Alexander the Great – What makes a leader great?

Anil Behan runs a great site over at Orgdyne as well as the Orgdyne mailing list. Orgdyne is the place to go for discussion about the often hidden, unspoken and sometimes, ugly, dynamics in organisations.

Anil’s latest posting is an interview with Manfred Kets de Vries entitled What makes a leader great? published in Strategic Direction Vol. 20, Number 8, July/August 2004. In Anil’s words “It is a fascinating account of the leadership style of Alexander the Great”. Kets de Vries also looks at several other modern leaders and anilyses their style by reference to Alexander the Great.

This is a must read for anyone truly interested in the nature of leadership in modern corporations.

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Some US Political Trivia

Just came across Taegan Goddard’s site. For those of you who like to keep up with trivia from the US political campaign, here are some recent comments he attributes to Democrat nomination Kerry’s daughter Alex:
Top three things said by Kerry’s daughter, Alex, and overheard by our correspondent:

  1. “I

The Dangerous Organisation

This PBS Frontline program re-broadcast on the Australian ABC program Four Corners on Monday night is chilling viewing.
It follows on from our commentary on NASA a few days ago where we observed that an organisation can become poisonous. NASA, at least has high ideals – although the practice is a little different. The Mc Wane Corporation on the other hand is portrayed as simply profit hungry and dangerous.

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Images of Organization

Images of Organization – Gareth Morgan


Morgan presents a methodology for analysing organisations using the
notion of metaphor. He argues strongly that developing metaphors "create
ways of seeing and shaping organizational life."

After a brief overview of the concept of metaphor, Morgan jumps right
in and gives some concrete examples of how it can be applied to understanding.
He devotes a chapter each to a number of classical metaphors, developing
a case study around each one and demonstrating how action can be informed
from the analysis. He pulls no punches in the issues he addresses in
choosing metaphors to explore:

Continue reading Images of organization

Lessons from the Columbia Disaster

If you haven’t caught up with it, BOSS magazine has a nice roundup of news from the journals each month. Unfortunately they don’t put the roundup on the website which is a pity.
Also unfortunately, one of the articles that caught my eye this month Lessons in organizational ethics from the Columbia disaster: Can a culture be lethal? Organizational Dynamics vol 33, issue 2 is also not easily available online. I did some searching around and found I could get if for a $30 (US) download fee. Seems like a lot of money for one article.
Reading Malcolm Rimmer’s BOSS review of the article tempts me though.
I have long been interested in the culture of NASA and the way that there seems to be an unwritten rule that certain potential problems don’t get reported up the chain.
Rimmer notes:

A disregard for safety was no secret to its employees, but they feared for their jobs and would not speak up.

Because a culture of production at all costs can be lethal, [author] Mason proposes an antidote: the “highly reliable organisation” (HRO), based on the concept of “mindfulness”. Designing an HRO is not difficcult, but finding the desire to build one may be tougher – until it is too late.

The list of organisations that poison themselves goes on and on.
Looks like I might subscribe to Organizational Dynamics. I note that they have a sample issue which is currently vol 33 #1. Maybe in a month’s time it will be vol 33 #2 and I’ll be able to get the article. I can only hope!

Crooked Timber one year old

Congratulations to Crooked Timber. One year old on July 8.
There is a certain culture of blogs that started about one year ago. Can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something about them.

The fate of the corporate executioner

Accordng to this weekend’s Australian Financial Review, corporate executioners have a tough time [payment required]. On one level, finds it pretty hard to work up a lot of sympathy for people who wield the axe in corporations. They take the money, they suffer for it. They don’t have to do it. (Well perhaps someone does have to be responsible for layoffs in many instances. However, at least if it was done with real human concern for and connection with the victims it would be a totally different experience for all concerned.)
The AFR piece does show that people can’t behave in subhuman ways without affecting themselves. It shows that the modern culture of downsizing negatively affects everyone involved – including the donwsizers themselves. argues that in at least most cases it also negatively affects the downsized corporation as the survivors feel both guilt at surviving in place of the victims and an increased and ever present sense of their own corporate mortality.
Sure, we’ve learned that the sharemarket will generally appluad the CEO who is prepared to make “the hard decisions”. But can anyone argue that the sharemarket is a rational being capable of discerning even the medium term impacts of today’s actions?
It’s going back a while now, but Jerry Harvey wrote a powerful piece about downsizing in 1988 in The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management. He devotes a chapter of his book to this topic, comparing downsizing to the holocaust. Harvey argued that it could only occur because otherwise decent people allowed it to. People were afraid to stand up to the Nazis and often, even Jews became collaborators. believes there are times when downsizing is necessary. When a company’s market collapses it can’t continue to pay people. However we can’t agree with corporations who bring in the army of 25 year old management consultants to show them how to remain competitive and simply accept their advice to ‘reduce labour costs’.
If it is the very last resort after every other avenue has been explored, when any necessary reductions are kept to an absolute minimum and when departures are handled with all compassion and dignity we can find, well maybe. But then, when was the last time you heard of a downsizing effort that looked like this?

Scribblingwoman one year old

Congratulations to Scribblingwoman on reaching her first anniversary.
Makes you reflect anew how recent the blogoshpere is and how rapidly it has grown. Kottke recently noted that “A Google search for “blog” returns 46 million items”. “0 – 46 million in five years. Not bad.”
While we’re at it, Scribblingwoman has some commentary about the nature of blogs and the blogosphere comparing this phenomenom to 18th century coffeehouses. The following quote comes from one of her links:

The blogosphere seems less to me like a close-knit community (there isn

Pool Rage

Sometimes the things we do to protect our health don’t work out exactly the way we expect.
Today didn’t start out that well for me. As I have attempted to do every weekday morning for the last 22 years, I turned up at the local swimming pool this morning. I went through the usual routine. Queued up at the desk for a spa tag and put my card through the machine to let the know I was paid up. Then through the self-opening door, past the kiosk picked up a kickboard for later then over to the pool.

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