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Time to end negative leadership.

These are extraordinary times. In politics we are witnessing remarkable acts of negative leadership, from Westminster to Washington founded on blustering rhetoric vilifying others but without any idea of where to go to build a better more meaningful future for our children.

In business we are seeing corporate business deciding unilaterally deciding who has a voice and who doesn’t, and in an interview this morning I heard a corporate spokesman saying proudly they comply with the modern slavery provisions, as though that on its own is something to be proud of. Is that really the best we can do?

In the public sector decisions are being taken that affect the lives (literally) and careers of critical workers by people who have no experience of what it is like to be on the front line.

When challenged, we enter the world of the lawyers. In a very good interview this morning I heard a well argued and cogent rationale as to why Donald Trump could not, legally, be subject to either impeachment or the 25th Amendment because he had the right to do what he did whilst at the same time emphasising the moral, political and economic poverty of what has been done. We have witnessed much the same here in UK on Brexit, though thanfully without the guns. Never mind what was done, it was technically legal.

When leadership has to use legality to defend its actions, it has lost the plot. Leadership is a responsibility and often a burden as well as a rare privilege. In a democracy its credibility is founded on the intent of the leadership to serve those they govern, whether it’s a country or a company. When it gets reduced to a platform for ego and self interest, the legtimacy dissolves.

Fortunately, we are no longer dependent on our leaders. We may have to work around the challenges they bring us, but we can set our own examples in our own businesses and communities to not just mitigate the damage, but open up new options for every body. Brexit does not change who I want to work with, why I want to work with them, or the values I share with them.

It’s now down to each of us as to who we follow. We need to stop waiting, and start leading positively in whatever small way we can in pursuit of the futures we want. This is not some form of fantasy football for the few.

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The downside of “Professional”

I’m not a football fan, but there’s something about the FA Cup when the roll of the dice find people who play for money meeting people who play for the love of the game. Watching Gareth Bale warm up in front of the back gardens of houses that had their number on in case he needed to ask for the ball back made me smile, and the sight of Leeds being humbled by a team they may never have otherwise heard of, and whose players earn less in a year than the the Leeds professionals do in a week of was good for the soul.

There is no doubting the skill of the professionals, honed by huge financial and technical support as they distance themselves from their amateur and semi professional brethren. They enter a different world of billionaire sponsors and owners with no connection to the community whose name identifies the club. Beautiful to watch for a short period, but in the same way as a movie. Fantasy masquerading as real life.

it’s one thing with sport, but another when the cult of the professional reaches areas that do affect the real world, such as law, management, finance and other areas where what is essentially a service for the good of all becomes accessible only to a fortunate few who can afford it. Right now, if we had only private medicine rather then the NHS what is a hugely difficult position would have long ago become impossible.

Modern professionals are too often akin to mercenaries, available for hire to the highest bidder. They do a job, and move on. Their loyalty to their profession and temporarily their sponsor, not to where they live. There are of course many exceptions, where highly trained people go to extraordinary lengths to serve their community (not least in the NHS) but they are, in my mind, an entirely difficult class of professional to those manning the corporates, in whatever field, from finance to football.

As we move slowly away from this pandemic and into continued uncertainty, I want to work with artisans, whose pride is in their work, whose connection is local, and who those they serve can identify with and relate to.

The challenges and opportunities we are moving into is not something that we can watch on screen or in a stadium. We are the players, ready or not, and I want those with the skills we need to be alongside me, not people I watch from afar who have no connection to me.

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Preflections 10 January

When I said last week that I would spend January “Preflecting” on what might be emerging, I clearly had no idea.

Here we are, 10 days into the New Year with an assault on the Capitol in Washington, Donald Trump banned from his main sources of communication and under real threat of being either impeached or ejected by the 25th amendment, the emergence of the real challenges of Brexit as we actually start to do stuff, and the Mother of all lockdowns just as we had been trumpeting the vaccine program. That ‘s some going for ten days. Let’s see what the next 21 days does to 2021.

It is very hard to understand a story when we’re in the story. We’re so busy doing that we cannot see the narrative arc of where it started, and where it’s headed. What are we to do when the platforms we are standing one feel like they are on fire? It makes it difficult to just “be” for a while, yet it’s that which we need right now.

Take a deep breath, look around at what’s really happening and summon up our resolve and strength. Choose who we spend time with, surround ourselves with people we trust, and take responsibility for our own actions. Nobody is coming to rescue us. Everybody, including our politicians are doing the best they are capable of. It may often be found wanting, but blaming is a futile (even if briefly emotionally satisfying) exercise. In the end we are all, as William Henley’s poem Invictus describes “masters of our fate, and captains of our souls”. We have to look after those around us, who in turn will look after us.

We can best do that by serving rather than waiting to be served. None of us have been here before. The last major pandemic that really affected us was back in 1918, before my parents were born. Science can giveus a better steer than it did then, but when it comes to dealing with fear and uncertainty it’s probably much the same for us as it was for them. We’ve come out of (and are going back into) significant recessions. They were coming out of the Great War, and heading into another one. We are not being picked on.

All of us have what we need, and if we work together will come out this time it stronger. We have a lot to fix, but we can fix it. We should start.

Things I’ve enjoyed this last week

George the Poet’s Podcast from 9 Dec I love George’s stuff – this one I had missed. George’s thoughts talking to him. 30 minutes I think we can all learn from. Take a listen.

Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s partner) on Human misjudgement. From the FS blog. Very appropriate right now I think.

Tech Trends for 2021. Food for thought. Most will be wrong. Some won’t.

Rereading the intro to Seth Godin’s “What to do if it your turn (and it’s always your turn)” Works for me right now.

“Ship, Speak up, Stand out, Build a following, Market a product, Make a connection, solve an interesting problem, Write, sing, invent, create, ask a question, launch a product, organise a protest, open the door for someone, question authority, make a short film, direct, produce, create or adopt. Be missed if you’re gone”

Seth Godin,

A quote

I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will  

Edward Everett Hale

What I’m trying to understand right now

How to scale the intimacy of the Artisan. People who do something relatively small, really really well. How to help people find what it is they will make them happy as artisans, and become one.