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If The Shoe Fits: Travis Kalanick And Spin

Friday, August 11th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mArrogance seems to be a constant, whether in the cowboy heroes of yesterday or the “leader heroes” of today. Or perhaps we should say “unhero.”

Travis Kalanick is a true unhero and a good, if overused, example of above and beyond arrogance.

He publicly claimed he would be “Steve Jobs-ing” his dismissal and would return as CEO.

He still claims this in spite of a statement from Uber co-founder and director Garrett Camp, who says Kalanick will not return as CEO.

His “Steve Jobs-ing” comment refers to Jobs being forced out, but ignores the full story of how Jobs came back and what he did in the meantime (founded another company that Apple ended up acquiring).

What Jobs did NOT do was hire an advisory company that specialized in “CEO & Leadership positioning.”

“Through our close relationships with the world’s leading editors, reporters, producers, and hosts at top-tier print, online, and broadcast outlets, we develop and execute strategic, results-driven media engagement programs for CEOs that leverage traditional and social media platforms.”

More prosaically, it’s called spin.

In public relations and politics, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure. … “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics.

In short, spin alleviates the necessity of actually changing.

All Kalanick needs to do is write a check, probably a sizable one, and Teneo, the company he hired, will sell the “new” Kalanick to the world.

All hail personal growth and authenticity — the myths of Silicon Valley — along with meritocracy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you are interested in authentic personal growth be sure to check out this month’s Leadership Development Carnival.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: Power, Arrogance And MAP

Monday, August 7th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Last week we started looking at our heroes — first as cowboys and then why/how they needed to change. It’s a timely subject, especially considering the attitudes/actions of so many of our current ones — from Donald Trump to Travis Kalanick and all those inbetween.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

I recently questioned whether, in fact, the imperial CEO is indeed dead as many are saying.

Wednesday Dan McCarthy was inspired to write 10 Ways to Avoid the Arrogance of Power after reading The Arrogance of Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Business School. Pfeffer says,

“The higher you go in an organization, the more those around you are going to tell you that you are right. The higher reaches of organizations–which includes government, too, in case you slept through the past eight years–are largely absent of critical thought. … There is also evidence, including some wonderful studies by business school professor Don Hambrick at Penn State, that shows the corroding effects of ego. Leaders filled with hubris are more likely to overpay for acquisitions and engage in other risky strategies. Leaders ought to cultivate humility.” He ends by advising not to hold your breath waiting for this to change.”

I think much of Dan’s advice is good, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for the advice to be taken.

I think that power corrupts those susceptible to it, not all those who have it; there are enough examples of powerful people who didn’t succumb to keep me convinced.

Susceptibility is woven in MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and is especially prevalent in today’s society of mememememememe with its sense of entitlement.

Changing MAP and stopping drinking are similar, since the individual has to choose to change. All the horses and all the men can’t convince the king to change—that only happens from the inside out.

Moreover, as I’ve frequently said, MAP is sneaky; it will pretend to change and then revert to its normal pattern when no one’s looking.

We, the people, can’t force them to change, but we can learn to sustain our attention span and keep looking.

Image credit: flickr

Ducks In A Row: Changing Our Heroes 1

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/deano_exposed/2085899170/

Wally Bock’s post yesterday ended with this comment.

Our heroes have always been cowboys, but maybe it’s time for something different.

Assuming you agree with him, the question, of course, is how do you change?

One problem with the current version of hero is that they aren’t good at driving innovation — unless they thought of it themselves.

If not, they often respond in one of two ways.

  1. Negatively, by immediately stating all the possible reasons it won’t work; or
  2. duplicitously, by putting it down and then presenting it later as their own idea.

Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, known for creating social designs that explore the relation between people, technology and space, has a simple idea that provides an elegant solution.

The Yes But chair.

This chair has voice recognition and will give you a little shock when you say the words ‘yes but’. He developed this chair because he was frustrated that so many people start with these words when they hear a new idea.

One useful modification that comes to mind is some kind of control that is capable of adjusting the voltage, since a minor shock might not be enough to jolt a hero out of their rut.

Please join me over the next 10 days for more on changing what what makes a hero.

Image credit: CyrielKortleven.com and DeanO Exposed

Guest Post: Our Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

When I was five or six, every Saturday morning was the same. I’d strap on my trusty toy six-shooter over my pajamas, grab my cowboy hat, and mount the arm of my father’s armchair, which I thought of as my trusty steed. From that perch, I’d watch the Saturday morning cowboy shows on our black and white television. Like most of the rest of America, I loved my cowboy heroes. It took a while to understand how unrealistic they were.

The cowboys were all white guys, there wasn’t an African American, or a Mexican American, or a Mexican to be seen doing real work. In real life, about a quarter of working cowboys were African-Americans. And much of the dress, equipment, and the language of the working cowboy came from the Mexican vaqueros.

The cowboys I watched on television were all clean and wore fancy clothes. Real cowboys did a dirty job and wore clothes and used equipment to make it safer and easier.

