The Elasticity of Leadership…
Posted August 20, 2013on:
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 entrenched 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.
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