Monday, February 28, 2005

ChangeThis :: How to Manage Smart People

This article or 'manifesto' promises to be good reading. Of course, I only have to manage myself, but then I am pretty smart sometimes!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Vanity Fair and business networking

Marie and I caught Vanity Fair at the cinema last Thursday. While many reviewers on IMDb said it differed from William Makepeace Thackeray's original (e.g. I bet there was no Bollywood dancing in the novel) , it gave an interesting, rather sad glimpse into society life in the early 19th century.

If you haven't seen it, Reece Witherspoon portrays Becky Sharp, a poor girl who aims to make it big, and get revenge on everyone who's held her down or rubbed her nose in her poverty-ridden past.

Thackeray's novel was subtitled "A Novel without a Hero" and it's true. Don't look for anything redemptive here; it's every person for themselves. And in that way, it's quite depressing.

However, in my most cynical moments I'd say it's realistic. And I wondered how different the High Society world of the 1800s was to the business networking world of the 2000s.

Back then, it was who your parents were and what they did. Now, it's who you've worked for, what university you went to, where you've travelled. In both cases, it's how much money you've started out with.

Just human nature I suppose - we like to talk to others with like experiences. But now, as then, someone with pluck, with courage and determination, can raise themselves up through force of personality, and through knowing how the system works.

But in Vanity Fair, Becky's character crosses a line. I don't know where it is, but throughout, she is vindictive, vengeful and ultimately self-driven. And why shouldn't she be? She doesn't know we're watching?

But it reminded me of where the title "Vanity Fair" came from - a scene in Pilgrim's Progress where the Pilgrim is waylaid at a town called Vanity. Vanity used in the original sense of the word - meaningless. All around him is a celebration of senselessness - and he has to decide whether to stay or to keep going.

Of course, the decision's not so simple for us. Even if we consider ourselves 'out of this world', we have to engage with the world we find ourselves in - whether that's business, entertainment, cultural or whatever.

I think part of being a leader is not being afraid to stand out - to be different - and to be your authentic self in the midst of Vanity Fair.

And if you believe in things of substance, keep believing in them, even when the people and circumstances around you say not to.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Humour and leadership

This PDF file has some interesting things to say about humour and leadership. It kinda makes sense to me. And it's kind of a relief, too. I'd hate to have to trade a sense of humour for leadership ability.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Howard Hughes and his "Eccentric Leadership"

::: to all our loyal bloggers --> SPOILER ALERT :::


::: thinking :::

Eccentric Leadership.

I hereby coin the turn of phrase (full well knowing I may already have been beaten to the punch).

I'll also make the rather bold eccentric move of my own and attempt a stab at a definition for this here bad boy:

Eccentric leadership is key leadership delivered through the repeated practice of wildly unconservative feats of bravado, grandiosity, and brilliance.

Not so hard, eh?


Howard Hughes -- billionaire Texan, unrepetant bonvivant, swashbuckling airman, and hardcore industrialist -- was one such eccentric dude.

For me, The Aviator was the third of the five Oscar-contending "best films," as I contine my personal quest to view all five in advance this year's installment of the Academy Awards.

L.I. bloggers all know of the Count's penchant for things Marty Scorsese. So it didn't take much cajoling to overcome my instinctual vomitorious reaction to Leonardo DiCaprio's method acting to get me to clamp down and watch this epic.


As if tattooing his movie with the essential reason for Hughes eccentricity, Scorsese opens up The Aviator with a proverbial "Momma's-the reason-I'm-like-this" theme.

We the $9.95 Canadian movie-paying public are instantly transported into the pained inner-world of the filthy rich and famous. In living (Techni)color, viewers gain a rapid grasp of what makes the legendary Hughes tick: money and, er, germs.

That's right, germs.

Without germs, Hughes can't lead. Without germs, g'head and remove "eccentric" from Hughes' eccentric leadership. Germs fuel his combustible creativity.


We here at Leadership Issues have dealt with various components of leadership since our inception.

Boldness is one of its hallmarks.
Risk-seeking another.

Hughes was all that, and so much more.

The world doesn't like Hughes just because he's utterly emblematic of success. The kind of success we Westerners aspire to. A paragon of wealth and the jewel of the capitalist system he is, to be clear. Though that's not the main reason why we revere him so.

We revere because he did it (Frankie would be proud) "his way." When it came to airplanes, Hughes knew few equals (surely did he give Juan Trippe at Pan Am more than a fair share of sleepless nights.) In the midst of an anxiety attack, the mere mention of sky life, joystick firmly in hand, the other resting on the throttle, would resurrect Hughes, Jesus-like, from a spiralling darkness into tizzies of near-apostolic vision.

