The Widdershins

The Elasticity of Leadership…

Posted on: August 20, 2013

Rubber band stretching

Our good friend and front-pager Prolix is having trouble getting in to the admin side to create his post so I’m more than happy to do that for him

Morning Widdershins — taking a line from Breaking Bad, here’s hoping you have an A1 day and if anyone offers you a trip to Belize, politely turn it down.

Every rubber band has its tolerance level.  You can only stretch them so far before they break.  As long as you stretch a rubber band within its tolerance, it will hold its form from Point A to Point B, but if you try and stretch it to Points C, D, and E without making allowances you will be rewarded with a snap.

Leadership is the same.

As we listen to the continuing harangue over the NSA’s data collection and Mayor Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk Policy, we can see first hand the limits of the elasticity of leadership.

The Patriot Act, passed while the rubble of the World Trade Center was still smoldering, was an Act that stretched the plausibility of information collection to just short of a breaking point in the name of national security.  Now a dozen years later, there are other factors tugging at the frayed elasticity.

Stop and Frisk, started by Rudy Giuliani, began with meager beginnings and Mayor Bloomberg has grown it to over a half-million stops a year based upon nothing more than “furtive looks” or hands in pockets.  About ninety percent of these furtive looks and hands belong to minorities.

When you have stretched a rubber band to its breaking point, changing its configuration is a tricky proposition.  Just the same, no one wants to be the one who changed NSA data collection or Stop and Frisk when the results “could be” calamitous.  For those who have no responsibility or chance of a backlash, it is easy to call for changes because the result won’t catch them in the snap.

The challenge for leadership is to reconfigure the rubber band within the parameters of policy while easing the inherent tension — no easy feat.  The first step is understanding what led to the aberrant stretching and to dislodge them.  The second, is to reduce the inherent tension.  The third, is to make sure those aberrant forces that led to the tension do not return.

In the study of leaders, how do successful leaders go about this?  The first, is essentially teaching — making sense of experience — making sure people understand the parameters of the need to stretch the rubber band.  The second, and this is always the most difficult for leaders — lose the ego.

Leaders always conduct an inherently self-aggrandizing dialogue with themselves, “If only they knew what I know…”  A circuitous waste of time and a pitiful self-serving rationale usually resulting in anemic action at the pace of cold molasses.

Stretching the rubber band of leadership often has a direct correlation to the size of the ego and how deeply that ego is Rubber band stretching 2entrenched with the particular issue.  Mayor Bloomberg seems in full defensive mode surrounding Stop and Frisk and his defense seems more ego than fact driven.  President Obama seems more than willing to lighten the tension around the NSA since the Patriot Act was a Bush/Cheney creation, but even then, he is unwilling to significantly curtail executive powers.

These two issues are illustrative of measuring just about any act of personal leadership.  First, take no act in a vacuum without making sense and sharing experience and second, lose the ego.  Once you have taken measure of those two things, there won’t be any tension in the elasticity of your leadership and how far it may stretch.

This is an open thread.


13 Responses to "The Elasticity of Leadership…"

Sadly, we have had an elasticity of morality, and it has snapped bigtime.

RIP, Lee Thompson Young and Elmore Leonard.

Very sad about that young actor killing himself. Yes, RIP to him and the very talented Mr. Leonard. There have been other young actors/celebs dying lately, like the sister Laurie from That 70s Show.

Excellent post, as always. I myself would like to see the Patriot Act and the NSA thing cut waaay back. They’ve been in place for a long time now, and don’t seem to be working. I know “they say” they’ve stopped terror, but where’s the proof? They didn’t stop the Boston Bombers and they had actual warning there.

Besides which, I heard on the news a few days ago that they’re talking about have TSA do searches at sporting and concert venues. They already check your bags and have you walk through a metal detector. Now they want to frisk you and God knows what all. Enough.

socal@4: Well the NFL has also dictated what type of bag or purse a woman can bring into an NFL game. They have to be clear (or bring a ziplock bag) or you can carry a small clutch, “Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand”. So now they’re going to have TSA there to frisk people? Ridiculous! Oh and naturally the NFL has conveniently offered clear totes for sale with team logos and stuff.

Prolix said: he is unwilling to significantly curtail executive powers.

Sadly though Prolix, it seems that the U.S. is not above having our friends the Brits use their laws to detain the partner of a journalist who wrote the story of the NSA snooping and who was passing through the U.K.

Fredster, I saw that, and also they took some computers from the newspaper office of that Greenwald. Very highhanded.

Fredster, here’s the story, they actually destroyed some of the Guardians computers (seems kinda fascist):

socal@7 &8: Oh it was outrageous! But the U.K. or England, whatever, doesn’t have some of the protections that “journalists” have here, or are supposed to have. Of course Dianne Feinstein has a certain set of criteria that must be met before you can be called a journalist. 👿

Saith Dianne: Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to “real reporters.”

First, Fredster, thanks so much for posting this meandering missive. Today, I was able to fight through the armada of errant electrons and actually get to the admin side. For some reason, yesterday the admin side was just not cooperating.

Annie and Fredster @7,8, and 9: The UK doesn’t have either freedom of the press or prohibitions on prior restraint. That is a huge difference in the Snowden foofaraw — the UK counter-terrorism laws have a good thirty years on ours since they date to the acts associated with Northern Ireland.

Without advocating or equivocating as to the UK acts, while Miranda was acting as an intermediary, the destruction of The Guardian’s material does nothing to stop the actual publishing of the material since these stories are being published from the U.S. The destruction in the UK of the material held by the paper in the UK does nothing to prohibit further publication. I saw an interview with a Guardian editor and he was not excited about the whole adventure.

Prollix: glad things are working for you on the site now. I did read a piece by a Guardian employee (probably the same piece you did) that did mention they would publish from the U.S. Still though, it’s the idea of it isn’t it?

@11, the reason I mentioned the NSA and Stop and Frisk is that there are valid positions on both sides of the issue. As for the brouhaha with The Guardian their decision to publish from the US was an implicit recognition under UK law they were running afoul of their anti-terrorism laws.

I just have to wonder where principle ends and being provocative picks up — more and more these days that line seems to be blurred.

I just have to wonder where principle ends and being provocative picks up — more and more these days that line seems to be blurred.

Point taken. However, it did seem as if the U.K. govt. was making its point too. 😉

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