Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sad to see him go

Congress lost a weiner this week. While some might say that it's about time, I think we all needed the distraction. Comedians had easy access to some great fodder, and for a few days we could forget that there was anything going on anywhere else in the world. The trial of that psychopathic mother in Florida elbowed its way in to the news cycle, but that's because people love a good murder trial, especially when the defendant is so easy to hate. Yet the Weiner dominated, reinforcing the belief all men have on that topic.

It got me to thinking about quitting and how that relates to leadership. Once upon a time in Japan, whenever a grievous error happened in a company, the company's leader would resign. It was seen as a way to save face for the business. By quitting, the leader took upon himself the blame for whatever went wrong. Whether or not he felt any guilt is beside the point; I like to believe that many of them felt some small sense of remorse. That doesn't matter, though; what's important is that they took responsibility.

That doesn't happen in the US. There is a belief here that executives have plausible deniability. And they do, I guess. My CEO probably believes everything is hunky-dory in my department. The reality is quite different; some horrible mistakes have been made that are only now showing their results. Not to toot my own horn, but I predicted the problems; evidently nobody believed me then, and nobody remembers it now. In part that's because Americans love working in a reactive mode. Football is the perfect example of this. Coaches come up with a game plan, but most of the game is a reaction to what the other team is doing. Basketball is an even better example. Our leaders don't always know what's going on at the lower levels because the lower level leaders don't want them to know; that's common sense, I guess. Who wants to tell the CEO that they screwed up? Unfortunately, I'm one of those that would say that. Ask me what the problems are and I'll tell you, and I'll own up to my part of it. That's because I believe all humans are fallible. We all make mistakes. As I tell my baseball team, ESPN makes a fortune selling blooper DVDs. No matter what your level of play, you will screw up. It isn't the mistake that makes the man, but it's how we react to it.

Leaders must understand quitting. They have to know when it happens and why. A leader must have the ability to take responsibility and, if needed, quit for the good of the company. Weiner finally decided to quit and it's the right thing to do. Too bad other politicians don't understand this. I'm looking at you, Gingrich.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Digital Age

There are times when I feel somewhat sorry for people running for elected office. Nothing escapes scrutiny these days, and sometimes the scrutiny isn't always fair. Do we really need to know about every dumb thing someone says? Like when Sarah Palin misspoke about Paul Revere. I don't like Sarah Palin; I think she's a perfect example of what is wrong with politics, and she has absolutely no qualification to hold elected office. But I also don't think her gaffe about Paul Revere is the worst thing in the world, either. To me it just highlights how unqualified she is, but we really should know that by now. Unfortunately, there is a segment of our population that will lean towards her because of such mistakes, because those are mistakes that they, too, make. For some reason we don't want leaders smarter than ourselves.

Then there are people who are just plain stupid. Chris Lee, for example, sending pics of his body to a woman, or Anthony Weiner who supposedly sent pics of his "bulge" over Twitter. And there are many cases of people caught saying stupid stuff because they didn't realize a microphone was on.  Add to this the number of stars who are caught topless or intentionally take pictures of themselves nude. Every time, they get mad that someone leaked the pictures (or audio). Come on, folks, it's 2011. The technology to do this sort of thing has been around for a very long time. Whereas before it took actually processing film, now as soon as a picture is taken it can be sent around the world before the person in the pic even knows about it. Every cell phone has a camera and microphone.

I guess it's too much to expect that leaders always be on their A-game. Personally I don't hold anyone to that high of a standard; we're all human, and we all do stupid stuff. If you were to ever record what I say about other drivers, you would think I'm a horrible person. But if the person has access to really screw up my life (politicians in particular), then I expect that at a minimum they understand the world they're moving in and stop trying to lie their way out of things. If you don't take a picture of your wang, then there's no way a picture of your wang can get circulated around the Internet. So ... don't do things so impossibly stupid. It makes the gaffe's by Palin look like child's play.