Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Message from LOTR

Today I was pondering the virtues of a rock. An inanimate, non living thing that seems to just sit there. Not so, says the rock. Rocks erode, crack, crumble and wash away. They can be mountainous. Or they can be the sands upon which we walk. They destroy and they protect. There is no such thing as a good rock or a bad rock; the evolution of the rock is a product of its environment. A rock does not decide. It just is. And we accept that and respect its power.

People are made of flesh, bones, hearts and souls. Our existence is both fragile and powerful. Unlike the rock, we can take some control over our change. We can decide what we want to change to and from. We can decide what we want to accept or not. We can decide what to put into our mouths. When to exercise. What to read. What to think. Who to like and who to ignore. We have the power to walk away from a bad situation, and the power to stay.

People have the power to alter another person by the things that are said and done, and we each have the power to choose how it affects us. The only thing we cannot control is time and the fact that every day we get older. But we are powerful, more powerful than the rock.

The thing about people, however, is that we seem to lack knowledge of ourselves. We all know someone with untapped potential. We all know that we ourselves feel that way. Unlike the rock, we are capable of feeling fear. Some philosophers refer to this as ego, which is the opposite of self esteem. As mere mortals, we are flawed, imperfect and fraught with the free will, such that we can create havoc or heaven for our self and others.

I like to think that most people aspire to be good people who act with the best intentions. I like to believe that we are all in this together. I hope that our intentions are true and not self - driven out of fear and ego.

Ironically, we often refer to people as "a rock." Unfortunately, we are not all rocks, all the time. Sometimes we crumble. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we bring pain upon others. Sometimes we are ... people.

Signed, The Leader of the Revolution.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Journalism 101

One of my professors in Journalism School used to tell us that there are three rules to live and write by as a journalist:

1. Protect the innocent and do not take advantage.
2. For those who should know better, expect it.
3. Be balanced, accurate and mindful of who you are affecting with every word you write.

That was in the days when the "media" was comprised of newspapers, radio and television. The "World Wide Web" was pretty new at the time, and we did not fully understand the power of its force in the creation of a new media - the social media.

Now the "media" environment includes blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and other forms of social networks that are emerging.

Some people refer to this time as the "information age" because we are information and technology driven. It is true that we have a plethora of information potentially available, but it is all mixed up in a sea of data. The information highway is filled with noise.

We need to be able to differentiate the information from the noise as writers and readers because there are implications when we confuse the information with the noise. Today, for example, I sat across from a table of senior citizens in a restaurant who were talking about the dangers of facebook, and the fact that "everything is there to be read." And it's true. You never know who is reading what,and what affect they can have on your life. The question is, does the content on Facebook or Twitter constitute information status, or it just noise?

The answer is unclear as it depends on who is reading and listening, bringing to light questions of policy and privacy. Should an employer or potential employer search the web, what will they find? And is it binding? Should it be? Do your opinions matter? Technically an employer is not allowed to ask questions of a personal nature not related to the job, but what if that information is available at their fingertips and they know it? What if you don't even get the interview because of your writings? Does what you say in the social media say who you are and what you represent? Many people participate under a persona, but let's face it, we are who we are and we are responsible for what we say and do.

The purpose of this blog is to provide an interpretation, written from a journalist perspective. The hope is to bring a perspective that helps bring some understanding to someone out there. Some of the postings are editorial in nature. Others are research based. All of it is based on experience, observations and interpretations of what it all means and where this is taking us.

I believe that blog writers need to understand the principles of good journalism and at the very least understand that, while the world is an open page upon which we record our history, we need to be mindful that this is new enough that we do not understand the full impact.

The written word, in whatever form, requires respect. Whether's it is an email at work, or a comment on Twitter about a song, the tone and the content matters.

As a reader, we also need to have an understanding of how to interpret all the "information" that is at our fingertips. Not everything is information. At times, I read comments posted on Twitter and I am shocked by the terrible things people sometimes say about others. I would not consider this type of exchange "information"; I would consider it to be part of the noise.