Perhaps on a somberer note, our liking Hughes delves deeper into our Collective Unconscious. Our Western psyche dares not trifle with the idiosyncracies of any man, provided he crosses his corporate t's, dots his stock-trading i's, and neglects not to bilk for handsome profit.

A person earns the right to call himself successful if he does all of the above. We instantly dig him. Call him one of our own, even. Bend over backwards, we do. Forwards, sideways. Trip over ourselves in kneeling at his font of wealth.

I suppose it's why we accept Hughes' obessions.

Eccentric leadership, anyone?

-- Groovy

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Monsoon Wedding is a fantastic film

... but I couldn't find some really "leadershippy" lessons in it. I'm sure they're there, and I may spot them when I watch it again with the commentary on.

Anyway, I've written a non-leadership review of it, looking at how it was made and why I think it's so great. If you're interested, have a gander here.

On reflection, I'd say the making of the film itself is a lesson in leadership. Director Mira Nair pulled together a group of people she admired and who "knew what they were doing", including a director of photography who she calls her heart - they are that much in sync. It shows!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Movie Review: Spider-Man 2

"I believe there's a hero in all of us that keeps us honest,
gives us strength, makes us noble
and finally allows us to die with pride -
even though sometimes we have to be steady
and give up the thing we want the most.
Even our dreams."

Aunt May

Says it all really. If you don't believe that you can be a leader without realising it, watch Spider-Man 2 and pay close attention to the scene these words come from.

In it, Peter Parker has become "Spider-Man no more" and forsaken his powers. Young Henry Jones' admiration, and his aunt's wise words, make him think again.

It's a great movie if you're feeling at all burdened by your responsibilities to others. It was a timely message for Marie and me! (Long story)

See Simon's book reviews on video!

Got a digital camera, and I'm going crazy with it. It's a Canon Powershot A85 (as recommended by Chris the camera specialist) and it takes snippets of video as well as very fine still shots.

I got totally silly with it on Sunday last, and compiled a book review. Two actually:

The Book of Beginnings by Dr R and L Brasch
The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow

To see what I thought of them - and see what I look like in a good ol' kiwi black singlet - click here to download the video.

I'd really welcome your feedback!

(By the way, the format is loosely borrowed from Richard Wicka's House of the Future concept - by "loosely" I mean the title segment is slightly similar in some ways to his Five Minute Segments.)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Two films about awareness

For some reason I've been holding off reviewing The Motorcycle Diaries, which Adam and I saw way back in December. Well, I've finally got around to it, and I've found a most unusual film to compare it with.

Koyaanitsqatski has no characters, no plot and no dialogue. It simply shows you our planet - as a desert, with wide open spaces, and then as a city, with masses of people scurrying about. It ends with a rocket taking off - I was thinking, cool, space travel - and then the rocket explodes and tumbles down to earth for what seems an eternity.

Weird, huh? I thought so. I'm glad I watched the special feature "Essence of Life", where director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass (now on my "interesting composers" list!) talk about what they were thinking.

The film is about awareness. It's not really a call to action, although it has been interpreted that way by critics. But it's just a particular way of viewing the world, culminating in the film's only English text at the end, a definition of "Koyaanitsqastki", which was, from memory, a way of life that is disintegrating, crazy, and in need of change.

That's what appealed about the movie. It's not about preaching, it's just about 'look around you and see'. Of course, we're looking through the eyes of the filmmaker, so it's hard not to come to a similar conclusion as the filmmaker. Such is the power of those who wield the camera.

The Motorcycle Diaries was also about awareness. Ernesto Guevara starts the film as a serious, determined medical student going on a harmless student trip around South America. On the way he sees what is really happening - what his people have done to the native people (sweeping generalisations here) - and wonders if he can do something about it.

The film's attracted huge controversy here because of Che Guevara's later role in the Cuban revolution. Here in New Zealand, one review (which seems to have disappeared) calling Guevara's goodness into question, received quick rebuttals from the New Zealand-Cuba Friendship Society and the Cuban Ambassador himself (not a bad writer, I must say!).

But controversy aside, the principle I get from both these movies is that before there is action, there must be awareness, an awakening to the problem that you were born to solve.

Melodramatic? Okay, try this version: Before you act, assess the situation, assess the resources already in place to help that situation, and assess your own ability to help.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Referee sends himself off | Referee sends himself off (02-02-2005)

How's that for principled leadership?