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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

If The Shoe Fits: Power, Control And Insecure Male Egos

Friday, July 14th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAssuming you don’t live in a different galaxy, you’ve followed the aftermath at Uber, since Susan Fowler posted her experiences there.

You just saw the co-founder of Binary Capital resign after women founders claimed harassment and a woman who works at Tesla called the factory a “predator zone.”

So many women coming forward has led to headlines that the Silicon Valley old boy power elite is being toppled.

Ha! Not going to happen in my lifetime — and probably not in yours.

Especially when the bias is so ingrained that even the funding questions, including from women, carry that bias, as do professors of both sexes on college admission evaluations.

And consider this comment on a NYT article.

Laura Castaneda
WA July 1, 2017
These women do themselves a disservice by choosing to appear bare legged, in shorts and casual clothing for this article. Rather, all three ought to have posed in business professional clothing. Women say they want to be accepted as professionals and peers while simultaneously choosing to participate in age old ways of competing: showing some skin. They have even chosen to do it for this article which is about the very acts photos like these encourage. Women who want to be treated equally should hide their sexuality (skin) in the business setting. It’s always been accepted that women who stoop to short skirts and low cut blouses at work are not to be taken seriously. What has changed to make that untrue today, exactly? Magical thinking?

What skin? One woman has on cutoffs? Her partners are in jeans and a skirt (no stockings) and all have on T-shirts. Typical Silicon Valley startup garb.

The comment reminds me of the ageless rape defense: dressed like that she was asking for it.

An op-ed piece in Bloomberg makes a telling point.

But do the people with the least power have to shoulder responsibility for weeding out misconduct by people with the most?

Ryan Pew, who writes Ryan’s Journal here on Thursday, is a former Marine and a millennial father of three girls. I asked him what he thought.

As a father of girls, by my very nature I want them to succeed without their gender being an issue. I understand the differences between the sexes but do see us as equal. However I have also seen how, as a man, you see other men who believe otherwise and are not afraid of speaking to a woman a certain way. One of these posts talks about how one of the VC’s was pushing alcohol and then used that as leverage when he tried his moves. Sounds very frat boy to me. 

Hey, Ryan, it IS frat-boy, AKA, bro culture.

What I’ve never understood, and I’ve asked directly, is why these jerks think what they do is “NBD, business as usual,” but condemn anyone who treats their wife/mother/daughter/friend/etc. the same way.

One more thing. For some phenomenal satire on the subject out Sarah Cooper on Medium, especially Why Do All These Women Keep Accusing Me of Sexual Harassment?

Hi. My name is Brad. You may not have heard of me before, but don’t worry, I’m rich. (…)  Obviously I’m a smart guy, but one thing I can’t for the life of me understand is: why do all these women keep accusing me of sexual harassment? (…) And yeah, I use my position of power to get laid, but who wouldn’t?  (…)  Do I want them to fuck me? Sure I do. Will it affect whether or not I fund their company? Yes, it will. Does that mean I don’t respect them? No! Well yes. But it’s not personal, it’s business.

From ‘77 to ‘97 I was a tech recruiter and can’t count the times I was hit on by VCs and managers. I’m here to tell you that harassment isn’t about sex any more than rape is.

It’s about power, control, money, and insecure male egos that are terrified of women who dare.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: Perhaps We Could Bring More Love To The World

Thursday, July 13th, 2017


This past week has been a whirlwind for me. My wife and I had our third beautiful baby girl and as a result I am sleeping less than the required 11-12 hours that I prefer.

My wife has handled this whole event with grace and I have been humbled by the respect I have for her.

Those of you may already know, but if you don’t, I have three girls now. It’s a true joy and I feel privileged and honored to have them in my life.

Being a parent can be tough today. There is a lot of pressure to be on top of the right trends, expand your baby’s horizons and ensure you’re not feeding them the wrong foods.

Of course all of this is captured on social media for the chance for the world to judge in realtime. What a time to be alive!

