Acting like a boss, being the boss, and the lasting option

Sumacs are already turning red along the road to the post office.  About the same color as your boss’s face when he gets mad.  Just before he lays you and a hunded other employees off.

Today, four days worth of Wall Street Journals were in the mail.  Along with three days of Stuttgart Daily Leader.  Also picked up a copy of Stone County paper at the Fox Store.  Plenty of grist for the mill. Or mulch for the garden.

sumac_leaves_fall1I do like newspapers.  When you are finished reading, the product is good for the garden.  That should be a test for everything we do.  “If a process results in something good for  the garden, then the process has value. If it doesn’t help the garden, get rid of the process.”

Leadership, bosses and authority often don’t help the garden at all.  I’d already planned this to explore how leadership works in a resilient social-ecological system today.  Then an article in one of the papers attracted my eye.   A new trend called followership.  Evidently most offices have enough leaders and need folks who are a lot better at helping those who somehow got to be in charge.  As usual, material just seems to flow from heaven when I’m onto something important.  Jungian synchronicity.

In any case, I don’t think I’m cut out to be the WSJ definition of follower.  I definitely don’t plan to be among the throngs flocking to see the Pope or any other famous person.  But you sure can understand why people like Francis.  Some will come out to see any  famous person, but this guy seems to understand a little more about resilience than most people with power.

I’d already written the above paragraph when I ran onto an article on the Pope by my favorite WSJ columnist, Peggy Noonan.  More synchronicity.  She thinks he’s part good Pope and part bad Pope (the part that hates capitalism).     She doesn’t have much to say about him being a leader, though.  She just assumes he is.   She’s a good Catholic. I mean, he is the Pope, after all.  He doesn’t even have to try and he’s a leader.

Sometimes all you have to do is act like a leader and people think you are.  I was probably acting like a boss when some dogs started barking at me yesterday.  They were partially trying to impress each other and their owners.  They also didn’t like me coming in like I owned the place.  So I had to gentle down a little.  Or they would stay up tight.

I’ve run into a fair number of folks who tried to be leaders, but just didn’t quite know how to.

When I was coordinating agricultural development programs in 41 countries for a large NGO, we had a great vice-president for program.  Of course I thought she was great because she gave me my first tastes of overseas development.  I was 33 years old and had never been overseas.

I think I won her over when I got a cow to hold still so she could milk it.  She squirted some into her shoe.  So, she brought me up to headquarters.  After I’d been there awhile, some thought she didn’t run a tight enough ship and brought in an assistant vice-president who was quite a bit tighter.

The Asst. VP assigned tasks instead of responsibility.  She gave you a specific  task with specific outcomes and expected you to get it done.  If you didn’t, there would be hell to pay.  If you did exactly what she asked you to do and things still didn’t work out like she wanted, it was always your  fault.  Somehow you hadn’t been smart enough to understand exactly what she wanted you to do.  If you succeeded, she did give you some of the credit, but she got most of the plaudits.

One day, we had a long discussion in her office over several glasses of wine.  I told  her she should assign responsibility instead of tasks.  If you trust someone well enough to assign them an important task, then you also should trust them enough to let them revise the plan you gave them, if unforeseen circumstances arise.

She seemed to like the idea, but it was probably just the wine making her smile.  Nothing changed and the VP got demoted, the Asst VP hung on, and another tight shipper came to run Program.  This guy was easy to make fun of.  And I did.  Not a good idea.  Like I say, I’m not a good follower.

He came to our Halloween party.  I made him pay $5 toward the beer.  Then I asked him why he wasn’t in costume.  He was just wearing jeans and a blue shirt.  He said he was dressed as “Jim.”  Funny guy.  Jim used to always wear jeans and a white shirt back in those days.

So after a while I headed back home to the farm.  It was time to procreate anyway.  And we did.  So it has a happy ending.  I wonder what happened to the new VP and all the other folks I worked with at that NGO.  A couple did come all the way to Kentucky to visit.  We had a new child by that time.  They thought we paid too much attention to the boy and too little to them.

Why do some people want to be the center of attention?  Some go only that far toward understanding leadership.  All they know and care about is attracting attention, having people fawn over them. Some people will do anything to be famous even if they don’t have any power. Why?  Man, I try to avoid attention.

Benevolent dictatorship is the best form of government some say.  Maybe so.  Seems to be working out for a lot of Putins these days.  Besides, doesn’t everybody want a king?  Who wants to listen to those preachers and ayatollahs?

When I was growing up, we were taught to be self-sufficient.  Or at least as much as we could.  That didn’t mean we should question authority.  But if you really want to be self-sufficient, don’t you have to question knowledge you receive from outside?

I guess i did ask for an autograph once, so maybe I am also susceptible to fawning over the famous.  Except Ralph Nader didn’t have anything else to do that day except keep Al Gore from winning.

Once I was asked for my autograph in Ukraine when I was visiting professor.  I kinda liked that, so maybe I would like being a little famous.  They also stood up when I came in the room.  But they did that for all professors.  Since then, I’ve mainly been asked for autographs on checks

Seems like Xi is a pretty good leader.  Don’t know how you can go outside in any of his smoggy cities though.  Crazy to think that they are polluting their country so they can be a leader in the technology needed for clean energy.  I heard they hacked General Dynamics and stole all the plans for our more sophisticated jet fighter.  Copied it.  Now that’s leadership, the Chinese way.

Not too sustainable, but maybe its resilient.  Think so?  Their civilization sure has lasted a long time. Maybe that’s all that counts.  Sure they are poisoning themselves and the world.  But they last.  So far.

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