Loss Leader

Years ago, I had an interview at Arthur Andersen. I’m convinced it was my response to one specific question that resulted in my failure to land the job. I was asked, “describe your role as a leader.” I think the interviewer was looking for a take-charge, gung-ho response. I still recall her sour expression when I said, “if a team is being led well then I’ll support that leader, but if that’s not happening, I’d need to step in.” I could see she was underwhelmed with what must have seemed a very passive response. I didn’t get the job,  but I did receive something far more valuable –  clarity.

This day I see a gap in leadership. It’s hard for me to get past the lack of ethics that have been on display. They have not only been disregarded, they have been trampled. If I were to have a daughter whose crotch was groped by an old, wealthy, stranger, would I give any support to that stranger? Would it be any different if this were not my daughter but someone else’s ?  And how much would I dial back on my emotions if that stranger ‘only’ bragged about groping, but where I had no evidence that it had taken place. Would I say, “it’s ok as long as our taxes are lower”? Or what if this was the person who you felt could finally put a roof over your head… for your family? Where is the line, because we all have our ethical lines and most of us know that ethics is not a binary world. It can be hard to hold to them sometimes. But we should try, and this day I don’t see enough trying, and I don’t see enough contrition when we fail. 

This day I see a gap in leadership. A leader is someone from whom we can draw inspiration; they set an example. Curiously, and disturbingly, I am inspired. I see that you need to connect with people’s hearts.  I hear the value in a simple message. I appreciate that with supreme focus and dedication, you can achieve your goals, even if others deem you unqualified. I’m impressed when a person holds their course, regardless of what others might think. And then there is the hard work… a LOT of hard work. 

I also see how to win. I see that winning is easier when your mindset is simply to “take the hill” while your competitor is also burdening themselves with how to hold it afterwards; the salesman promises, and then worries about delivery later.

These lessons – I’d go so far as to call them ‘positives’ – are insufficient, for me at least. They are not nearly enough because I can’t justify away those things that are important. We want to point to a leader when we speak to children and say, “That is a role model for you: be kind, be honest, study hard, don’t be a bully…”

Today is the day I stop being so passive. I realise now that I’ve been neglecting my responsibilities as a leader.  I will go slower than I’d like to begin with because I’m using muscles I’ve shamefully allowed to atrophy. Please be kind and please feel free to join me, because if I see someone else doing a good job, I’ll support them. But this day there is a gap in leadership, and it’s not going to fill itself. 


Presidential Voting

I’ve been standing in the voting line for the 2016 presidential elections for over 90 minutes. I think I’m still over 30 minutes away from the front of the line. 

Of course I’m not eligible to vote, but you want to support your friends who are. And for me, now, I’m insanely curious to understand how a process that seems on paper to be so simple, can be made so time-consuming for so many people.  In a nation that values productivity and efficiency, this is anything but. 

I should be using Twitter for this but I don’t have an account. So I’ll post updates here as we move forward with the speed of a glacier.

1 hr 42 mins: You strike up conversations with those around you: the guy in front got to two world series games, both of which the Cubs lost. (I thanked him for not going to the final game.) The little girl behind had dirty knees from playing with her 7 year old sister who named her baby sister. 

1 hr 53 mins: The toilets of the establishment are decorated with tiles in an institutional mint green colour. And I’ve just seen the longest plunger in the world! 

2 hrs 10 mins: We’ve made it to the antechamber where you’re handed a form on which you have to write your name and address. There are 41 people in the room: 24 women, 6 people wearing baseball hats (2 backwards ), and one guy dressed head to waist in official Cubs gear, and from waist to toe in grey pyjama pants and tie dye crocs; I find myself wishing I’d had the same foresight to have dressed for comfort… I have never wanted Crocs until just now.

 2 hrs 27 mins: I’ve been asked to leave, since I’m not voting. But my determination paid off and I discovered that there are two more lines inside the main theatre. The first is for your ballot. The second is to vote. I’ll need to get further intel from one of the insiders.  For now I’m sat on a bench at a ball park where I’m about to read the weekend Guardian.

 2 hrs 48 mins: The Cubs supporter who had been in front of me in the queue has just left. He took over 3 hours to cast his vote. That doesn’t include the time it took him to get to and from tyne polling station. At least it was a nice day. 

 2 hrs 56 mins: A HA! We get to the root of the problem! And it’s the same problem we have in the UK with our post office service. I remember wanting to buy some stamps, but I was in the same queue as people who want to open a bank account, get home insurance, renew road tax… In this case, there were over 15 pages of senators , judges (both state and local), questions on your views for gun control and school funding… even after you’re done with queuing, you’re at one of only eight to ten the machine for several minutes, and even longer if you’re going to triple check your votes to make sure you didn’t make a mistake.

I’m not sure how those machines work. They look like mechanisms to manipulate paper without using physical rather than something that feeds directly through to a database. 

But an intersting experience in all. At least it was a nice day. Now I need a beer, and a burger, and maybe some beans.