Commentary by Michael Wade on Leadership, Ethics, Management, and Life
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Art Break: Klimt
Art Contrarian discusses this unusual Gustav Klimt painting of houses and reveals what the painting sold for at auction.
I like it. How much would you have bid?
The WWII Generation Passes
The World War II generation is passing away and with them their stories. A quick list of a few people I've met who were affected by that war:
- A man who flew multiple bombing missions over Germany.
- A member of the Hitler Youth who later served on a U-boat.
- An FBI agent who worked against Nazi infiltration in South America.
- A scientist who served in the Red Army, was shot by a German sniper, and later was exiled by the Soviet regime.
- An academic who was arrested by the Gestapo.
- A Holocaust survivor.
- A mild man who drove a tank in Patton's Third Army.
- An Army veteran who participated in the execution of Nazi war criminals.
- A Marine who was in the invasion of Okinawa.
- A Filipino who, along with other law students, set bonfires to signal American bombers.
- A pilot who spent several years in a German POW camp.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Advice to Students
- If the subject seems boring, look for a way to make it interesting.
- Don't just take notes. You are a student, not a stenographer. Try to boil down the concepts into plain language. Pretend that you are teaching the subject to a friend.
- Ask questions when something isn't clear. If your question is too long or specialized, see the instructor after the class.
- Remember that you are learning a subject, not dictating its scope or content. You may not like its characteristics but subjects come as they are. Don't fight the water. Swim.
- Recognize that when you study a subject, you are always learning more than just that subject. Consider the skills you are picking up along the way.
- Don't give slavish acceptance to perspectives and opinions simply because they come from an author or a professor. You can find historians with wildly different views of what took place in a particular time. Watch out for biases.Draw your own conclusions.
- Strive to learn the material and not just get through the class. Too many students enter the classroom with low expectations of their ability to do well and then they work mightily to fulfill those expectations.
The Cocked-Fist Culture
Of all the spirited new events in the Oppression Olympics—rescinding commencement-address invitations to speakers whose politics you dislike, accosting presidential candidates to see if they correctly answer which-colored lives matter, etc.—there is none so perplexing as that of “microaggression,” an indignity so microscopic that you’d have to be a critical race theorist, MSNBC pundit, or college sophomore even to detect it.
Read the rest of Matt Labash's essay in The Weekly Standard.
FutureLawyer, while on the road to recovery, reminds us of the simple pleasures of things we often take for granted.
It is also a reminder to be in the moment.
We move about amid a changing art gallery and encounter people who are libraries.
"Do you believe that the criteria you currently use to measure potential for success on the job are sound?"
"No. They are partial indicators at best."
"Then why do you continue to use them?"
"'Because we cannot devise anything better' would be one answer."
"What is another?"
"Because the most promising alternatives are either too time-consuming and expensive or they involve too much personal accountability. It's easier to have a quick, inexpensive, and impersonal system. That way we don't spend too much money or time and if a mistake is made we can blame a test or a screening device. No one takes the rap. Let the person go and then forge ahead and try someone else."
"Kind of nutty, right?"
"Only if getting the right person for the job is the highest priority."
Monday, September 28, 2015
Americana: Casting Call
From 2013: An unusual casting call for a performance of Star Wars in the heart of America.
Memories of Landmark Books
In the fifties and early sixties, Random House published a series of non-fiction books for young people. As I recall, you could choose a series of books on history or science. I chose history.
The books had excellent authors and covered a range of subjects.
They were marvelous. I wonder if there is an equivalent series today. In the meantime, check the used bookstores,
Music for Monday Morning
Vienna 1987: A memorable performance of "The Radetzky March."
Crank it up.
Knew of a Person
He knew of a person who knew of a person and that last person wasn't quite the right person for the job but he knew of another person and she knew of still another who would have been great but that person knew someone who was on the board of directors and felt that accepting the assignment wouldn't look right because of the connection and yes, that would mean a complete stranger would have an edge but sometimes connections work and sometimes they don't.
Sometimes it is who you know but sometimes having a connection becomes a barrier.
The world can be strange that way.
"By the way"
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Americana: The Peabody Ducks
If you have ever been to The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, you know that the resident celebrities are its ducks.
The story is here.
A great night to watch the moon.
According to StarWalk, it is the first super "Blood Moon" eclipse in 32 years.
Your next chance to see it will be in 2033.