Much like a journalist, who is bound by the rule of integrity in reporting, it is not appropriate for a writer on the web to attack others, or make disparaging remarks that are or perceived to be hurtful or insulting to others.

As a trained journalist and writer, I live in the experience of the world around me as an observer and a recorder of this time that we have. I write things down to understand them.

In 2010, this blog will be focused on living and hopefully inspiring who ever reads this blog to think about what it means to them. I urge other writers to be aware of awesome power of this communciation vehicle. It is powerful and important.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Simon says . . .

When I was a kid, we had this game called "follow the leader" which meant someone got to be picked as the leader, and we would all follow. The people that followed "right" got to stay in the game, and the people who didn't got eliminated from the game.

The game, "Simon Says" was another childhood game that taught us some simple life lessons. Simon, says do "this" and we all do "that." The "this" doers kept playing; the "that" doers get sent to the sidelines to watch the fun.

Simon was always the most popular person, possessing some mystery star quality. But other times, Simon was the best athlete and almost always the leader was able to make every one believe they knew what to do next.

Childhood games taught us to listen to our teachers, our parents, and anyone else who would be "in charge." Good leaders and good followers learned to be good students, rewarded with A's and B's on the report card. Those who got C's played the game differently, choosing what was important instead of assuming all of it was. Those who got D's just didn't play the game at all.

Now Simon has a new job description.

Somewhere between 1960 and 1985, the rules of the game have changed. Values have shifted. The consciousness has been raised. We no longer follow the leader just because he or she is the named leader. We do not care about things unless we see the relevance to our lives. We do not follow without questions.

Now the followers want to be inspired, engaged, and interested in the task before Simon has a hope. Instead of saying, "stand on one leg and jump in circle", Simon would have to provide some rationale for the request. There would be an implementation plan and a communication strategy. Performance metrics would be provided so that the action is measurable. Only half would accomplish the task; 1/3 would need training, and the other third are still "processing."

Today, the cul de sac is a bigger playing a field where the bottom line is all about money: making money (free enterprise), spending money (public sector), lending and accessing money (financial services), or asking for money (non - profits). Simon is the one who is responsible for the financial success and the reputation of the organization. Simon must be trustworthy, inspiring, honest and credible.

The balance of power has shifted. We are more apt to ask our leaders to demonstrate that they deserve to be listened to. Respect is not a given. It must be earned. As a society, we are no longer innocent children on the cul de sac. We have enough experience to know that sometimes they are wrong. We have seen leaders fall and lead others astray; we are wary of the Pied Piper who led the rats off a cliff with his engaging melody. We see it in the news all the time. It makes us question leaders. And rightfully so, because when Simon says something, it has to be for the right reasons.

Narcissists most likely to be leaders in leaderless groups, says study

This is an interesting study that was conducted in 2008 and published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It indicates that Narcissism is increasingly present in leaders today, according to a series of studies.

Narcissism is a trait in which people are self-centered, overconfident in their own abilities, exaggerate their talents and abilities, and lack empathy for others.

While all the studies indicated that narcissists are more likely to become leaders, one of the studies suggested that, once in power, narcissists are no better than others in the leadership role.They also concluded that researchers found people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups.

Not only did narcissists rate themselves as leaders, which you would expect, but other group members also saw them as the people who really run the group, said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark.

Its not surprising that narcissists become leaders. They like power, they are egotistical, and they are usually charming and extroverted. But the problem is, they don't necessarily make better leaders.

The expert said: Even trained observers saw narcissistic people as the natural leaders. In addition, this study showed that narcissism plays a role in leadership among real-world managers.

The studies also accounted for other factors such as gender and personality traits like high self-esteem and extra version that may relate to leadership development, and narcissism was still found to play a key role.

Brunell, however, pointed out that one should not confuse narcissism with high self-esteem.

A person with high self-esteem is confident and charming, but they also have a caring component and they want to develop intimacy with others. Narcissists have an inflated view of their talents and abilities and are all about themselves. They don't care as much about others, explained Brunell.

According to her, the results of the study apply to many parts of life, ranging from the politics of the presidential race to Wall Street.