The Speed in a Modern Life

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I am presently reading the sequel to “The monk who sold Ferrari”  -  Leadership Wisdom” by Robin Sharma. And now here is the coincidence that I have two articles from regular reading web-shelf on the subject of “moving Too fast” and (Executive)  ” Burnout” by Ben Fanning , in a guest article on “Great Leadership“.

So, this post – to bring in the essence of both articles, without precluding the “MUST read” each of the article and practice what they have said.

In Gentle Friday Reminder: Go Slow, Shri Tanmay Vora gently reminds us of a harsh aspect of the way we live our life today: “Life is too short (really) to zoom past it. At the end of a succinct article, thereby still , probably, facilitating the current mindset of whizzing mankind interest of reading the article for top-to-finish, he has ceratinly ‘gently’ jolted the reader by quoting “an amazing blogger, Nicholas Bate says: “Chase quality of life, not standard of living. The former is what most of us actually want”.”

Ben Fanning has retained the matter-of-fact narrative style befitting   the Management Genre of the Literature. The entire article - Why Burnout Should Alarm Executive Leaders - has a good deal of wisdom neatly stacked making it quite easy on an otherwise harassed, on verge-of -burn-out ‘modern’ executive to read the article. And the Bonus Tip “Celebrate the Small Wins – Find something to celebrate with your team every day. Even the smallest of wins can help build momentum to achieve bigger goals.” gives a small electric shock for the race for increasingly BIG wins in SHORTEST possible time.

Great Leadership: Building Your Leadership Brand

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[ Great Leadership: Building Your Leadership Brand.- The Guest article, by Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm on The Great Leadership, an excellent blog by Dan McCarthy spurred me to write a response to the article.

Ultimately, it was too long enough to be posted as a comment to the original  article. Hence this post.]

The article’s emphasis – define what leadership is to you” – requires being underlined,so that the real intent of such an excellent advice is hardwired among the practicing managers:

The article goes on to delve deeper into ‘defining’ ‘your own leadership by squarely positioning three searching questions, which we further analyze in terms of the analogy of the “Product Brand” used in the article:

  1. “Genuine” and “True:

For any product to be elevated to a cult , the preferred, brand, it is mandatory that its core characteristics – be its design, be its engineering, be its physical or material or  any other fundamental ‘properties’ by any name – must always be consistent with the  promise of the fulfillment of the need or the requirement of its user that a product or service inherently carries with itself..

Any dilution in the ‘core’ invariably leads to the down fall of the ‘image’ of the product..

This is true of Leadership as well. Leadership, its most fundamental core, is not merely a profession or a vocation. It is a passion. The extent or the nature of the passion may depend on several factors internal to the person – the personality style, impact of one’s upbringing etc.-  or external to the leadership  as an organism – surrounding ‘ecosystem’, the purpose of the organization, the then strategic intents of the top management, organization’s’ relative competitive position etc.- , but the fact remains that as long as the person has an internal stream of inspiration flowing, the leadership as an organism survives.

The core of any Leadership is the ethos of the Leader – values, beliefs, intentions, principles, practices and all that makes a person what he or she is.

  1. “Inspire” others:

This is somewhat equivalent of 4 (or sometimes known as 5) Ps of the product.

Good products are ‘sold’ but good brands are ‘bought’! Excellently conceived and executed Ps can help ‘sell’ the product, but only when the product meets (or exceeds) the requirements or needs of the user, it becomes The Brand which is ‘bought’ irrespective of any (or perhaps, all) competitive pressures.

So is the case of Leadership. A well thought out and manifested Leadership Style can ‘sell’ itself to target constituency, but in order for the Leadership” to be willingly ‘bought’, it ought to “inspire(s) those around (you) to perform their very best”.

The extent and nature of voluntary inspiration that The Leadership provides to the target constituency determines its brand value.

  1. The “results”

Call them KPIs of performance of the product or the Leadership.

In the modern age, what was considered purely altruist in the previous centuries – Religion, Arts, Charity etc. – also get measured in terms of what or how much is achieved.

The results, continuing our analogy with Product, have to be sustained over the life cycle. We still have traces of the tradition where the past glory of a product is archived in a museum. In similar manner, the past glory of the Leadership that was may get chronicled or may be referred to in the present context.

However, increasingly, the value of leadership has indeed shifted to the extent of its impact on the way it enables handling the present, thereby making future appear more cognisable.

The lasting of the Leadership Brand is the impact that it leaves in terms of shaping the future of its constituency.

In the ultimate analysis, the author, Beth Armknecht Miller, rightly cautions thatthe ‘Leadership’ must remain rooted to the inherently “natural” grain. The moment it ‘sounds’ [or ‘appears’] cosmetic, it indeed “loses its credibility”. This is where it may tend become a ‘practice’ rather than a ‘spirit”.

Leadership Traits – to be Developed and Maintained – @ April 2012 Leadership Development Carnival, hosted by Shri Tanmay Vora

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We have had a detailed look at several interesting fares on the offer at the April 2012 Edition of Leadership Development Carnival, hosted by ShrI Tanmay Vora. We looked at the The Boss,  , Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea’ and CHANGE at length in the words of the writers of the original articles.

We now conclude our visit to the Carnival by taking a similar detailed look at a major group of articles, bound by a common thread of Traits and Qualities, required to be acquired and maintained by the persons who are destined to play role of effective leaders in their respective organizations.