From The Huffington Post: a ranking of Pepperidge Farm cookies.
Not a bad job.
If you are going to learn a foreign language, which one should it be?
The Washington Post has several different takes.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Art Break: Munch
Art Contrarian looks at the story of Edvard Munch and Mrs. Schwarz.
The war tried to kill us in the spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into the windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire.
- From The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
They're eating well at Cultural Offering. I especially like the "two or ten cloves" part.
At Some Point
Quote of the Day
There is no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nerveless sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, but who never does a manly concrete deed.There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.
- William James
Friday, September 25, 2015
Plans Look Simple
The Fluidity of Smart
With most individuals, being smart or being stupid is not a fixed status. Most of us have been brilliant one moment and dumber than dirt two minutes later. We can be impressed by someone who is very smart most of the time and yet that may be related to the specialized dealings we have with the person. Get them outside of their specialties and see how they sound.
We need to beware of prejudices and labels and yet maintain the ability to make judgments. I find this to be especially important when people are overly impressed with college degrees.The person who cleans up the classroom may surpass the professor who teaches in it if we are looking for a practical solution to Iran or the national debt.
It makes sense to take people as individuals and then evaluate that individual in the moment.
Some Unusual Novels That Deserve to Be Re-Read
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
- Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
- The Road Home by Rose Tremain
- Life with a Star by Jiri Weil
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Tai-Pan by James Clavell
- Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
- The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
- The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor
- The Wall by John Hersey
- The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning
- Clockers by Richard Price
- I, Claudius by Robert Graves
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
- Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
- The Time of the Assassins by Godfrey Blunden
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Will on Berra
Read all of George Will's essay on the great Yogi Berra.
The Indirect Approach
I pulled my shoulder last night but then, with the spirit of Hercules unchained, did yard work as well as some preparation of an exam for an online class. My wife and I each have minor medical appointments today, none of which are shoulder-related. My goal is to get through meetings without doing the Quasimodo.
A friend in the cattle biz spoke with me recently and eloquently described the beauty of his surroundings. He was lounging about in the north country and, while lying on a picnic table, raved on about the pines. I reciprocated by noting that I was parked outside the county jail and was carefully pondering a nearby landfill.
Reminder: Life can be unfair.
This is a very roundabout way of getting to a subject that I've been considering: how much of what we do well is tied to seemingly unrelated subjects. People attending my management classes may encounter lessons from Caesar Augustus and Napoleon as often as ones from Drucker, Mintzberg, and Bennis. We can explore the early days of Honda or the final moments of the Iranian rescue mission. There is much to learn.
Look about. We are surrounded by lessons.
Quote of the Day
Human beings are neither angels nor beasts, and they differ in attitudes, beliefs, motives, purposes, and ambitions. This makes civilization difficult to create and preserve. For the same reason, there must be "unsleeping sentinels who guard the outposts of society." Simply put, civilization cannot defend itself: people must stand up for it. The specific people who are in the front lines - the police - are thus essential to civilized life, even though there are limits to what they can do.
- Edwin J. Delattre, Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
There is always room for a fine new blog.
Be sure to check out Social Fencer.
Art Break: Howitt
Art Contrarian looks at the work of John Newton Howitt.
The index card has three words scrawled on it. They are three high priorities. When the highest is not being worked on, then one of the others will take its place.
A goal will be to keep away from subjects that are not on the card. As soon as one of the priorities is completed, another will take its place but there will never be more than three.
Three will be plenty.
All of us conspire with the outside world to sabotage our own schedules. We have plenty of accomplices. The dog wants a walk. Family members demand time. Community affairs scratch at the door. Job projects pile up. One peek at the daily dismal accounts on television or the Internet can cause us to wander into the kitchen and eat a cookie.
And throughout all of this, the sand is falling in the hourglass.
Just remember; the above is on good days when we aren't staring at the ceiling of a hospital room or trying to ferret out justice like a pig after a truffle.
Our progress is fueled by a blend of dissatisfaction, achievement, and appreciation.
May we have a cup nearby every single day.
Quote of the Day
Ultimately, a man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life, and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life, to life he can only respond by being responsible.
- Viktor Frankl
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Thinker, Consultant, Author, Artist, Photographer
Tanmay Vora has been on a roll.
Check out his blog here.
Done? Finished? Completed? Not Quite.
