Three Wellsprings of Leadership®

John J. (Jack) Long

Author Archive

Leadership That Emanates From Quantum Mechanics… Good Grief!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Periodically, I receive questions about a possible relationship between the art of leadership and theoretical particle physics (“quantum mechanics”). In the words of the physicist Richard P. Feynman: “…I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” If there is a relationship, it is an unknowable relationship, which begs the question: “What is the purpose of trying to advance unknowable principles of leadership?”

In Leadership and the New Science (Wheatley, Margaret, J., 2006) (“LNS”), the author tries to make connections between the art of leadership and quantum mechanics (I shall use the phrase “QM Leadership”). She makes reference to the “quantum leap”, a phrase used to describe the apparently instantaneous jump of an electron from one orbit to another orbit. (LNS, 43-44)

Accordingly, one can deduce that “time” and “distance” do not exist in the quantum world. She believes that based on the new physics, “there is no objective reality” (LNS, 9, 46, 161-162), and states that “My growing sensibility of this quantum world has profoundly affected my practice in organizations… I don’t personally spend time anymore on elaborate plans or time lines… I have given up trying to control anything.” (LNS 45-46)

Consider the following situation. At 8:00 a.m. on June 5, an Executive Assistant was tasked to drive to the corporate Document Center to pick up copies of an analysis of proposed changes to the business plan for Belgium, and to deliver the documents to Headquarters in time for a 2:00 p.m. meeting of the Board of Directors. Applying QM Leadership and Ms. Wheatley’s understanding of the nature of reality, it would be reasonable for the Assistant to assume that he/she did not have to do anything, since time has no meaning (there is a probability that the Board meeting had occurred on June 4 or might occur on July 15), and it would be pointless to drive to the document center, since the idea of distance has no meaning. Further, since there is no objective reality, there is no Document Center, no Board of Directors, no Belgium, etc.

Ms. Wheatley claims that “Quantum imagery challenges so many of our basic assumptions, including our understanding of relationships, connectedness, prediction, and control.” (LNS 33) In The Perils of Romanticizing Physics (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2014), physicist Ira Rothstein notes that “…[t]he temptation is stronger than ever to misapply modern ideas of physics in viewing the world. But we don’t need science to illuminate how we are interconnected – it is our humanity and our shared experiences, our joys and sorrows, not quantum mechanics and relativity, that bind us.” (Ms. Wheatley would deny the reality of shared experiences, etc.)

If Ms. Wheatley’s book exists, her most astute comment may be that “Some believe that there is a danger in playing with science and abstracting its metaphors because, after a certain amount of stretch, the metaphors lose their relationship to the tight scientific theories that gave rise to them.” (LNS 15, 32-33) Artful leadership flows from the Wellsprings of Character (not character traits), Hope (the ability to make hopeful those who anticipate leadership), and Imagination. Leaders are poets, not physicists.

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The Lack of “Leadership” As It Relates To Greece

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Is there “leadership” criticism that relates to both The EU / International Monetary Fund side (the creditor site), and the Greek side (the borrower side)? Of course.

The Greeks have never accepted “modernity” and they are not a cultural part of the EU. They operate in ethical and economic frameworks that are entirely different form the western frameworks (which, of course, includes the frameworks of the northern tier of Europe). They are child-like in their expectations of an entitlement to a non-refundable “allowance” from their northern neighbors and parents. They are genuine socialists: Don’t worry, if you have problems, the federal government will take care of you. Greece has no adult leadership. How sad for the Greek people.

(As an aside, this is the reason I lost twice in my Congressional campaigns in Vermont against the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders (he favors socialist with a small “s”, whatever that means); how does one counter the populist argument that the federal government will always take care of you? With counter-arguments related to hard work; appreciating the dignity of work; being independent; being prideful; helping your neighbors when necessary; contributing to your church; meeting your obligation to make a contribution to society; saving for a “rainy day”; and being thrifty? Hardly!)

The IMF, the European Central Bank, and the EU have been grossly negligent in not understanding the “allowance expectations” of the Greeks. There was never an understanding of the “fudging” of Greek economic statistics (by the way, what about the significant, systemic problems of the EU Central Bank?), or an understanding that Greece was not a candidate for membership in the EU or the currency regime. For this gross negligence, they owe something to the Greeks in their current circumstances.

Prime Minister Tsipras is naïve, remarkably inexperienced, arrogant, annoying, and child-like. He thrills in misleading the embarrassingly under-informed Greek voters, and insulting his creditors and potential creditors (calling them, for example, “terrorists”). He is a garden variety populist. Were the banks open this past Tuesday? Of course not. Will an agreement be reached by the end of this week? Of course not. Will he be held accountable for these misstatements? Of course not.

In my last book, I posit three foundations of “Leadership”: Character (as opposed to mere character traits); Hope (the ability to make hopeful those who anticipate leadership); and Imagination. Tsipras lacks an adult Character; he makes the Greeks hopeful by misleading them (not my version of “Hope”); and he lacks the Imagination to sort things out – he is much more comfortable in the sophomoric insulting of his creditors and misleading the citizens of Greece. He is not a “child of the light”; rather, he is a “child of the darkness”.

