fought in every battle he'd plotted. And despite his age, Omar always rode shotgun. He laid along the trench to fire at the Italian invaders. He engaged with the Italian field commanders. He called the shots. He was - in short - a constant presence. In modern parlance -- he was a 'player-coach.'

** No Detail Is Ever Too Small: Mukhtar always cited God as the reason for the Italians presence in Libya. He also cited Him in calling for their withdrawal, saying that God would alone decide when it were time for them to leave. These principles he'd stuck to in the field, even after he'd been captured. The scene between Raf Vallone's Diodiece and Mukhtar in the prison is so poignantly done. In it, Mukhtar is about to pray, but realises he cannot, for he hadn't any water for his ablutions before Muslim prayer.

** Always Keep an Open Mind: Even after 20 years of pitched battles against waves of invading Italian hordes, Mukhtar was still willing to entertain peace overtures - however contrived and one-sided they were. He would still assemble with his entourage in the middle of the nowhere (the desert) to meet with an Italian delegation tailor-made to initiate negotiations with the rebel leader.

In summary:

** Always Maintain a Principled Approach --> without our principles, we're like a tree without roots, blowing in the wind.
** Get Your Hands Dirty! --> if you haven't done your time, how do you expect your direct-reports to rally around you? (unless you're holding a gun to their head).
** No Detail is Ever Too Small --> the little things count more than the big things. Anyone can start something grandiose, but who can maintain consistency over the long gruelling haul?
** Always Keep an Open Mind --> the ability to rapidly assimilate new information and approaches keep leaders on top of their game and flexible.

And, um, the movie wasn't half-bad, either...(running time: 2.5 hours).

Fast Company is Calling for Courage

"Fast Company would like your help identifying the most courageous leaders -- in business and elsewhere. Nominate candidates, and in the weeks to come, we'll put them to a vote.

Also, if you've experienced a situation that demanded courage in your work, share your story. We'll feature some of the best submissions online in the future."

Nominate a courageous leader at http://www.fastcompany.com/projects/86/leadernominate.html

Zig On Energy & Passion - Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar's answer to the question "Is there a certain level of energy and passion required to be an effective leader, and if so, what is your source of energy and passion?"

A surprisingly practical reply from Zig: love what you do, and look after yourself. I was expecting something much more profound. Must be watching too many movies. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Don't let the name put you off :) ... I found this site when I was looking for guidance on induction manuals. Boy! This site has a lot of very fascinating information on it. It's a mini-BA in psychology for those who forgot to go to Uni. (Like me). Fascinating. Not sure how/whether the site is meant to make money, but that's not my problem.

Leaders and Their Storytelling

Leaders and Their Storytelling is a site I stumbled across some time ago when looking for information on... well, leaders and storytelling. More than commentary, I'm really posting this as a reminder to myself to go read it.

From memory this site looks at the dark side of storytelling, exposing it as a sometimes disempowering tactic of the few to control the many. Not what I like to think about, but still, you've got to be open to views you don't like to think about, don't you.

Anyway I don't really know what I'm talking about here as I haven't read the whole thing. Here's an idea - why don't I read it. Yep, sounds good.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Jan Amos Comenius was a 17th-century Czech theologian, philosopher, and educationist par excellence who spent his last 14 years in exile -- specifically, in The Netherlands. Forced to live most of his life outside of his native Moravia, his banishment from the Czech royal lands came about as a result of Catholic religious persecution.

One of his most inspirational comments, which we'd be best to internalise: "People are continually doing things to themselves which creates within them a permanent state of disillusionment."

To listen to a half-hour retrospective on his life, please punch here.

Comenius is one those consummate thinkers that I'd love to have met in his day. He eschewed everything about formalised educational structures, that always rebelled against the dimensions of the soul into what he considered the "totality of man."

The first in a two part series.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The trouble with some leaders

I've often wondered why we idolise some of the people we call 'leaders.'

Do we idolise them because they represent something inherently deep within us - attainable, yet seemingly without the proper avenue to express itself?

Surely, the line that separates the ones who 'perform under pressure' and the ones who perennially underform is a fine one indeed.

When we respect -- or in its worse manifestation, worship -- a leader, are we essentially expressing something about ourselves?