I spent several hours this morning going over a project that I'd considered done, at least on the surface. There had been an uneasiness, however, that signaled it wasn't quite finished but I couldn't pinpoint just what was lacking.
A couple of nights ago the answer arrived but it too was hazy and not quite on target.
I located the target this morning. My scribbling began at a car repair shop and will continue through this afternoon and evening.
Not unusual, right?
What is interesting - at least to me - is what caused me to miss it earlier. Now everything seems obvious. Why did I resist seeing it? The usual culprits have been examined and the prime suspects are Fatigue and Impatience.
Both are career criminals.
Forging an Alliance
Monday, September 21, 2015
Miscellaneous and Fast
Eclecticity Light on Suicide Prevention Month.
Wally Bock: Leadership reading to start your week.
Andrew Munro's Blog weighs in on the Volkswagen scandal.
Matthew Lang is changing his opinion on Medium.
Political Calculations has a video on a simple way to kill mosquitoes.
Dennis Prager believes that Europe is making a fatal mistake.
Back by popular demand: Robert De Niro's speech in "Mistress."
WSJ Law Blog on falling bar exam scores.
The Strategic Learner has a review of "Intelligent Disobedience."
Customer Service: A Key Step
You know the dream.
You are back in school and you suddenly realize that the final exam for your English. Math or whatever class is today and you are freaking our because you have not attended that class for months. It somehow slipped your mind.
I have that dream and another where I'm back in the Army. That one is not stressful at all but the test one is always "How could I have forgotten to attend a class for months?"
And that produces a question: I knew some guys who didn't attend class for months and who would just show up for the final.
Do you think they have a dream in which they've been attending class?
FutureLawyer: Zombies and Selfie Cereal Spoons
Art Break: The Harvard Five
Art Contrarian looks at the homes of five architects.
Some travel books to check out:
- Steaming to Bamboola: The World of a Tramp Steamer by Christopher Buckley
- Italian Days by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
- The Rainy Season: Haiti - Then and Now by Amy Wilentz
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
- The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux
- One for the Road by Tony Horwitz
- Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey by V.S. Naipaul
- Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey in the Heart of Darkness by Jeffrey Tayler
- Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz
- Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
- Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux
- Murderers in Mausoleums: Riding the Back Roads of Empire between Moscow and Beijing by Jeffrey Tayler
- In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo by Michela Wrong
Quote of the Day
Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going.
- Paul Theroux
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Some sonatas by Henry Purcell. Crank it up.
I have been preparing a briefing on local history. That project involves a lot of study along with a focus on finding patterns and incidents relevant to today's listeners. As I scan the flow of the material, one feeling emerges: gratitude.
Look around in your own community. Those hospitals, schools, banks, churches, museums, farms, and businesses didn't "just happen." They required dreams, generosity, hard work, and sacrifice by thousands of people who are far from famous.
In one of the interviews I found, Barry Goldwater recalled how his father, who had a department store in Phoenix, devoted many evenings to teaching bookkeeping to an Eastern European immigrant who ran a competing business. Goldwater laughed and said that his dad, who passed away when young Barry was in college, helped to create a formidable competitor for his son.
It is possible to list several people who had an enormously positive influence in community affairs and justly so. Without them, many of the advances that we take for granted would either be absent or diminished. If you want to see evidence of that, look at cities where that caliber of leadership was not present.
For many years, there has been a tendency to assume that everyone is in it for the money. Certainly some are but you can find a multitude of examples where the desire to build a better community was the primary motivator.
And for that, we should be grateful.
Terry Teachout looks at a play's revival. An excerpt:
“The Rainmaker” takes place on a prairie ranch where it hasn’t rained for weeks. The Curry family is wilting under the heat, and Lizzie (Linsey Page Morton), the daughter, is feeling it all the more powerfully because she’s come to the reluctant conclusion that she’s not pretty enough to snag a husband. Bill Starbuck (Steve Key), a traveling rainmaker with a smooth line of talk, begs to differ. Sure, he’s a phony, but he’s a true believer in the power of optimism to water dry souls, and in the process of mulcting the Currys out of $100, he gives Lizzie something more precious than a thunderstorm.
"The sea is feline. It licks your feet - its huge flanks purr very pleasant for you; but it will crack your bones and eat you, for all that, and wipe the crimsoned foam from its jaws as if nothing had happened."
