Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, U.S. Society

“Boobs on the Ground” Ethics

"we have met the boob, and it is me."

“We have met the boob, and it is me.”

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but that dignifies Eric Bolling’s crude and disrespectful comment on Fox’s “The Five” more than it deserves. Would I accept such a sophomoric “quip” at a dinner party of close friends, at a bachelor party, in a group of women who knew me and could tell when I was intentionally tweaking them, in a setting where groans and objects thrown at my head were appropriate?  Oh, probably. I’ve made worse jokes myself, knowing how bad they were, knowing they were offensive, knowing that I had the good will of my companions and that they would take them the right way. But as a presenter in a seminar? As a panel member? In an auditorium? Over the radio? On TV? Never.

Any statement is defined to some extent by the audience it was intended for (See: Sterling, Donald) For a supposed broadcast professional to say what Bolling said about the United Arab Emirates‘s first female pilot who served as the flight leader during air strikes in Syria (“Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?”) can’t be excused or justified: Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, War and the Military

Ethics Hero: American League Batting Champion Jose Altuve

Altuve

There was another baseball Ethics Hero who emerged on the last day of the regular season yesterday. File it under “Sportsmanship.”

Houston Astros secondbaseman  Jose Altuve (at less than 5′ 5″, the shortest athlete in a major professional sport) began the day hitting .340, three points ahead of the Tigers’ Victor Martinez, who was at .337. Even with all the new stats and metrics showing that batting average alone is not the best measure of a baseball player’s offensive value, a league batting championship remains the most prestigious of individual titles, putting a player in the record books with the likes of Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, George Brett, Ichiro Suzuki and Tony Gwynn. It’s still a big deal. If Altuve didn’t play in Houston’s meaningless last game, Martinez would have to go 3-for-3 to pass him, giving the DH a narrow .3407 average compared with Altuve’s .3399. By playing, Altuve would risk lowering his average, providing Martinez with a better chance of passing him.

Many players in the past have sat out their final game or games to “back in” to the batting championship, rather than give the fans a chance to watch a head to head battle injecting some much-needed drama to the expiring season. ESPN blogger David Schoenfield recounts some of those episodes here.

Altuve, however, gave Martinez his shot. He played the whole game, had two hits in his four at-bats, and won the American League batting title the right way—on the field, not on the bench.  (Martinez was hitless in three at bats.)

The conduct, simple as it was, embodied fairness, integrity, courage, respect for an opponent, and most of all, respect for the game.

Sportsmanship lives.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, History, Sports

Dear Political Blogs: Be As Partisan As You Like, But Don’t Make Your Readers Stupid

It's a coincidence that Monsanto had the better legal argument each time, yes. Is that what you mean?

It’s a coincidence that Monsanto had the better legal argument each time, yes. Is that what you mean?

It pains me greatly when a Facebook friend (and real friend too) posts something from a right-wing or left-wing website that is ignorant and misleading, as if she has something enlightening to share. Then I am forced to point out that 1) the post was written by someone pretending to have knowledge he did not; 2) those agreeing with him and assuming he had a valid point are hanging out with like-minded partisans who reinforce each others’ happy misconceptions, and 3) that the lawyers who cheer on conclusions that can only be explained by the fact that the concluder can’t spell law, much less under stand it. This typically loses two to ten names off my Facebook friends list. Well, too bad. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The case I have in mind: a site called “Forward Progressive: Forward Thinking for Progressive Action”—hmmm, I think it is a progressive site!—attacked Clarence Thomas for his participation in the recent SCOTUS decision in Bowman v. Monsanto. The Court ruled for Monsanto in a patent case against farmers in a matter involving the reproduction of products whose patents have expired. To Dyssa Fuchs, the writer for Forward Progressive in this case, Thomas had a clear conflict of interest and should have recused himself.

She cites the judicial code, she cites the U.S. statutes, she–of course—cites her belief that Monsanto is evil, and of course, like all good progressives, she hates Thomas, who has the effrontery to be both a hard-core conservative and black. The fact is, however, that she has no idea what she is talking about. Thomas had no conflict of interest in this case, nor does he have an “appearance of impropriety” problem because someone determined to prove that he is corrupt doesn’t understand what improprieties or judicial conflicts are, or for that matter, what lawyers do. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

In England, Art Designed To Show The Ugliness Of Racism Exposes The Ugliness Of Political Correctness And Censorship Instead

Human zoo

Then the question is: would this happen here?