We begin our present tour with an evergreen subject of leadership versus Management. Bret Simmons in his post “The Difference Between Management And Leadership” spells out in clear terms why the distinction is accurate; however, focusing on it is dangerous. We might think that Warren Bennis’s axiomatic statement  “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.” seems to ratify the distinction as if these are two parallel lines, who never meet each other. In the new chapter to the paperback edition of his book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Bob Sutton states that bosses tend to consider “generating big and vague ideas as the important part of their jobs – and to treat implementation, or pesky details of any kind, as mere “management work” best done by “the little people.” Even if left unsaid, this distinction reflects how too many bosses think and act. They use it to avoid learning about people they lead, technologies their companies use, customers they serve, and numerous other crucial little things.” (p. 264).” Bret Simmons adds that “the best leaders continually pursue skills that enhance their mastery of management efficiencies. The best managers always realize that effectiveness is the real goal, and efficiency is necessary but not sufficient for sustaining a healthy organization. The best organizational citizens understand how their roles are interdependent with every other role in the organizational leadership process.”

At our next stop, Tim Milburn considers ‘Developing Lifelong Leaders’ tagline of his website his life’s mission. In an effort to more clearly define what he means by lifelong leader, he has spelt out “Three Traits Of A Lifelong Leader”to identify this type of person: First he is a Life Long Learner [“If a person is motivated to learn, that person has the potential to lead.”]. Secondly, he takes Responsibility [If a person has a track record of taking responsibility, that person is a promising candidate for leadership”.] And thirdly, he empowers and walks the people through Change. [“If a person can empower the change-resistant to become change-receptive, that person has incredible possibilities for leadership”.]

Thus, lifelong leadership would also mean:  “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” ~Albert Einstein. As Jane Perdue explains, in her article “7 Ways to Maintain Momentum”, that failure has to be seen as ‘dealing with hitting one of life’s unexpected speed bumps.’  And the solution lies in seeing ‘what happened to you as a “teachable moment” for exploring, growing and learning instead of allowing yourself to withdraw.’ She has a bouquet of 7 Tips to help maintain the momentum. Each tip has an excellent quote. For the purpose of this visit where we intend to take home our learning, we will store these quotes:

“1] “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

2] “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~Carlos Castaneda

3] “Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

4] “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ~Aldous Huxley

5] “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” ~Abraham Lincoln

6] “The difference between can and cannot is only three letters. Three letters that can shape your life’s direction.” ~Remez Sasson

7] “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” ~Brian Tracy

The next time you’re cruising down the highway and see the road sign that reads “keep moving, change lanes later” – smile and follow the good advice.”

Till now we have seen ways and means to ‘maintain’ what is ‘acquired’ to be an effective leader. But in real life, it is never a good strategy to aim to remain where you have reached. The moment, you decide to focus on staying where you are, the decline has started. That is why Utpal Vaishnav, in his article, “Want to Make a Difference? Be Unreasonable”   invites to stop living normal life. He goes on state:

“Consider for a moment what actually happens when you fantasize about something?

You visualize something which is impossible or improbable in reality.

You hit the bull right. Even the Oxford dictionary confirms: Fantasy means an idea with no basis in reality.

Stop living so called ‘normal’ life is the first step to be able to create something incredible that you wouldn’t be able to, otherwise.

Being able to be unreasonable is the key.

One great source of learning to be unreasonable is the children around us. In Indian mythology it is considered that a child below five years is a divine form of God. I often explore and find that saying to be profound.

A child doesn’t care about what’s normal or what’s right and what’s not. The child would speak something that’s not appropriate, the child would break something which shouldn’t be broken, the child would write something weird on drawing room wall or the child would play basketball in the kitchen.

Many a times, the same child would create something which nobody else had ever created. May it be so little or of no value in the physical world, but a creation is a creation.

Act matters.

Often, reasons are self-imposed, or based on others’ experiences which we have heard and based our reasoning – sense of what’s right and what’s wrong – onto that.

In other words, reasons are sources of limitations. Actually, there’s nothing wrong in being reasonable, except the fact that being reasonable is a not so powerful tool to create the future you want.

Being reasonable offers you a sense of predictability and safety.

Predictability is the enemy of creativity. It would be interesting to reflect on what Bernard Shaw said:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adopt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

If you’re trying to create something that will make a difference, choose to be unreasonable.”

And of course, let us come back to the fact that when all is said and done, person in the leadership role has the, at least, moral responsibility to attain what is “good” for the  Purpose of the Organization over longer term of the Organization’s life span. Mark Bennet  ,in his post, Sustainable Means More Than Recycling, brings out the issue in a new light:

“Think in terms that go beyond simply making your organization “a great place to work”, or “an environmentally friendly company”, or “good for society”, or “making the best product or service” – those can be just as narrow as “best risk/return record in the industry” if viewed as siloed, separate things.

Think instead about how all the pieces do fit together – how customers value your products/services is affected by your impact on the earth’s resources and environment, what your employees think about what their work means affects delivering a superior return to your investors across all that they value. These factors all interact in the outside world, as more people are beginning to understand, so your organization must also determine how it fits into that web of interaction.

An excellent book that focuses on the “how” with well-researched examples, is “Management Reset” by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. It describes what the authors refer to as “Sustainably Managed Organizations”, in contrast to the long-standing “Command and Control Organizations” and the more recent “High Involvement Organization.”

Sustainably Managed Organizations (SMOs) weave together all the aspects of the organizations relationships with economic, social, and environmental stakeholders (not just “shareholders.”) They break out their approach to how SMOs operate into the major components that every organization must attend to if it really wants to achieve any meaningful change: Strategy, Structure, Talent, and Culture.

Leadership is needed in all four of these components if the change effort is to have a chance of success. Most of all, leadership can have the largest positive impact through talent – the way people are treated, and culture – how behavior is guided…if it would only put the needed focus there.

Think about it – the places where organizations have gone off the rails and landed in the headlines on topics such as corruption, environmental disaster, and financial collapse of outrageous origin have been due in large part to culture and how certain behaviors were encouraged, tolerated, or rationalized.

Now think about how those negative outcomes affected the broader set of investors and their future decisions regarding those organizations.

We’re way past getting by with “Our people are our most important asset.” Organizations must now be able to explain how they manage their talent to generate value and create superior business performance – most of all to their people. Executives must be the primary talent managers, understanding how the workforce capabilities enable/constrain strategic options and impact execution.