Television cowboys had almost superhuman skills. They could ride a horse at a full gallop and shoot the pistol out of a bad guy’s hand at a couple of hundred yards. When the evildoer was trying to run away, they could whip out their trusty lasso and pull him off his horse. Every time. They never missed. They were heroes.

The cowboy heroes did super masculine things with grace. They knocked out bad guys with a single punch. The women in the shows were always attractive, but their primary role was to be rescued or protected.

You would think, if they had the usual set of masculine urges that there would be some chasing after the beautiful women who populated the television West. But no. When their work of rescuing and protecting was over, the cowboy heroes rode away, accompanied if at all, by their trusty sidekick. That’s weird.

Those heroes were great for me when I was five. Today, I’m not so sure they fit the world we want to create.

Let’s Broaden Our View of Heroes

There’s no reason we need to limit our definition of heroes to white men with superpowers. Women can be heroes, too. So, can people with every shade of skin tone imaginable. They have been throughout history.

Heroes don’t need superpowers, and they don’t need to be flashy. Some of our greatest heroes do quiet work that makes a difference in the world, like Dan Nigro on and after 9/11.

Cowboy Heroes in A Team-Centric World

Today, most of the world’s work gets done in teams, so you would think we would modify our idea of a hero. We haven’t. Instead, we’ve made the situation fit our fantasy rather than the facts.

We laud lone innovators like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, except they weren’t “lone” at all. Edison had the muckers and Jobs had hundreds of people at Apple. We laud the fighter pilot and forget the crew that keeps the jet flying and the pilot safe.

When US Airways flight 1549 was set down in the Hudson River, the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, became the hero of the day. No one except Sullenberger wanted to talk about the contributions of the copilot or the cabin crew to making the landing safe and getting the passengers off the plane. No one wanted to bring up the training in the cockpit resource management that prepared those people to react as a team.

The all-knowing physician is another variation of the lone hero. That may make great TV drama, but it just doesn’t fit what we need. Atul Gawande is an author, surgeon, and professor. He puts the situation this way.

“We have trained, hired, and awarded physicians to be cowboys, when what we want are pit crews for patients.”

We’ve done that with managers, too. Except we don’t call them managers anymore. We call them “leaders,” that’s today’s hero-word. We expect those leaders to do the business equivalent of shooting the gun out of the evil-doer’s hand while riding at a full gallop.

Our Challenge Today

The world of the future will not belong to the superheroes, like the cowboy heroes of my youth. Instead, the work will be much less romantic but much more effective. Team leaders will learn that their job is to accomplish the mission through the group, not to do it all themselves. They’ll also learn that their job involves helping the individual team members succeed, develop, and grow.

None of that makes for good television. I’m pretty sure that no six-year-old today is sitting in his father’s chair spellbound by a TV drama about a leader coaching a team member. But that’s what effective leadership looks like.

Our heroes have always been cowboys, but maybe it’s time for something different.

Originally posted July 27, 2017 on Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog.

Golden Oldies: Leadership’s Future: Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

Monday, July 31st, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Heroes. Humanity has always had heroes. While it’s doubtful that will ever change, what constitutes a hero has changed radically over the centuries. I wrote this post in 2009, as the trend of elevating the most inane individuals, and even the dregs of society, to hero/role model status. As the old saying goes, something’s got to give.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Last Friday I wrote Narcissism and Leadership and how much narcissism has increased over the last few years.

I’ve never understood the preoccupation with the glitterati, but I have wondered how much our celebrity-worshiping culture affects kids?

According to Drew Pinsky MD, AKA, Dr. Drew on radio and TV, and S. Mark Young, a social scientist it may be especially dangerous for young people, who view celebrities as role models.

“They are the sponges of our culture. Their values are now being set. Are they really the values we want our young people to be absorbing? … It harkens back to the question of how much are young people affected by models of social learning. Humans are the only animals who learn by watching other humans.”

Worse than dysfunctional celebs is our penchant for making heroes out of the bad guys.

18 year-old, 6-foot-5, 200-pound “Colton Harris-Moore is suspected in about 50 burglary cases since he slipped away from a halfway house in April 2008. Now, authorities say, he may have adopted a more dangerous hobby: stealing airplanes.”

Adin Stevens of Seattle is selling T-shirts celebrating him and there is a fan club on Facebook.

I’m not surprised, in a world where serial killers have groupies and people fight for souvenirs of death-row inmates it figures that they’re going to romanticize someone who manages to not get caught.

But what makes me ill are his mother’s comments, “I hope to hell he stole those airplanes – I would be so proud,” Pam Kohler said, noting her son’s lack of training. “But put in there that I want him to wear a parachute next time.”

It’s tough enough to grow up these days; it’s tougher in a dysfunctional home or in areas that are gang-controlled, but what kid stands a chance with parents like this?

What can we do? Where can we find more positive role models that have the glamour that mesmerizes kids and grownups alike?

When will we glorify function instead of dysfunction? Meaning instead of money?

Image credit: Chesi – Fotos CC on flickr

Join me tomorrow for Wally Bock’s take on heroes and how they need to change.

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