The performance art piece “Exhibit B” evokes the spectacle of “human zoo,”in which Africans were put on show for the entertainment and gawking curiosity the 19th and early 20th Century Americans and Europeans. Visitors tour a room in which black actors portray the human exhibits as well as portrayals of what modern-day equivalents would might be like. Created by white South African theatre-maker Brett Bailey,  “Exhibit B” has recieved rave reviews in several venues.  In Edinburgh, The Guardian’s theatre critic Lyn Gardner saw the results as “both unbearable and essential”:

“Creator Brett Bailey has been fearlessly uncompromising in his approach. The experience in the exhibition hall is entirely without comfort. Confronting us with the appalling realities of Europe’s colonial past – the stuff I definitely wasn’t taught at school – isn’t just some kind of guilt trip. It reminds us that most history is hidden from view; it reminds that Britain’s 21st-century ways of seeing are still strongly skewed by 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century colonial attitudes. The masterstroke comes at the end: the pictures and the biographies of the ordinary black Edinburgh men and women who are taking part. Tomorrow, history will look a little different.”

Never mind: Sara Myers, as well as others, don’t want to see it, so they have conspired to stop the work from being seen, at least in England, by anyone else. In her petition at Change.org, she writes: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, History, Race

Advice Column Ethics: The Case Of The Anxious Godmother

"look, I'll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws..."

“Look, I’ll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws…”

The best of all advice columnists, Carolyn Hax, found herself confronted with a tough question this weekend, and uncharacteristically flailed at an answer.

I’m going to try to help her out.

The question came from husband who was trying to decide how to deal with the anxiety of his wife, godmother to two teenagers being raised alone by her brother. The brother, it seems, has decided to take up race car driving as a new hobby, and sister, the wife of Hax’s correspondent, is terrified that this risky pursuit might eventually place the teens in her care. “The kids have been raised in a way that neither of us agrees with, and if they were to come under our care, it would be very difficult for everyone involved,” he writes. What should he do?

Maybe Hax’s reply helps the potential adoptive parent, but I sure found it stuttering, overly equivocal and confusing. It’s not surprising: the issues are difficult, full of ethical conflicts.

Here is my analysis:

1. If one agrees to be the designated guardian of a child or children, one is ethically obligated to be ready to accept the duties of the job. “I’ll take care of your kids happily as long as it’s not your fault that you can’t” just isn’t good enough. Too many people, perhaps most, accept this crucial responsibility as an honor rather than as a very serious commitment, and first and foremost, it is a commitment to the children. If a godmother (or, in a non-religious setting, a guardian) is terrified of the reality of fulfilling the duties of the job, she should give them up, so they can be accepted by someone who is not so reluctant. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is an amateur snake handler or a couch potato.

2. It is reckless, selfish and irresponsible for the sole parent of children to not take this fact into consideration regarding his lifestyle and other choices. Two children depend on him: he is duty bound to do what he can to stay alive, healthy, and capable of supporting them. Taking on unquestionably risky hobby like race car driving, or storm chasing, or being a volunteer human subject for the ebola vaccine, is irrational and wrong. It is right for the potential successor guadians to make this point to him, for the children, for a family intervention, for his friends, for anyone. And they should. He is not free to act as if he has complete autonomy, not with two children who depend on him.

3. If his thinking is “it’s OK to risk my life, because I have two foster parents on the hook,” that is similarly unethical, and he needs to be told that, too. But he should be told it by  guardians/godparents who are still committed to being loving parents should the worst occur, not by a couple that accepted the responsibility assuming they would never actually have to deliver.

The bottom line:

  • The inquirer and his wife should withdraw as guardians.
  • The father should grow up.
  • The next guardian couple should be informed of the father’s irresponsible proclivities, and make his promise to take reasonable efforts to remains capable of raising the children as a condition of their accepting the role.

And, of course, if the worst happens and the father ends up a victim of Dead Man’s Curve without having found a suitable guardian, the sister and her husband may be obligated to raise the orphaned teens anyway.

Because that’s what families are for.

Is that what Carolyn says? I’m not sure. If it is, it wasn’t clear enough.

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Love

Ethics Hero: Minnesota Twins Pitcher Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

This is the final day of the regular baseball season, and an appropriate time to salute a major league player who placed principle over cash….even if I disagree with him

Phil Hughes was a bargain pick-up during the off-season for the Twins, a failed pitching phenom for the Yankees widely viewed to be on a fast slope to oblivion. He surprised everyone with a wonderful season for the otherwise woeful Minnesota team this season, potentially setting the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio record, and began his final start of the campaign needing to throw eight and a third innings to reach 210 and trigger a $500,000 bonus in his contract.He would have made it, too, pitching eight dominant innings against the Diamondbacks and allowing just one run.  Then there was a downpour, with Hughes needing one more out to get the  extra $500,000.

After more than an hour’s rain delay, the game was resumed, but as is the practice in baseball, Hughes did not return to pitch: too long a delay, his arm too cold, too much risk of injury, especially after throwing so many pitches.  Hughes accepted the bad luck without complaint or rancor, saying that “some things aren’t meant to be.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Sports