Think what can happen when leadership is focused on how they manage talent and shape behaviors to the same extent it is focused on strategy and structure.”

We end our this tour of the carnival with the definitive listing of 10 key qualities of effective staff officers (equally applies to great leaders)by Michael Wade [of Execupundit.com]

The effective staff officer exhibits the following:

  1. Honesty. Important information is not hidden, filtered or distorted. It is surfaced in a manner that will gain the necessary attention and the analysis is not weighted with a bias against other viewpoints.
  2. Initiative. Matters that require attention are promptly addressed. Deference is given to the proper procedures and areas of responsibility but subjects are not allowed to languish. Problems and questions are anticipated and addressed early on.
  3. Discretion. Words and behavior that cast doubt on the professionalism and integrity of the work unit are strictly off-limits.
  4. Openness. Rank is not unduly invoked. Concerns and objections are carefully considered. Options are not manipulated to produce a rigged result.
  5. Knowledge. The procedures, substance, and needs of the job are known. That knowledge is never static.
  6. Judgment. Excellent decision making skills are combined with wisdom and good old common sense.
  7. Urgency. Making things move is not enough. They must move in the right direction. Continually restoring the status quo is not acceptable.
  8. Intuition. Spotting problems and sensing when something is not quite right is vital. Attention is paid to both the tangible and the intangible.
  9. Coordination. Proper roles are respected and the deft coordination of those roles is standard.
  10. Humility. There is a keen appreciation of when to speak up, when to back off, and when to be silent.

We carry the message of legendary Pele – “Everything is Practice” – as a memento of   comprehensive tour of the Carnival.

The CHANGE…. as can be seen…..@ April,2012 edition of Leadership Development Carnival, hosted by Shri Tanmay Vora

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April, 2012 edition of Leadership Development Carnival, hosted by Shri Tanmay Vora  has also not missed the perennial feature of any major discussions on leadership development – CHANGE.

We begin our sojourn of Change by first looking at “The Adaptability Paradox” – the difficulty we have as leaders staying current and ‘learning through’ the change.

The author, Linda Fisher Thornton, talks to us “about how difficult it can be to change when we have been successfully doing something the same way for a long time.

The well worn path that we have followed for years is easy to follow. We know the rules, the processes, the tools, the pitfalls and all other aspects of that path.

Our comfort with that path makes it harder for us to see that even though the ‘way we have always done things’ has led us to success in the past, it may not in the future.

Sometimes the familiarity of the well worn path makes it harder for us to see what’s changing around us. And even if we do see changes, we have to choose to adapt to them. One element that makes it difficult for us to easily embrace change is the time involved in learning new ways of doing things.

The paradox is this – When I adapt to change, it will be MORE DIFFICULT short term and also EASIER long term.”  She calls this as “The Adaptability Paradox”.

“Initially, we must accept that it will be more difficult as we learn new tools, skills and approaches. Long-term, our productivity will increase and it will be easier for us to get work done. When we learn through the changes, our lives and work become EASIER because we are approaching them in new successful ways – with new thinking, new tools, new information and new skills.

Here are some of the warning signs that our skills are becoming outdated:

  • People are routinely using terminology we don’t know
  • It is becoming more difficult to get things done the way we’ve always done them
  • People are not seeking out our input the way they used to
  • Coworkers are adapting to new approaches and are more productive than we are
  • There are new studies, books and articles being mentioned that we haven’t read
  • There is free technology for improving efficiency in our line of business that we aren’t using
  • We feel out of the loop somehow but can’t quite figure out why

If we miss the signs of change (or if we see the signs but do not adapt), our skills become outdated fast – just as fast as the speed of change.

When a change in the world, our world, becomes a change we’ve ignored, then by doing nothing, we are actively choosing the more difficult path in the long run.”

This leads us to the next logical step, and also the article of the Carnival: Are You Ready for Change? In this article Guy Farmer first indentifies “signs that you or your organization may not be quite ready for change:

  • Leaders and employees emphasize how things have always been done.
  • It takes a long time for any new idea to be considered.
  • Leadership doesn’t listen to suggestions or a variety of perspectives.
  • Decisions have always been made by the same individuals or group.
  • Leaders view change as admitting failure or as a threat to their authority.
  • Leadership is happy with the culture of the company but nobody else is.
  • The prevailing leadership style is reactive and focused on the past.
  • Change is only discussed as a negative or something to be avoided.”

He then lists “Signs that you’re ready for change:

  • Leaders and employees are open to doing things differently.
  • New ideas are entertained and considered promptly.
  • Leadership is open to suggestions and varying perspectives.
  • Independent decision-making is encouraged at every level.
  • Leaders see change as an opportunity to grow and lead more effectively.
  • People work together to build a culture that benefits everyone.
  • The preferred leadership style is proactive and forward-looking.
  • Change is openly talked about and used as a tool for progress.”

So “Is your approach to change more like the first list or the second? … When you resist change, you’ll likely find yourself dreading anything that’s different and scrambling to put out fires and stifling progress. If you invite change, you’ll enjoy dealing with the challenges that come your way and building workplaces that’s flexible and agile.”

We thus proceed to Blanchard’s culture guru S. Chris Edmonds’ article “Leaders, Change What You Pay Attention To”, where he shares a ‘best practice’ recommendation: “leaders must change what they notice. Every day.” while taking up the required culture change.

The “culture change model requires that companies be very disciplined in setting expectations on two fronts: performance and values.” He notes that in most organizations, the leadership does work hard enough to enhance the performance clarityHowever, the importance of value clarity seems to be overlooked.