- An observation by Oliver Wendell Holmes found in Steaming to Bamboola by Christopher Buckley
Beethoven, Bach, Tolstoy, dogs, Bogart, Mozart, chocolate, Dickens, Wodehouse, laughter, Trollope, Copland, Gershwin, the Marx Brothers, Frost, Steinbeck, Handel, ink, Hemingway, coffee, Presley, The Beatles, Tracy, Hepburn, Purcell, Lewis, Twain, steak, Faulkner, Poe, The Rolling Stones, cinnamon, Dylan, Charles, Austen, London, lemonade, Conrad, Hugo, Gilbert & Sullivan, mornings, the ocean, and so much more.
Please Bear with Me
On May 10, 1940, King George VI of England reluctantly accepted the resignation of his prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, and following Chamberlain's advice asked First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to form a new government. The king would have preferred to ask someone else - even though, like most people, he recognized that the First Lord possessed extraordinary qualities and talents. But he did not trust Churchill to control them. He judged him to be unbridled, a loose cannon.
- From Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet by Jonathan Schneer
Experienced leaders have made mistakes. The important question is whether the mistakes indicate a character flaw or simply a blunder; a lapse in judgment.
Now the minute that statement is made, critics will rush to claim that the blunder of their opponent was in fact a character defect but any reasonable application of fairness should acknowledge the difference. In our hyper-critical society, leaders are scrutinized for any blemish and there is rarely any acknowledgement that the person who has a few scars may be all the better a decision-maker because of those negative experiences.
Churchill was a better leader because of Gallipoli.
One can argue back and forth about Carly Fiorina's record at H-P and yet it is important to remember that serious leaders come with the problems (and lessons) of their past.
[Some fail to learn and just bring the problems.]
Others, however, bring less experience and thus fewer mistakes. They may be wizards and yet that may also pose the question of whether the big mistakes of their life are lurking in the future.
Quote of the Day
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. . .take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.
- Marcus Aurelius
Friday, September 18, 2015
Re-Covering the Classics
The MOO Blog describes an interesting project.
All It Takes is One Lawyer
Slow on blogging this morning. Internet connection problems being resolved. Yugoslavian router blamed.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
I'm teaching Ethical Decision Making today. The class mainly addresses how to decide the Right versus Right decisions since the Right versus Wrong ones are rather easy. [Hint: Choose Right.]
The problem with most ethical decision making procedures is they require time and you don't always have time. The world doesn't freeze in place so you can climb to the mountain top and ponder the correct course of action.
That's why I'm adding an element on ethical instincts - default tendencies that will kick in without thinking - choices that resemble the quarterback's decision to pass or to run or the lawyer's decision not to pursue a certain line of questioning.
I'll be discussing the process with the class. I'm 98 percent of the way to declaring Wade's Law. Give me another month and I'll be there.
Survey: Which "How to" Workshops are Wanted?
I need your opinion.
My current management workshops address these topics:
- Strong and Caring Supervision
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Harassment Prevention
- Ethical Decision Making
- How to Make Presentations to Councils and Boards
- Communicating Tactfully in a Diverse Workplace
- Customer Service in the Public Sector
- Leading with Honor
I'm considering narrower topics that are along the lines of "how to do" a specific task. Here are three questions:
- Which narrow topics do you believe would be of greatest benefit to you and/or your team?
- What do you think is the ideal length for such training?
- Can the subject(s) be offered online or is in-person training essential?
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Americana: Hopi Radio
To make a long story short, I've been listening to Hopi Radio lately, catching some tribal tunes followed by David Bowie and the like.
Check it out here.
Ministers at War
Much of what we know about Churchill relates to his wartime leadership, chronicled as part of the late Sir Martin Gilbert’s magisterial biography. Schneer does not repeat the oft-told tales of the prime minister who wooed Franklin Roosevelt, kept Joseph Stalin informed and reasonably content as a new ally, and did so much to hold the Allied coalition together. Instead, Ministers at War deals with his success with a different coalition: his wartime cabinet. Here is a riveting account of how Churchill—working behind the scenes as skillfully as he worked in public to rally the nation, using the same gifts of tenacity and charm—contended with strong-minded men from different parties and backgrounds, with differing ambitions, and competing against each other, both at cabinet meetings and in Parliament.
Read the rest of Cita Steltzer's review of Jonathan Schneer's new book.