Sometimes all it takes is one statement

I can recall several times throughout the past four years -- a period of time which I'll findly recall as some of my best learning years -- when all it took was a simple statement from people that got me headed down a different path. Like the time I'd attended the Trigger Street Short Film Competition at last year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Actor Kevin Spacey, one of the founders of the site, was presenting the top three awards for the films on that evening.

One of the winning contestants at the time said: "A film is only made through two words: sheer will."

No pithy lines. No 12 step program. No formulae. Pure and simple. Sound bite -- easy to understand, and the perfect pick-me-up.

Inspiration comes from places you sometimes least expect it. If we took more time to listen to what was happening around us, we'd key into a whole wealth of inspirational leadership. Thunder and lightening.

Leaders are not only those we know. Oftentimes they're the ones we don't know. Maybe leaders are the sage ones in life who just dang-well know how to keep it simple?

Friday, August 13, 2004

How do Australian Idol judges lead?

I was just catching up with Australian Idol on TV last night, and it struck me how Mark, Dicko and Marcia have to put on as much of a performance every week as any would-be idol.

Think about it - they have to:
  • give an accurate, fair critique of the performance
  • provide an entertaining enough experience for the viewers, and - this is the part that really interests me -
  • guide the contestants through the whole experience, preparing those who aren't ready to leave the show, and nurturing those who do well.

Marcia especially is great at this. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and it's clear that, if possible, she would like each one of the contestants going through. But she also brings her professionalism to the fore, and - even if the contestants are beyond help - gives them the benefit of her experience and advice.

When I read this back I just sound like a big ol' Idol fan, but I didn't really notice the great work these guys do until seeing New Zealand's first attempt at Idolisation. Yes, it was okay, but something was missing. Perhaps true leadership was one of them. Or maybe I'm just mowing down tall poppies ;)

Fast Company | A Design for Living

The inspirational story of designer and entrepreneur Michael Graves. He discovered, almost by accident, that he'd created a business that replicated his unique brand through the people he worked with.

That's like the holy grail of business - and near impossible in a creative business! This is a really feel good story from a magazine (Fast Company) that keeps coming up with excellent profiles on leaders like this.

Here's the whole story.

Leadership where you'd least expect it

With a heavy heart that I express this next post.

Today I was thinking to myself -- why do we only laud the leaders who are well-publicised? Simon and I have strong marketing bents - Simon vastly moreso than I. We understand the delicate passe-a-deux that marketing plays in the complex matrix of what people choose to invest their attention in - then what they choose to ignore. I suppose it's because I'm intimately familiar with this dynamic that I'm dismayed to express that it is the leaders we've probably never even heard of most deserving of considerable honourable mention.

It occurred to me as part of this that leaders hailing from the Third World are often given terribly short shrift. We know well of leaders like Ghana's Kofi Annan -- I suppose because he resides in one of busiest cities on the planet -- New York -- in addition that he works for one of the world's governing bodies -- the United Nations.

Yet there are scads of influential leaders coming from places we've never even heard of -- or, rather, if we've heard of them, we've never even been nor may want to be there. Take the example of David M. from Johannesburg. David's really nobody.


I'm not evaluating his worth. No way. I'm merely evaluating him in the grand scheme of the humongous "Leadership Industry." David goes about his daily business, getting gigs, earning money, being a doting son, and keeping his word when it comes to meetings and commitments.

You see, David's an actor.

One of the most inspirational things I remember hearing from him:

"Always forward, never back!"

in reference to the stance he and his colleague took during South Africa's Apartheid years. Come what may, they'd never take retrograde steps. If they made an inch of progress in any area, you'd darn well near have to do something drastic to get them to retreat an inch -- even then there were no guarantees!

It's catchy witticisms like those I'll fall back on when I need a little 'pick-me-up.' Not large grandiose statements like: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Helpful, though the equivalent mass-marketing of the era.

Something tells me the battle-tested grunt in the field paid more attention to the seemingly pithy cajoling of his platoon captain: "Get me to the top of that hill Riley, and there's extra weekend leave for you in Paris!" than the effusive puffery emanating from London or Washington.

Just an idea. What do you think?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Romeo Dallaire -- UNAMIR Mission to Rwanda -- 1993/4

Romeo Dallaire displayed the kind of leadership that made mere soldiers into the most potent, dedicated, high-moraled professional force during his tenure as the head of the ill-fated UNAMIR mission in 1994. The decade anniversary had recently passed -- but not an anniversary for rejoicing.