“Most leaders in organizations have been trained to look at performance metrics. Organizational systems have been designed and refined to present up-to-the-moment data about performance metrics. Those metrics typically include:

  • Widgets out the door
  • Quality of products and services
  • Financials, including revenue, expenses, and net profits
  • Waste, scrap, and/or recovery
  • Labor costs
  • Raw materials costs
  • Market share
  • Customer satisfaction

“These are important metrics to track as they all contribute to or erode financial success and the long-term viability of the enterprise.

“However, they are not the ONLY metrics leaders must observe closely. And, suggesting that leaders spend 50% of their time and attention on things OTHER than performance metrics causes consternation (and worse).

“Why? Most leaders have not experienced an organizational culture that requires values alignment as well as high performance. Without relevant role models or “on the job” training for managing values AND performance, organizational leaders don’t know what to “do differently” to do those things effectively.

“The leaders need to Pay Attention to Value Metrics, Too. These values metrics provide insights into how well the employee population believes that their company trusts, respects, and honors them, day in and day out.

  • Employee morale
    Do employees believe the company is a good place to work? Do they recommend that others work there (or stay away)? Do employees apply discretionary energy to their work tasks and opportunities?
  • Employee perceptions of the company’s culture
    Do employees believe that the organization has their best interests at heart? Does the corporate culture enable staff to share hopes and dreams about the future? Are they happy about working in the company?
  • Employee perceptions of the company’s leaders
    Do employees believe leaders are credible, behave with integrity? Do employees believe what leaders tell them? Do employees rally around leaders during times of stress or do they disconnect?

“How do you measure traction in these metrics? Wander around your workplace. Ask questions. Listen. Conduct regular employee surveys. Hold leaders and staff for values expectations.

“To free up time, energy, and space to observe these values metrics, leaders must delegate some of what they’ve been doing to stay on top of performance metrics to trusted, talented staff. Very capable staff are ready to provide data that enables leaders to keep track of performance standards and accountability.

“Great bosses create safe and positive workplace that inspires high performance and values alignment.”

The secret to creating a sustainable business that creates passionate employees who exceed performance standards and consistently wow your customers is embedded in the graphic the “Performance Values Matrix”, at left, in the Blanchard’s culture change model.

This model comes from Jack Welch, who, while President/CEO of General Electric, was the first corporate senior leader to formally hold leaders and managers in his organization accountable for both performance and values.

“To make your company values measurable and actionable, follow these steps to define your values in behavioral terms.

  1. For each value, brainstorm potential behaviors that you’d be PROUD to see all staff demonstrate when they’re modeling this value.
  2. Cull through the behaviors to reduce the list to three to five behaviors per value.
  3. For each behavior, define three key measures: “exceeds standard,” “meets standard,” and “needs improvement.”
  4. Test these measurements with key players throughout the organization.

5.    Survey entire organization using your custom values assessment, twice each year. Publish results throughout the organization in as many ways as necessary to ensure all staff know how the organization is doing with the goal of “modeling our values.””

We, thus, had great pleasure at looking in great, verbatim details, each of the articles on the subject of CHANGE in the present April 2012 edition of Leadership Development Carnival. The adaptability [to the Change]has in-built inherent paradox, understanding which gives a clear perspective to our readiness for the Change. All, and any, change, in the ultimate analysis call for building up safe and positive workplace that inspires high performance and values alignment.

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea” @ Leadership Develpoment Carnival, hosted by Shri Tanmay Vora, in April 2012

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We take a wide angle view of April 2012 Carnival of Leadership Development: Earth Day Edition for the Leadership Lessons by Gwyn Teatro from Ernest Hemingway’s story “The Old Man and the Sea”.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is the Plot summary” of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, published in 1952 to wide critical acclaim.

“The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an epic battle between an old, experienced fisherman and a large marlin. The novel opens with the explanation that the fisherman, who is named Santiago, has gone 84 days without catching a fish. Santiago is considered “salao”, the worst form of unlucky. In fact, he is so unlucky that his young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to sail with the old man and been ordered to fish with more successful fishermen. Still dedicated to the old man, however, the boy visits Santiago’s shack each night, hauling back his fishing gear, getting him food and discussing American baseball and his favorite player Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tells Manolin that on the next day, he will venture far out into the Gulf to fish, confident that his unlucky streak is near its end.

Thus on the eighty-fifth day, Santiago sets out alone, taking his skiff far onto the Gulf. He sets his lines and, by noon of the first day, a big fish that he is sure is a marlin takes his bait. Unable to pull in the great marlin, Santiago instead finds the fish pulling his skiff. Two days and two nights pass in this manner, during which the old man bears the tension of the line with his body. Though he is wounded by the struggle and in pain, Santiago expresses a compassionate appreciation for his adversary, often referring to him as a brother. He also determines that because of the fish’s great dignity, no one will be worthy of eating the marlin.

On the third day of the ordeal, the fish begins to circle the skiff, indicating his tiredness to the old man. Santiago, now completely worn out and almost in delirium, uses all the strength he has left in him to pull the fish onto its side and stab the marlin with a harpoon, ending the long battle between the old man and the tenacious fish. Santiago straps the marlin to the side of his skiff and heads home, thinking about the high price the fish will bring him at the market and how many people he will feed.

While Santiago continues his journey back to the shore, sharks are attracted to the trail of blood left by the marlin in the water. The first, a great mako shark, Santiago kills with his harpoon, losing that weapon in the process. He makes a new harpoon by strapping his knife to the end of an oar to help ward off the next line of sharks; in total, five sharks are slain and many others are driven away. But the sharks keep coming, and by nightfall the sharks have almost devoured the marlin’s entire carcass, leaving a skeleton consisting mostly of its backbone, its tail and its head. Finally reaching the shore before dawn on the next day, Santiago struggles on the way to his shack, carrying the heavy mast on his shoulder. Once home, he slumps onto his bed and falls into a deep sleep.