I say all of that a bit tongue I cheek as there are some things I have learned as well.

Mark Zuckerberg posted a stat today that towns that have a disproportionate amount of men to women have higher crime rates.

I say that to highlight something that comes from being the father of three girls, love. It is unfiltered and abundant.

If I am having a bad day I can walk in my door and be surrounded by girls that just want to hug me and spend time. Now this is more of a personal lesson but I believe it can be expanded to the business world.

If you look at the latest company scandals you tend to see some common threads. Hyper masculinity, extreme competition and a zero sum attitude towards life.

These tend to be hallmarks of a male dominated organization that lacks balance.

This post is more about observations than solutions.

My observation in my personal life is that the unfiltered love helps me to try and be my best self. It also builds up self esteem which leads to more creativity, problem solving and so on.

Perhaps if we incorporate that trait, love, into our daily lives it will have a profound effect on those around us.

I may be saying things that have been said before, but all I can share is my experience and try to build upon it.

Image credit: Hamza Butt

Entrepreneurs: Emulating Nature

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Today you get a lesson from Nature on never giving up.

Keep trying and you will flourish

where theres a will

No matter how hard…

no matter how hard

You can push through

breaking through

And the result will be beautiful

still be beautiful

That said, don’t be so impressed with your power to overcome obstacles that you prove Immanuel Kant’s observation that possession of power inevitably spoils the free use of reason to be true.

Internet images from Anonymous

Ducks in a Row: When Trust is not Enough

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014


How would you respond if you were head of a global professional company with more than 1,400 partners, 18,500 employees and a culture built on values, trust and honor when the values were ignored, trust was broken and the organization dishonored by someone at the highest level?

That was the challenge that Dominic Barton faced shortly after he became head of consulting firm McKinsey.

The values that Marvin Bower, its longtime managing director, instilled included putting the clients’ interests above the firm’s, providing independent advice and keeping confidences. These ideas were imparted from one generation to the next, mentor to apprentice. But after Anil Kumar’s arrest [he pleaded guilty] in late 2009, Mr. Barton, who had been elected to head the firm just months earlier, decided that the honor-driven, values-based system was not enough. What the firm needed was some rules.

Powerful people do not take kindly to rules and nobody takes kindly to rules that result from someone else’s actions—especially when they impact one’s income.

Ethical people like to believe that defining values and modeling them across the organization from the top down is enough.

It’s not.

An exceptional CEO I worked with who detested politics believed it was enough that his senior staff couldn’t use politics to get ahead with him. What he refused to recognize was that even though the political games didn’t work on him they wreaked havoc on those below the game-players.

This is especially true in the current world where greed, whether for wealth and/or power, is epidemic and “enough” no longer has any meaning.

But to work, the rules must apply evenly to everybody, at all levels, including the rule maker.

Flickr image credit: Andrew Scott

Cultivating Disaster

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/498916What happens when a normally ethical person is told to “fix it” by a person in authority?

Research shows that most people put a high priority on following orders from authority figures, a trait that is cultivated and rewarded in families, schools, churches, the military and the workplace… “As human beings, we are predisposed to be obedient to authority, no matter how malevolent it may be,” said Edward Soule, an associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown who has a Ph.D. in philosophy and focuses on the intersection of morality and management.

What bosses at every level need to recognize is the effect their position has on those below them.

Not only recognize, but understand the impact and the possibly disastrous results that can come from trying to comply.

It’s not necessarily an implied “or else” that gets them, but the implied “whatever it takes” coupled with that human predisposition that gets them in trouble—and can take the whole company down with them.

Quote the above to most managers and they’ll equate authority with the CEO and other executives, but not with themselves.

However, ask workers about authority and they usually start with their immediate boss.

Stock.xchng image credit: ugaldew

If the Shoe Fits: the True Value of Power

Friday, February 8th, 2013

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow did John Landgraf, president and general manager of FX Networks, turn the channel from an also-ran to top ratings earner?