800,000 Rwandans - mostly ethnic-Tutsis and moderate Hutus - were to be hacked to death cruelly and barbarically with garden-variety rusted machetes, crude spears, and conventional knives during the genocide that took place in Rwanda and Burundi in the early 1990s.

When I personally try to conceive of a genocide, I admit -- and this is despite having personally visited places like Dachau near Munich in Germany - even having stuck my head into a crude human oven, in the most visceral experience possible - I can't. I don't think any sane person living in today's west can imagine such a thing.

I digress.

Dallaire was eventually institutionally-committed for a short spate upon returning home to his native Canada after - in his words - he'd completely failed the Rwandan people. His heroic attempts to marshall UN and world attention for the rapidly deteriorating state of affairs in that poor distant land during those years - the total ignorance, shocking ineptitude, and what he sadly had to discover through the 'brute force method' - the deliberate botching and staggering kiboshing of both military and humanitarian aid to nearly a MILLION people - were ultimately unable to prevent the ensuing disaster the Rwandan people -- and their various allies in the Great Lakes region of Africa (egs. Uganda, then-Zaire) -- visited upon themselves.

At many times during his year-long stint -- detailed in his copiously annotated book Shake Hands With the Devil -- he nearly conceded total defeat, yet persevered. He was to ultimately require anti-depressant therapy (which he still takes), psychological counselling, and an honourable discharge from the Canadian Armed Forces after what he's experienced and observed with his own eyes. Never to be the same.

The leadership he had shown under pressure, as detailed in the book, again, is truly unfathomable.

Vomiting at the sight of emaciated, ravaged, canine-mauled, severed-limbed bodies on a daily basis. The death of 10 Belgian (the former colonial power in the region) paratroopers under his command who'd been hacked to bloody, bone-protruding, flesh-rotting, maggot-infested pieces. Rwandan babies and tots being thrown naked into the air and bashed with a stick like a pinata, crushing their feeble bones. All of these things were daily fare for over a year for the retired Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Dallaire, yet he stuck it out. He might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives with his obduracy. Yet, he still felt he didn't do enough...

Pity. Eisenhower, Patton, Montgomery, Rommel, De Gaulle. These are our modern-day examples of military leadership under pressure. Even traitors like Petain in Vichy at one time. There are certainly more recent and unsung greats whose lesson should be a flame of inspiration to us all.

"Keep everlastingly at it." -- A.W. Ayers & Sons Advertising Agency -- Madison Ave., NYC (1920s)

What about inspirational people?

It's staggering to note that in all this chat of inspirational leaders, we fail to laud specific individuals who've impacted our lives. People who are/were the root cause -- in many cases -- of some of the dear successes we enjoy today - albeit oftentimes indirectly. (God works in strange -- to us -- ways).

Simon's post of 12AUG2004 comes close to this -- though I shall refer to a particular professional during my years at school around June of 1996 -- an international business course -- banal, rudimentary, and for overall course credit at McGill U here in Montreal, Canada. Nicolas M.'s entreaties and lessons stand the test of time for a number of reasons. A sampling:

** consistency is key: rain or shine -- sweltering sun, or of any variety thereof -- one could count on Professor Nick to come into class ready for pedagogical battle. He was one of the Old Schoolers -- dapperly dressed despite the oftentimes 30C weather in summertime Quebec. I had scads of respect for that -- most of the so-called 'professors' during my undergrad years in this country were into this newfangled casual dresscode - which in my opinion was counterintuitive to the learning process.

My tizzy in a winkle? Leaders are authoritative not merely because they're the de facto leaders -- but also because what they demonstrate and do outwardly that entitle them to a position of respect. I shudder to ask -- why don't MPs come into Parliament wearing jeans and jerseys -- mind you, current German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and his Green Party co-MPs used to come into the former-FDR's Bundestag dressed in sloppy jeans -- just to prove a point. But obviously dress plays a role. Otherwise it wouldn't be as salient as it remains.

** delivery: Prof Nick's voice boomed! And I mean it quite literally. That voice was toally unmistakable. When he wanted something accentuated...the voice would deeped into his signature baritone and captivated you became. As if he were hammering it into the listener. For example: Professor: "...KEY EXAM QUESTION: Why are trade accords so beneficial to the developed world and so rapacious and exploitative to the developing...?" -- this sort of thing. (No agenda there, just the first example that came to mind).