A group of fishermen gather the next day around the boat where the fish’s skeleton is still attached. One of the fishermen measures it to be 18 feet (5.5 m) from nose to tail. Tourists at the nearby café mistakenly take it for a shark. Manolin, worried during the old man’s endeavor, cries upon finding him safe asleep. The boy brings him newspapers and coffee. When the old man wakes, they promise to fish together once again. Upon his return to sleep, Santiago dreams of his youth—of lions on an African beach.”

[The full text can be seen here or a pdf version can be downloaded from here.]

Literary Value:

It had been twelve years since Ernest Hemingway’s previous critical success, For Whom the Bell Tolls. A year later, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Nobel committee singled out the story’s “natural admiration for every individual who fights the good fight in a world of reality overshadowed by violence and death,” (noted Susan F. Beegel in “Conclusion: The Critical Reputation of Ernest Hemingway”). Although Hemingway’s writing continued to be published, much of it posthumously after the author’s suicide in 1961, The Old Man and the Sea is generally considered by many to be his crowning achievement. The work was especially praised for its depiction of a new dimension to the typical Hemingway hero, less macho and more respectful of life. In Santiago, Hemingway had finally achieved a character who could face the human condition and survive without cynically dismissing it or dying while attempting to better it. In Santiago’s relationship with the world and those around him, Hemingway had discovered a way to proclaim the power of love in a wider and deeper way than in his previous works. [Courtsey: http://www.enotes.com/old-man-and-the-sea ]

Themes, Motifs & Symbols  [http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/oldman/themes.html ]

Themes   (Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.)

The Honor in Struggle, Defeat & Death

From the very first paragraph, Santiago is characterized as someone struggling against defeat. He has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish—he will soon pass his own record of eighty-seven days. Almost as a reminder of Santiago’s struggle, the sail of his skiff resembles “the flag of permanent defeat.” But the old man refuses defeat at every turn: he resolves to sail out beyond the other fishermen to where the biggest fish promise to be. He lands the marlin, tying his record of eighty-seven days after a brutal three-day fight, and he continues to ward off sharks from stealing his prey, even though he knows the battle is useless.

Because Santiago is pitted against the creatures of the sea, some readers choose to view the tale as a chronicle of man’s battle against the natural world, but the novella is, more accurately, the story of man’s place within nature. Both Santiago and the marlin display qualities of pride, honor, and bravery, and both are subject to the same eternal law: they must kill or be killed. As Santiago reflects when he watches the weary warbler fly toward shore, where it will inevitably meet the hawk, the world is filled with predators, and no living thing can escape the inevitable struggle that will lead to its death. Santiago lives according to his own observation: “man is not made for defeat . . .  man can be destroyed but not defeated.” In Hemingway’s portrait of the world, death is inevitable, but the best men (and animals) will nonetheless refuse to give in to its power. Accordingly, man and fish will struggle to the death, just as hungry sharks will lay waste to an old man’s trophy catch.

The novel suggests that it is possible to transcend this natural law. In fact, the very inevitability of destruction creates the terms that allow a worthy man or beast to transcend it. It is precisely through the effort to battle the inevitable that a man can prove himself. Indeed, a man can prove this determination over and over through the worthiness of the opponents he chooses to face. Santiago finds the marlin worthy of a fight, just as he once found“the great negro of Cienfuegos” worthy. His admiration for these opponents brings love and respect into an equation with death, as their destruction becomes a point of honor and bravery that confirms Santiago’s heroic qualities. One might characterize the equation as the working out of the statement “Because I love you, I have to kill you.” Alternately, one might draw a parallel to the poet John Keats and his insistence that beauty can only be comprehended in the moment before death, as beauty bows to destruction. Santiago, though destroyed at the end of the novella, is never defeated. Instead, he emerges as a hero. Santiago’s struggle does not enable him to change man’s place in the world. Rather, it enables him to meet his most dignified destiny.

Pride as the Source of Greatness & Determination

Many parallels exist between Santiago and the classic heroes of the ancient world. In addition to exhibiting terrific strength, bravery, and moral certainty, those heroes usually possess a tragic flaw—a quality that, though admirable, leads to their eventual downfall. If pride is Santiago’s fatal flaw, he is keenly aware of it. After sharks have destroyed the marlin, the old man apologizes again and again to his worthy opponent. He has ruined them both, he concedes, by sailing beyond the usual boundaries of fishermen. Indeed, his last word on the subject comes when he asks himself the reason for his undoing and decides, “Nothing . . . I went out too far.”

While it is certainly true that Santiago’s eighty-four-day run of bad luck is an affront to his pride as a masterful fisherman, and that his attempt to bear out his skills by sailing far into the gulf waters leads to disaster, Hemingway does not condemn his protagonist for being full of pride. On the contrary, Santiago stands as proof that pride motivates men to greatness. Because the old man acknowledges that he killed the mighty marlin largely out of pride, and because his capture of the marlin leads in turn to his heroic transcendence of defeat, pride becomes the source of Santiago’s greatest strength. Without a ferocious sense of pride, that battle would never have been fought, or more likely, it would have been abandoned before the end.

Santiago’s pride also motivates his desire to transcend the destructive forces of nature. Throughout the novel, no matter how baleful his circumstances become, the old man exhibits an unflagging determination to catch the marlin and bring it to shore. When the first shark arrives, Santiago’s resolve is mentioned twice in the space of just a few paragraphs. First we are told that the old man “was full of resolution but he had little hope.” Then, sentences later, the narrator says, “He hit [the shark] without hope but with resolution.”The old man meets every challenge with the same unwavering determination: he is willing to die in order to bring in the marlin, and he is willing to die in order to battle the feeding sharks. It is this conscious decision to act, to fight, to never give up that enables Santiago to avoid defeat. Although he returns to Havana without the trophy of his long battle, he returns with the knowledge that he has acquitted himself proudly and manfully. Hemingway seems to suggest that victory is not a prerequisite for honor. Instead, glory depends upon one having the pride to see a struggle through to its end, regardless of the outcome. Even if the old man had returned with the marlin intact, his moment of glory, like the marlin’s meat, would have been short-lived. The glory and honor Santiago accrues comes not from his battle itself but from his pride and determination to fight.

