Sunday, December 21, 2008

Missing - by Eleanor C. Donnelly

This morning, while doing some research for my latest project, "The Theory of the Plate", I came across the following poem by Eleanor C. Donnelly.

It reminded me that we, all of us, should take a moment to appreciate the luxury we have of living in a free country and take an equal moment remembering those who have fallen while serving to protect our freedoms.

As you prepare to celebrate this Christmas holiday, please keep all those who are serving our country in your heart and in your prayers; make sure they are not forgotten or go missing...

Take care...



In the cool, sweet hush of a wooded nook,
Where the May-buds sprinkle the green old ground,
And the wind, and the birds, and the limpid brook
Murmur their dreams with a drowsy sound, ---
Who lies so still in the plushy moss,
With his pale cheek pressed to a breezy pillow,
Couched where the light and shadows cross
Through the flickering fringe of the willow?
Who lies, alas!
So still, so chill, in the whispering grass?

A soldier, clad in the Zouave dress,
A bright-haired man, with his lips apart,
One hand thrown up o’er his frank, dead face,
And the other clutching his pulseless heart,
Lies there in the shadows cool and dim,
His musket brushed by a trailing bough;
A careless grace in his quiet limbs,
And a wound on his manly brow:
A wound, alas!
Whose dark clots blood the pleasant grass.

The violets peer from their dusky beds
With a tearful dew in their great pure eyes;
The lilies quiver their shining heads,
Their pale lips full of a sad surprise;
And the lizard darts through the glistening fern,
And the squirrel rustles the branches hoary;
Strange birds fly out, with a cry, to burn
Their wings in the sunset glory
While the shadows pass
O’er the quiet face on the dewy grass.

God pity the bride who waits at home,
With her lily cheeks and her violet eyes,
Dreaming the sweet old dream of love,
While the lover is walking in paradise!
God strengthen her heart as the days go by,
And the long, drear nights of her vigils follow;
Nor bird, nor moon, nor whispering wind
May breather the tale of the hollow!
Alas! alas!
The secret is safe with the woodland grass.

- Eleanor C. Donnelly

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Dictator by Any Other Name...

Yesterday, I read a quote that made me think about the fundamental nature of leadership.

In the culture of the nineties, CEOs were “leaders” and union chief were “bosses”, regardless of the fact that unions [were] often democracies while corporations [were] almost always dictatorships.
Now, please take a moment, set aside your feelings about big business and/or organized labor and think about what is being said. I find two very important points.

First, the implication that the mantel of leadership evolves and migrates across social groups, i.e. leadership is a dynamic social process. However, in the contrast drawn between “leaders” and “dictators”, it eludes to the possibility that the heads of a modern plutocracy have preempted; or worst yet, hijacked and misapplied the title of “Leader” to their actions as a way to achieve legitimacy. While I find this an interesting and important issue, one entirely relevant to the current Leadership Epidemic, one I'll write more about in a future post, the second point is more pressing.

The second point, is the nature of the relationship between the leader and the lead; yes back to the relationship question. In a dictatorship the relationship between the members of society and their “leaders” is unidirectional. Additionally, the outputs beyond the minimal cost of survival, i.e. the cost of labor, accumulate to the heads of state rather than the members of society. Finally, most of the relationship work is done within the “Court of Leader” rather than between the followers and leaders, i.e. followers are not part of the system, rather they are an expense; are expendable.

In this analogy the legitimacy of the CEO as leader is put into question in the same way that a dictators claim to a rightful position is questioned by members of a free society.

In a previous set of posts, we investigated the question, “Does Most Leadership Suck?”. Many of your posts, even when trying to maintain a positive demeanor, answered in the affirmative. I suspect this affirmation is a symptom of the failure of organizational “leaders” to recognize the value of relationships among and between their shareholders.

The fundamental underpinning of leadership is the relationships that a Leader develops within his/her followers. For legitimacy, Leaders must develop two-way, mutually supportive relationship with their followers. When you have a dictatorship this does not happen.

What are your thoughts?

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Take care and enjoy...


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Leadership Lesson from Al Qaeda

I have always thought that we can learn a lot about leadership from those with whom we fight and struggle. So today, I would like you to consider a leadership lesson from the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ).

The EIJ’s original objective was to overthrow the Egypt government and turn the country into an Islamic state. However, the EIJ fell on hard times after a number of it leaders were either imprisoned, killed or forced into exile.

To gain a new footing, the EIJ shifted its focus from the near enemy, Egypt to the far enemy, the US and other Western countries. This switch allowed the EIJ to align itself with another terrorist group, Al Qaeda. This was a good alignment because it allowed Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda to trade an infusion of cash in exchange for EIJ operational experience.

Here is the leadership lesson.  A lesson that sits at the heart of all leadership dilemmas.

In return for financial support, Ayman al-Zawahiri provided Al Qaeda with about 200 loyal, disciplined and well-trained followers, who became the core of Al Qaeda’s leadership.

Read that again… What ultimately became the core of the most successful terrorist group in the world was as set of loyal, disciplined, well-trained followers.

This says to me that developing followers who are loyal, disciplined and know the machine that makes up your business is infinitely more effective than focusing on the immeasurable activities of organizational cheerleading.

As a leader, there are three questions you must be able to answer.  How do you create loyalty within your organization?  How do find, instill and value the quality of self-discipline within your people.  How do you develop well-trained followers who know your machine and possess the capacity to become the core of your organization’s leadership?

More importantly, do you possess the loyalty, discipline and knowledge as a follower that enables you to take on the responsibilities of leadership?

What are your thoughts?

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Take care and enjoy...