** likeable, um, guest appearances: Prof. Nick used to have rather, em, engaging female personalities who'd await him at the conclusion of class. Respectable professional sorts of ladies. I make no bones about it that after 2 hours of an enthralling transformational lecture, observing how he'd spend his 'downtime' were compelling enticements indeedy to heed his lessons, musings, and advice just a wee bit more closely.

** controversial: Nick wasn't afraid to utter the controversial stuff either. A current event not to his liking? Oh, he'd let us know about it right enough! Then the floor would open the floor to comment (I used to love that part, that's where the real learning took place). Not like other teachers playing politically-correct charades, hotfooting it about the dicey issues, avoiding controversy, collecting a lousy paycheck as per syllabus. He wasn't afraid to take a stand. That type of risk-seeking-ness I felt, for his station (instructing twentysomethings in the School of Hard International Knocks), was most appropriate. One always left the room secure that you'd gotten what you came for.

In the three years I'd spent at university, Nick's lessons impacted me the most. That's leadership too, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

From the "glad I never said this" file

"I do not believe the radio business is going to cut a very large figure in the line of amusements ... I do not believe ... that the scheme of broadcasting music will replace talking machines, it may, however, slow up our expansion. But there is the feature of privacy, selection, repeat and the sense of proprietorship in a talking machine that no general broadcasting scheme can hope to substitute."
Eldridge Johnson, founder of Victor records,
quoted in "Where have all the good times gone?"
written by Louis Barfe, Atlantic Books 2004

This is one of those great quotes we love to have a laugh at. How could they have been so stupid, we ask. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Several years after Eldridge Johnson wrote this letter, Victor was suffering because it wasn't interested in radio. Eventually, Victor signed a deal with RCA - the Radio Corporation of America. And so RCA Victor was born.
Hmm. Perhaps Johnson was simply way, way ahead of his time. Just look at what MP3s, iPods etc. are doing to the traditional radio business. Well, actually radio's doing pretty well in NZ, but y'know what I mean.

Ain't that the truth!

"Schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet," wrote New York State Teacher of the Year (1991) John Taylor Gatto, "No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools and schooling don't really teach anything except how to follow orders."

Adam's comment on Film - more appropriately, a post!

Hi all. Adam Mezei from Toronto. First off, a warm welcome to Simon and his much-delayed arrival in blog country -- *git* you! Nice to have him around.. As I've only had a chance to catch up with some of the comments as of the date of my posting, please excuse this mish-mash of various chewy musings - inspired doubtless from the 'moveable feast' my much maligned eyeballs (from overuse, admittedly -- not from any kind of Jason, Friday the 13th scenario -- I do point out that the Olympics begin this year on that date) have gandered.

I feel my inaugural post should mention a smattering or two about the notion of how leaders use film, since it's, ahem, one of the areas in which I know a thing or three. It's no great feat of Einsteinian proportions to mention that the medium of the motion picture has been in use as early as the pre-WWI period as a highly effective means of rousing the passions (for the good or for the bad) of a populace for various political aims. Black 'n white 'flicker pictures' (and thusly, flicks) during the era when Charlie Chaplin's films reigned supreme were the slicked up means to achieve good buy-in from a group of fence sitters.

During the Depression, and in the intervening war years, film became eminently more sophisticated -- even to the point of tyrannically dastardly. The Nazis were masters at abusing this mass medium (J. Goebbels was a mastermind at this, please read 'The Propaganda Minister' if you haven't yet - it's a very rotund read, generally out of print wherever one goes - if your query isn't met by askance looks and calls to the Home Office in your country of choice for making the request -- but this is a blog about leadership, last time I'd checked).

Though STILL very impactful to today (the whole debates surrounding films like Fahrenheit 9/11 is a recent example). Whole swaths of population could be moved along an emotional path in those days before open access to info like today (most people don't even realise how lucky we are). Leni Riefenstahl's films (Hitler's preferred filmmaker) are full year courses in communications theory and techniques - especially her films Triumph of the Will & Olympia).