Motifs (Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.)

Crucifixion Imagery

In order to suggest the profundity of the old man’s sacrifice and the glory that derives from it, Hemingway purposefully likens Santiago to Christ, who, according to Christian theology, gave his life for the greater glory of humankind. Crucifixion imagery is the most noticeable way in which Hemingway creates the symbolic parallel between Santiago and Christ. When Santiago’s palms are first cut by his fishing line, the reader cannot help but think of Christ suffering his stigmata. Later, when the sharks arrive, Hemingway portrays the old man as a crucified martyr, saying that he makes a noise similar to that of a man having nails driven through his hands. Furthermore, the image of the old man struggling up the hill with his mast across his shoulders recalls Christ’s march toward Calvary. Even the position in which Santiago collapses on his bed—face down with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up—brings to mind the image of Christ suffering on the cross. Hemingway employs these images in the final pages of the novella in order to link Santiago to Christ, who exemplified transcendence by turning loss into gain, defeat into triumph, and even death into renewed life.

Life from Death

Death is the unavoidable force in the novella, the one fact that no living creature can escape. But death, Hemingway suggests, is never an end in itself: in death there is always the possibility of the most vigorous life. The reader notes that as Santiago slays the marlin, not only is the old man reinvigorated by the battle, but the fish also comes alive “with his death in him.” Life, the possibility of renewal, necessarily follows on the heels of death.

Whereas the marlin’s death hints at a type of physical reanimation, death leads to life in less literal ways at other points in the novella. The book’s crucifixion imagery emphasizes the cyclical connection between life and death, as does Santiago’s battle with the marlin. His success at bringing the marlin in earns him the awed respect of the fishermen who once mocked him, and secures him the companionship of Manolin, the apprentice who will carry on Santiago’s teachings long after the old man has died.

The Lions on the Beach

Santiago dreams his pleasant dream of the lions at play on the beaches of Africa three times. The first time is the night before he departs on his three-day fishing expedition, the second occurs when he sleeps on the boat for a few hours in the middle of his struggle with the marlin, and the third takes place at the very end of the book. In fact, the sober promise of the triumph and regeneration with which the novella closes is supported by the final image of the lions. Because Santiago associates the lions with his youth, the dream suggests the circular nature of life. Additionally, because Santiago imagines the lions, fierce predators, playing, his dream suggests a harmony between the opposing forces—life and death, love and hate, destruction and regeneration—of nature.

Symbols (Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.)

The Marlin

Magnificent and glorious, the marlin symbolizes the ideal opponent. In a world in which “everything kills everything else in some way,” Santiago feels genuinely lucky to find himself matched against a creature that brings out the best in him: his strength, courage, love, and respect.

The Shovel-Nosed Sharks

The shovel-nosed sharks are little more than moving appetites that thoughtlessly and gracelessly attack the marlin. As opponents of the old man, they stand in bold contrast to the marlin, which is worthy of Santiago’s effort and strength. They symbolize and embody the destructive laws of the universe and attest to the fact that those laws can be transcended only when equals fight to the death. Because they are base predators, Santiago wins no glory from battling them.

Interestingly, Alexander Petrov’s created in the year 1999 paint-on-glass-animated short film , The film won many awards, including the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Work on the film took place in Montreal over a period of two and a half years Work on the film began on March 1997. It took Aleksandr Petrov and his son Dmitri Petrov (who helped his father) until April 1999 to paint each of the 29,000+ frames. The film’s technique, pastel oil paintings on glass, is mastered by only a handful of animators in the world. Petrov used his fingertips in addition to various paintbrushes to paint on different glass sheets positioned on multiple levels, each covered with slow-drying oil paints. After photographing each frame painted on the glass sheets, which was four times larger than the usual A4-sized canvas, he had to slightly modify the painting for the next frame and so on. For the shooting of the frames a special adapted motion-control camera system was built, probably the most precise computerized animation stand ever made. On this an IMAX camera was mounted, and a video-assist camera was then attached to the IMAX camera. It is possible to enjoy this short film on You Tube -

The movie version of “The Old Man and the Sea” seems to have been released in 1958, Directed by: John Sturges and starring Spencer Tracy, Felipe Pazos and Harry Bellaver and in 1990 starring Anthony Quinn, Gary Cole

Gwyn Teatro presents Leadership Lessons from Ernest Hemingway’s story “The Old Man and the Sea”.

Have a clear goal

Spend some time envisioning the goal. In your vision, where are you fishing? How much and what kind of fish are you catching? How big is your boat? What equipment do you have? Who is giving you support? What have you learned that you don’t know now? How did you learn it?

Build a plan to support the goal.

Being able to clearly imagine the goal is important but you must also have a realistic plan for achieving it. This includes ensuring you have sufficient resources and capability to execute the plan. And, by the way, a good plan is only good when it is acted upon. Otherwise it becomes an exercise in wasting your time.

Consider the potential risks and rewards

Before venturing into uncharted waters, it’s a good idea to first reflect on what you stand to gain and lose by doing so. If the risk seems greater than the potential reward, you might want to re-think the strategy.

Develop Solid Relationships with others

John Donne once said, “No man is an island entire of itself”. With that in mind, consider inviting others to share the goal and be part of the venture. Protect your interests from becoming shark bait by offering other, like-minded people of your choosing to participate and share in the rewards.

Think Beyond the Achievement of the Goal

To consider achievement of the goal as the end would be a mistake. You also have to anticipate what might happen in the event of a huge success. What then? How will you manage it? What more will you need? How will it change you? How will it change your company?