Not the way you might think; not by his vision or impeccable taste; not by having his finger on the pulse of the public or because he can see around corners.

He did it by not doing it.

Landgraf spent time on the creative side and when pitching/producing he kept hearing the same thing.

“I always got the same dumb note from the networks. ‘Can you make the character more likable?’ ” he recalled last week in a phone interview. “Not make them more exciting, more compelling, more interesting, no, it was always make them more likable.”

When he got the FX catbird seat he didn’t ask for ‘nicer’ he asked for solid stories.

In other words, he did it by letting go of the power to make those decisions.

“We write a check to fund the production and they send us the shows. By trusting the people you work with — sharing the authority — and being willing to fail, things have gone pretty well for us.”

This is something that every entrepreneur needs to learn.

Success comes not from having the power to make decisions, but from the ability to give that power to others.

 “Power is only of value if you give it away. You have to be willing to give it away, to entrust your career, your reputation and your future to others, to make something that is remarkable.”

Image credit: HikingArtist

Quotable Quotes: William Henry Harrison

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States; he served from March 4, 1841 to April 4, 1841. He is a great example of why your mom told you to dress warmly when it was cold and experts warn against being too long-winded. Harrison listened to neither bits of wisdom. His inaugural speech was nearly two hours long, in fact, the first sentence alone was 100 words, in spite of Daniel Webster’s editing it for length. (Can you imagine it before editing?) Wearing neither coat nor hat Harrison gave the speech on a cold, wet day, caught pneumonia and died a month later.

“I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.” The same can be said of companies.

I’m sure the 1% and 1% wannabes will argue this, “All the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.” I’m also not sure if it’s intentional or unhappy coincidence.

Although I agree with Harrison’s statement, “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power,” but I don’t think the power has to be unlimited. However, whatever limiting factors exist must pay attention and be willing to get involved. Join me Wednesday for a look at what happens when they aren’t engaged.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Quotable Quotes: Lincoln Steffens

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I read a review about a new Lincoln Steffens biography and it was interesting enough that I looked for quotes and added (as usual) my own interpretation.

There’s been a lot of discussion on the value of college, mostly as a result of the recession. Steffens thoughts are from long ago, but they certainly resonate today, “It is possible to get an education at a university. It has been done; not often”

I puzzled over this one and finally decided that there is one incorrect word. “Somebody must take a chance. The monkeys who became men, and the monkeys who didn’t are still jumping around in trees making faces at the monkeys who did.” To make sense it should read, “Somebody must take a chance. Some monkeys became men, and the monkeys who didn’t are still jumping around in trees making faces at the monkeys who did.” Or, if it was rewritten for today’s entrepreneurial media frenzy, it might read, “Somebody must take a chance. Some people became entrepreneurs, and the people who didn’t are still jumping around in trees making faces at the people who did.”

Did you know that Steffens is responsible for the truism, “Nothing fails like success?”

He also said, “Power is what men seek and any group that gets it will abuse it.” Totally accurate, but these days it should read ‘any group or individual‘.

But when all is said and done, remember, “Morality is only moral when it is voluntary.”

Wikimedia Commons image credit: Rockwood, New York, New York [Public domain]

Women’s History Month

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Dolley_MadisonToday is the start of Women’s History Month, click over, I think you’ll find it an interesting experience; the interview with Cokie Roberts is especially fascinating as she explains the political power of women before they could vote.

These are an extraordinary group of people. The characters that emerge in this book in ways that you have never, never, I can assure you seen them before are people as divergent as Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Sacagawea Sally Hemmings, and a cast of just an enormous number of women particularly women who take center stage very quickly — Aaron Burr’s daughter —

And if you think politics is a dirty business now, you’ll be blown away by what was said/done to a politically active wife, such as Dolly Madison.

I hope you’ll take time to dig around the Women’s History Site over the next 30 days. It should be interesting.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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