All this to say that to be a leader, not only WHAT you say, but THE MEANS used to convey what you want to say are critically important. It's no small secret that a powerful prophetic message (as our gracious host is wont to point out with Rev. 10:9) isn't really (please forgive the blasphemy SY!) 'prophetic' were the means used to convey it not imbued with the spirit of the times - and 'natch at the risk of seeming cliched, if a tree falls in the forest...

Film is so godawful powerful because it's one of the best (Internet is there, but not for all, especially in lower income brackets -- propaganda films are generally geared toward this strata of a society) means at our disposal to invite all our five senses and faculties into the process (note: soon add taste and smell to the equation!). To wit:

** sight: 'nuff said.
** sound: the combination of slick visuals and majestic, pulsating, tribal, percussive, rhythmic, catchy beats to channel a message in ever-deeper -- like the very gold buried on the Rand in South Africa.
** touch: I can even remember as a kid in Toronto -- we used to have scary 3D movies on TV Saturday nights -- you could even drive to special cinemas where the chairs were rigged to move in synch to the oh-so-spooky horrific action on the silver screen.
** smell: don't quote me on this conspiracy theory --> but some cinema owners, perhaps in some of the more seedier districts (I have merely *heard* accounts of these, but of course ;-) ) will make use of, um, scents to get better, er, 'buy in.'
** taste: if the popcorn and Mounds in your mouth counts -- darn! The salt really wants you make you run out and buy more. Whoever thought of that idea? -- now that's breakthrough.

So as you can rightly see -- leaders not only know what to do and say -- but they also know how to deliver the goods in the most persuasive means possible. Where that message will then ensconce an interlocking web of deep roots in your left brain - causing you to use your right brain in more ways that you ever thought possible -- is left up much less to happenstance.

I look forward to the good energy to emante from here. Environmentally-speaking, perhaps we can use some of this dialectical and polemical heat to power our collective intellectual furnaces. Is there an exegesis for that?


Brand leadership

(Not the David Aaker book) In marketing I believe leadership includes taking care of the little things. Two things I've noticed lately that tend to make a company lose credibility in the customer's eyes:

* Outdated website content
* Posters for an event still up after the date

And it struck me that, although there are companies out there putting posters up, there are none that specialise in taking them down after the event. Which would show that the company in question is onto it, environmentally friendly (somehow) and considerate of the public good. An interesting challenge for outdoor ad companies.

As for website updating, that's a service I tried (half-heartedly) to offer through SimonYoungWriters, but it's a very hard value proposition. Still very important, but who's going to pay money to do something that should be done inhouse?

Trouble is, when people start up a website, they don't allocate resources for the ongoing maintenance of the site. For larger organisations this is shockingly negligent. It's 10 years this year since the Web became mainstream. There's enough experience and knowledge out there to get some sort of idea what resources you should commit to running a website, not just putting one up. Ah well, perhaps I'm just ahead of my time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Eating scrolls

Tonight Marie and I were reading Revelation 10:9 which, like most of the other verses in Revelation, can be a bit hard to understand.

In the verse, a massive angel says to John, the narrator, "Take [this scroll] and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey."

Here's my take on this verse, and yes, it does have something to do with leadership. (I don't just exegete for self-expression, y'know!)

Being a leader is similar to being a prophet. Both types of people see what others don't see. That experience of gaining insight is a wonderful, beautiful thing ("sweet as honey"). It's indescribable.

But when a leader, or a prophet, tries to communicate that message in its intensity and purity to someone else, they often meet blank stares or outright resistance. Turns your stomach sour.

For some similar thoughts from a few years ago, see this issue of Communicate from June 2002.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Flair makes a big difference

This year I discovered the Young family tree, and started off on a wild adventure through history, including some interesting royal ties.

Among other auspicious ancestors, I discovered I'm a direct descendant of King John, the eponymous star of Shakespeare's play. What I'd seen of "Robin of Sherwood" didn't seem too complimentary of John, so I thought I'd find out some more.

Historians say Shakespeare's "King John" is good theatre but bad history, so I've found some more accurate history.

Turns out John gets a bad rap -especially in contrast to his brother Richard - because of his lack of presentation flair. The decisions he and Richard made were equally good and equally bad, but Richard had better PR.

Very interesting!