Know When to Cut the Line

There is of course a point of no return on just about everything. In the case of Santiago in the original story, going further and further out to sea after he had caught the fish ensured that by the time he made it back to shore, there would be nothing left of it. In business we also have to know when to stop.

The bottom line is that striking out to explore new territory is an essential part of leadership. However, the success of such exploration and the achievement of goals rely on one’s ability to marry leadership skill with management ability. Perhaps if Santiago had understood this, the outcome of his story might have been more positive.

The Boss . . . . @ the April 2012 Leadership Development Carnival by Shri Tanmay Vora

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[The Boss is widely discussed, most hated, most often the butt of the jokes, mostly hated animal of the organizational zoo. The Boss articles in the present April 2012 edition of Shri Tanmay Vora’s  Leadership Development Carnival explore a different dimension of the Leader in the role of the Boss.]

The demographic distribution in any organization obviously puts The Boss at a natural disadvantage. But this is not the reason why Mr. Wally Bock   “urge(s) to try it out, before commit(ting)”.  Mr. Wally Bock has seen the first-time bosses “unfold” and sometime “unravel” for over 25 years. In his experienced view, the boss is a leader who is “responsible (and accountable) for a group and the group’s performance”. Helping his team and team members to succeed is so very different work that becoming a boss amounts to “a career change”.

As the Boss, he needs to natural inclination to accept responsibility, has to make decisions, talk to others about performance and has to love helping others to succeed – all the characteristics of a true leader.

Mr Bruck also cautions that “It takes a decade or more to achieve any sort of mastery and you will never master it all.”

Becoming a good boss and maintaining the position is akin to Alice In Wonderland where one has to keep running in order to stay where you are. Mr.  David Burkus quite succinctly puts forward the concept of “an S-curve  where entropy begins near the top.As we move toward the top, we start to change the way we behave. Our days seem mindless, we experience more anxiety and our less likely to be growing and learning. In addition, we find ourselves in conflict more with our environment and peers. O’Neil argues that when we reach this top, we need to take a step back and observe our needs and ourselves.

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke, offers an addendum to O’Neil: we don’t just need to step back to observe, we need to step back to avoid hurting ourselves and others.

Ariely (2010) introduced the concept of “self-herding,” which is to say that humans make decisions about future behavior based on past behavior. Therefore, when we act out in anger in a situation we are more likely to behave the same way the next time we encounter that situation, whether angry or not.

This is how well meaning leaders develop into terrible bosses. As they approach the tip of the S-curve, as burnout and entropy sneak in, they act out against their people. The next time they face a similar situation, whether rested or not, they may act the same way. Gradually, they turn toward this dark side.

Leaders must develop awareness for when anxiety, conflict and burnout creep in. When this happens, the not only need to observe but they need to resist negative actions – as they may have lasting effect on themselves and their team.”

In a related video talk , Mr. Burkus goes on elaborate why the boss afflicted by the Peter’s principle   ‘sucks’ his team and provides means to keep away from this pitfall.

On a very different note, Art Petty lists At Least 10 More Things to Stop Doing if You’re the Boss .  Never preach what you will not do for yourself, not only handle difficult issues relating to the team performance but also be seen to act , do not act like a friend if you cannot indeed be a friend, never try to see over the backs of the team, ensure that your own goals remain tightly aligned to that of your team, share praise in public and criticism in private, do listen to your team’s views, never be seen to shy away from the inherent role-based responsibilities and be ready to share the due credit of a good job are her simple sounding tenets. When I was reading the complete article, I could not stop looking at myself, because it seemed that this is some sort of confession. And it seems that there many more who also share similar apprehensions, since she was soon flooded by four times the comments on her article enumerating “At Least 20 Things to Stop Doing as a Leader”.

This brings us to a question: Is your Boss killing your ideas?. Mr. Rajesh Setty is his usual to-the-point in this no holds-barred, but a neatly balanced article. Mr. Setty here focuses on a triad possible solution of how to handle the issue of Your Boss killing Your Ideas.

“The first thing to remember is that an idea is rarely looked at its merits on a standalone basis. Your idea is one of the many on his or her table and he or she has to pick among the best available options at that point in time.

Antidote: The way capitalize on this is to clearly know both your organization’s priorities, your Boss’ priorities and what else is on the table of your Boss. With that knowledge, you can paint a picture with your idea

The second thing to remember (and probably more important than the first one) is that every idea has a weight associated with it and the major part of the weight for your idea comes from “who you are” to the Boss and to the organization.

The third thing to remember is that while you are thinking about the “idea,” your Boss is thinking also about the “execution of the idea” and ALL changes needs to be made with people and systems to make this a reality. If the story does not pan out well in his or her mind, the idea gets rejected quickly.

Antidote: There are two things you need to become really good at – 1) continuing beyond the idea alone and thinking about all aspects of execution 2) the art of telling a great story.”

You are smart and the idea that got rejected is not the LAST great idea that you will ever get.

And still, If you’ve been hitting the snooze button lately on weekday mornings instead of hitting the shower—or find yourself taking the long way around to avoid passing by the corner office, you may just be working for a TOT, that is, a “Terrible Office Tyrant.”

TOTs are bosses who act strikingly similar to children, oftentimes toddlers in their Terrible Twos. Why does this happen? Because we’re all human, and behind the professional facade are grown kids who act out and can’t moderate their power.

However the modern boss – colleague [no more a subordinate!] relationship is expected to be built on the foundation of a transparent two-way communication. Mr. Dan McCarthy strongly advocates that you have got nothing to lose, and everything to gain by talking to the boss in his article How to Discuss a Problem with Your Manager. He explains that “if you talk to your boss, chances are, one of four things will happen:

1. Your boss may have had no idea that whatever he/she was doing or not doing was having an impact on you.

2. Your boss may be dealing with some other issue that has nothing to do with you, and again, was unaware of his/her behavior.