The IMF and EU entities need to adhere to their mandated obligations; however, they must help Greece to the extent that is lawful and appropriate to do so. The rest of us need to pray for Greece, and hope that it can elect an educated, artful leadership that includes leaders and economists who are not anchored to the failed political and economic left.

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Holacracy (pron. hol-a-crazy): The Absence of Leadership

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

There is a fairly new theory of “leadership” known as Holacracy.  I just learned about it from the article in the May 21, 2015 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Going Bossless Backfires at  Zappos (Retailer’s switch to ‘self-management” rattles employees; more than 200 quit).  My following comments about this theory are based upon the statements in the article, and the quoted material is taken from the article.

Accompanying the article is a good-sized picture of more than 50 beautiful neckties cut in half. A portion of the accompanying caption states that “Neckties of visitors to Zappos are cut in half.  The retailer has a ‘no ties allowed policy’.” (Some good news for the folks at Zappos – I found a website from which Chinese Tunic Suits can be ordered.)

Zappos has no “managers”; the employees are supposed to determine largely for themselves how to get their work done. “Employees say the new system has been confusing and time consuming, especially at first, sometimes requiring five extra hours of meetings a week as workers unshackled from their former bosses organize themselves into ‘circles’ and learn the vocabulary of Holacracy.”  For example, a job is “energizing a role”; workplace concerns are “tensions”; and updates are made at “tactical meetings” (forget about the idea of “strategy”).

The employees had formed more than 300 circles in order to implement the 30-page, approximately 15,000-word Constitution (the U.S. Constitution has approximately 8,000 words) and the recent 4,700 word memo from their Chief Executive (who probably needs a new title – perhaps Circular Encouragement Officer).  I can’t wait to see the Venn diagram representing the more than 1,000 employees chasing themselves and their colleagues around more than 300 inter-connected circles.  History has taught us that liberals-run-amok consistently embrace the idea that all issues can be addressed successfully by the imposition of an arch of “let’s all be really nice” above an incomprehensible array of rules, procedures, guidance, suggestions, slogans, and high-school psychology (and, in this case, a 15,000 word Constitution!).

One of the apparent philosophical underpinnings of this avantgarde illusion is to enable a $14.50 per hour call-center staffer to act more like an “entrepreneur” (generally defined as “a person who organizes and manages a business undertaking, assuming the risk for the sake of the profit”).  If Zappos is serious about this self-actualizing, entrepreneurial approach, I suggest that the Circular Encouragement Officer provide each employee with the funds necessary to start an independent business, which would then contract with Zappos to deliver the services necessary to sell Zappos’ goods.  A side-benefit of this approach would be the creation of more than 1,000 interconnected entrepreneurial circles, with a vast number of sub-circles within each of the 1,000 entrepreneurial circles. What a fantastic vision for the visionary lovers of a feel-good organizational free-for-all.

Holacracy is not Leadership; it is the abdication of Leadership. It is based on the assumption that artful and authentic Leadership is necessarily autocratic leadership.

One of my favorite Snoopy comic strips comes to mind.  In the first frame, Snoopy – who is wearing a French Foreign Legion cap and backpack – is seen to be leading four little Foreign Legion birds across the desert.  The bubble above Snoopy states that “Here’s the world famous sergeant of the foreign legion leading his troops across the desert . .”  The second frame has a bubble above Snoopy: “As they march under a moonlit sky, they sing a stirring fight song . .”, and the bubble above the four little birds shows various musical notes.  The third frame shows Snoopy turning to face the little Legionnaire birds and declaring that “ ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ is not a stirring fight song!”  (copyright: 1995 United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Leadership means something more than the establishment of a feel-good leadership vacuum.

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Inspiration for Aspiring Leaders; Fresh Insights for Leaders

Monday, January 21st, 2013


I hope to convince my readers that they can be authentic and artful Leaders without having to be preoccupied with the latest lists of allegedly indispensable character traits, and the latest leadership fads.  In exploring the idea and the sources of Leadership, I by-pass not only the ubiquitous character-traits-list-approach to Leadership, but also the convention of attempting to overwhelm readers with theories, principles, checklists, guidelines, strategies, anecdotes, core and adaptive skills, slogans, and so on and so forth.

My goal in writing Three Wellsprings of Leadership® was to persuade my readers that the Wellsprings of Character, Hope, and Imagination are  seminal sources of those aspects of Leadership that are relevant to the presenting opportunity or challenge.

I believe that “Leaders are poets, not logicians™”. I want to convince my readers that authentic and artful Leaders lead from spontaneity and grace, inspired by the three Wellsprings.

I hope that my book will alter the way in which we think about the idea of Leadership and the sources of Leadership.  As an aside, I am gratified by the endorsements that I have received for Three Wellsprings of Leadership®.

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