BBC: King John and Richard I - Brothers and Rivals

William Shakespeare - King John - Synopsis - inaccurate (Richard I is different from Geoffrey) but helpful

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Leadership in the Emergency Department

It's been a strange day. While Marie and I were at my mum's place today, we got a call from her mum saying she needed to go into hospital. Turns out she has a collapsed lung, which is pretty serious. Thankfully, she's resting well and not in much pain - and the doctors are working to find out exactly what's the cause, and what to do about it.

It's been years since I've been in Auckland Hospital - never as a patient, but my mum used to frequent the E.D. in her tachycardia days (long story). What a change there has been! What we experienced this afternoon/evening was a model for hospitals. Here's why:
  • Planning and design - the staff desk was in the centre, surrounded by patient rooms which faced the desk. Staff at the desk could instantly see how everything was, and patients didn't feel forgotten.
  • Sense of purpose - somehow they have built up a culture of positivity (we had a feeling that everything was going to be okay, and this was conveyed by each staff member we met)
  • Openness of communication - an impressive thing for the healthcare system. In the past their approach has been like the church in the Dark Ages ... we know best, you know nothing. These days, doctors respect the patient's capacity for knowledge about their own health. The doctor looking after Marie's mum explained exactly what was happening each step of the way. I for one am impressed.

So you see, lessons come in all shapes and sizes - at any time!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Doing nothing is tiring

I'm in the odd situation of being employed - and paid what, to me, is big money - but having not too much to do. There are odd spurts of work, but they're usually over pretty fast.

And here's the surprising thing - I hate it! I feel guilty, and demotivated. Especially because everyone around me is pretty busy - I feel out of place and disconnected.

I know it won't last long as the writer I'll be replacing goes on maternity leave the week after next. I'm sure I'll be rushed off my feet then. But it sure is interesting to note my feelings - that it isn't that good to get paid to do nothing.

At the Parnell Rose Gardens in Auckland, there's a plaque which says, "The Joy of the Soul is in Doing". When I first read that, I didn't like it. It seemed old fashioned and fussy, and anti-relaxation.

Now, I understand the words of that fussy old lady written on that plaque. That's why people create gardens, write books, join committees. It's great to be doing something.

Lessons for leaders - apart from the obvious logistical ones! - include the need to get people excited about what they're doing. Somehow. How does that happen?

Looking at myself as an employee, I know I feel best about my work when I know the whole picture within which I'm working, but when I also know I'm supported and backed up. Perhaps there's a key there.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mini-Review: Ned Kelly

Watched Ned Kelly on Monday ... well, actually, watched and then listened. Our steeenkin' DVD playing software decided we couldn't have pictures and sound all at once, so we watched, trying to guess what was being said, then heard the soundtrack and completed the picture in our minds. Weird, but hey.

It made me think: If this was an accurate portrayal of Ned Kelly (which it seems to be from the doco) what a waste of potential! In his early 20s this man had learned how to:

  • inspire loyalty unto death
  • inspire admiration
  • decide the right course of action in a couple of seconds - and he had some of the hardest choices imposed upon him

He understood politics - when the police were arresting and persecuting his friends, he made sure they were looked after.

It was a very sad story... but just imagine the possibilities if circumstances had been different. He could have lived to a great age, and been a truly great man.

More info: http://www.ned-kelly.com/index.php

Welcome to Leadership Issues

Hi and welcome to my brand new blog! This is exclusively about leadership, and if I ever get off-track, please feel free to belt me in the side of the head. (Metaphorically).

First of all, I'd better define leadership.

Leadership (n): Leading yourself, leading people, making smart decisions so people will want to follow you.

Not sure why, but this subject is very interesting to me. Not because I'm a good leader, but because I want to be. Not because I have lofty goals, but because I realise that whatever role I'm found in, I need good leadership skills, even if just to lead myself.

What to expect from Leadership Issues

  • Inspiration. I don't limit myself to traditional sources of leadership - namely business and sports. There's more to the world than that. And as an eager consumer of popular culture, I'll especially be looking at the leadership lessons we learn from unexpected source, like:
  • Movie reviews. We learn a lot from movies - perhaps more than we realise. I'll take movies and TV shows apart and look at what they teach us about leadership.
  • Book reviews. This year I've probably read more than in the past three years. What goes in, must come out - somehow! But I will limit my comments to leadership.
  • Other stuff. 'Nuff said.