3. In either scenarios #1 & #2, your boss may be perfectly happy with your performance, and you’ll feel much better knowing that (and withdraw those job applications on Monster).

4. Your boss may actually be upset with you – and for some reason, has been avoiding telling you. In this case, you’ll at least have an opportunity to find out what the problem is.

Once you know that, you can work on making it better. If it’s something you can’t make better or don’t want to, then at least you’ll know where you stand and can pursue other options for the right reasons.”

Here is a small piece of advise I read while I was re=freshing my search about Shri Azim Premji’s famous talk about the employees leaving a boss rather than a company:

CALM: Communicate, Anticipate, Laugh, and Manage.

  • Keep the lines of communication open; anticipate problems and solutions; use humor (it is the great diffuser); and      manage up by being a positive, proactive problem solver.

(this is the first of the detailed exploration of the previous post:  Carnival of Leadership Development – April 2012 – By Tanmay Vora

Carnival of Leadership Development – April 2012 – By Tanmay Vora

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Shri Tanmay Vora, originally a core quality professional, also has inherent natural knack  to look at the world around from a human perspective. He is also, inherently, very innovative in his observations about what he sees or reads or expereinces.

I have had benefit of a chance visit to his blog , which has now been my regular joint to visit. Each visit is a treat in itself.

Leadership Development Carnival is one of such activities where we have the benifits of his innovative and creative bent. The Leadership Carnivals is an intititive led by Shri Dan McCarthy.

He has edited the carnival for April,2012 .

Shri Vora has cast his net wide quite wide and has thus presented a gourmet bouque of  around 26 articles in the present edition.

I plan to take each of the articles for an indepenedent review in subsequent posts during the month.

Can responsibility be made commensurate with authority? – Peter Drucker’s interesting views

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Peter Drucker was of the considered views that “…it was dangerous to hand out authority without responsibility, that if we decentralize we have to make people responsible and accountable. Otherwise. . . . it would be chaos.”

For Drucker, few principles were more sacrosanct: “Whoever claims authority thereby assumes responsibility,” he wrote in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “But whoever assumes responsibility thereby claims authority. The two are different sides of the same coin.”

In Concept of the Corporation, Drucker was even more blunt: “Authority without responsibility is tyranny, and responsibility without authority is impotence.”

બિઝનેસ મોડલ ગરીબોને ફાયદો થાય એવું બનાવો – Create a business model that benefits the poor – www.divyabhaskar.co.in

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બિઝનેસ મોડલ ગરીબોને ફાયદો થાય એવું બનાવો – Create a business model that benefits the poor – www.divyabhaskar.co.in.

Not long ago Dr.C K Prahlad used to passionately advocate the concept of ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ and had explicitly established that given the right business model, this consumer segment had far more  untapped potential – both, in terms of profitability and  the market size.

He also used to establish that so-called ‘poor’ nations in fact did not suffer because of paucity of resources. They suffered because they are not utilizing their resources efficiently and effectively. This calls for invoking the instincts of innovation, inherently available in every human being but generally remaining very dormant.

Not many years ago, when there was hardly any presence of private enterprise – generally presumed to be efficient and innovative – many of the products and services of the public sector in the fields of education, health care, TV, Radio etc. were exemplary.

However, surprisingly the advent of private  sector in these fields in last 20 years seem to have deteriorated the performance and standards of performance. This is considered to be the most adverse comment on the free-market orientation of deployment of resources. The free-market mindset seems to be highly pliable to path of least resistance. The practitioners of free-market orientation need to read Robert Frost’s poem – The Uncharted Road.

in fact, reaching out the bottom of pyramid , the so-called “Aam Aadmi”, is the Challenge of 21st Century, as evidenced by Occupy Wall Street movement and the likes.

What incentives the young professionals of 21st Century need to take up this challenge?

‘The great prize in life is work worth doing’

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Shri Gurcharan Das has classified three categories related to work, in his article ‘The great prize in life is work worth doing’ in his TOI blog dated 13-11-2011.
[http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/men-and-ideas/entry/the-great-prize-in-life-is-work-worth-doing]

The first one wants to work but cannot find it. If the person is qualified or experienced or competent enough and finds not enough opportunities or even if he is not as qualified or experienced or competent but still finds not enough opportunities, the society is certainly ripe for a massive expression of discontent. This is being seen in several countries across all continents, may be for varying reasons.

The second one is the one who does not want to work. This category would come into existence and grow where the governments, in their genuine or false notions of idealism of welfare permit fermentation of easy ‘comfort zone’ for those who could and should work but can get way by not working because of such schemes. This constituency gets restless when their ‘comfort zone’ is curtailed or disturbed when the system attempts to address efficiency or effectiveness of the schemes.

The third one is those who work but do not value their work. This class comes up when the state has created unequal platform between employers and employees for permitting the interplay of what is judicious and fair working conditions vis-à-vis rewards of good work.

The Spoilt – anyone who gets what one wishes whether one deserves it or without putting in reasonable efforts – and the Spoiler – be it Governments or Parents or Society – both suffer, if not in the short term, then certainly in the long term.

The author has very aptly used the former American President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote “far and away the best prize that life offers is a chance to work hard at work worth doing,” as an apt warning signal for all stakeholders, particularly for the Spoilers .

He has posed a million-dollar question, too: how to find one’s passion, while working for making a living?

This is the poser for me to end this post and take up my own search for what my passion is and how shall I realize it?

One way to look at the issue is what Shri Chetan Bhagat has aptly said in his blog ‘Happy Diwali (and why I am still here)’ [http://www.chetanbhagat.com/blog/2011/10/24/happy-diwali-and-why-i-am-still-here/“.. be the ambassador of change in your own world. You don’t have to be a celebrity, authority or a powerful person to effect change. You just have to change yourself, and set an example for others. Slowly, people will see the right path.”

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