Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Poor Farm

While reading “Pembroke's Past: They were headed for the poor house,” the following came to mind:

What is our best choice, or, what are our best choices for care of the indigent and underprivileged in 21st century America?

  • Our current system of entitlements such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other Welfare programs;
  • The ancient concept of poor farms as described in the article;
  • Leaving the responsibility up to the communities within which the need exists – a 21st century modification of the poor farm concept;
  • Let it all play-out in the free market (i.e. if we truly had a free market) – a strictly orthodox libertarian model – the poor will be taken care of if there is an economic benefit derived from it;
  • Encouraging and embracing paradigms such as Bangladeshian economist Muhammad Yunus’s innovative Grameen Bank microlending initiative;
  • Encouraging and embracing corporate social responsibility initiatives such as described in "The Business of Doing Good," “ … [a] convergence of capitalist strategies and social change;
  • Encouraging and embracing the Ethos bottled water business model introduced by entrepreneur Jonathan Greenblatt and later acquired by Starbucks;
  • A Reganistic model of leaving these matters exclusively to each state;
  • Do nothing: The hell with them – let them fend for themselves;
  • or, with the exception of the latter, some middle-of-the-road approach, coalescing the best practices from all alternatives.

    Are there other alternatives?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Storms On The Horizon

Sent to me by a friend, linked is an outstanding article by Gary D. Halbert: "Storms On The Horizon - The Entitlement Time Bomb," highlighting a speech by Dallas Fed President Richard W. Fisher

The sub-prime debacle and the resulting recent debauching of credit markets, as well as the energy crisis, our increasing insatiable appetite to create debt, and diddling with Social Security (sort of like the creative financing model of Enron) have converged into a frightful storm, a perfect storm of sorts, of economic instability and failing financial markets. All of this is the direct result of America's inability to look beyond the end of its collective nose -- America's shortsightedness. Americans are always in the NOW syndrome - Me! Me! Me! I want it now or at the latest by tomorrow morning; hubris and avarice is our proclivity. This tendency for immediacy undermines and compromises proaction; instead we get reaction. Now we are paying the price for this via our lack of being proactive, as a result of being complacent and reckless.

It is interesting to me that in our observable world we live within four dimensions (the fourth being a spatial dimension) and yet we seemingly only understand and appreciate those things that are two dimensional: a movie, the Olympics and sports TV, soap operas, reality TV, video games and a computer screen. It seems apparent to me that the reality is that Americans cannot think or understand beyond what they cannot see or what is fed to them. They don’t seem to understand that there are many things beyond their two-dimensional world, not only what is observable but what is transcendent, that needs to be pursued. They certainly cannot comprehend the innate power they have to create change.

The economic problems we have are not a result of new phenomena. Energy has been an issue for at least 40 to 50 years, which is the time frame at which I first became aware of a potential problem. And likewise, with our other credit and housing woes: it has been about 30 years ago when the first instances of this problem - again, at least when and of which I was aware -- was first envisioned; and we should not forget the Savings and Loans crisis of the 1980's. If none of these were a red flag, then certainly the dot-com debacle of the late 90's should have been a warning, when as in credit and housing irrational exuberance was at its pinnacle, that disaster lurks in every speculative bubble.

We -- you and I -- at least it seems, were too preoccupied in our two dimensional world, too complacent and into the now, too greedy and reckless, too engrossed into real estate – seeing, and salivating at, rising home prices; and forgetting that a home is a place to live and not an investment -- and too willing to accept let-the-good-times-roll feeding of creditors. Yes, we, more than anyone or anything else, are responsible for our current economic quagmire. America – all of us -- certainly should have seen it coming.

"Right now, we --you and I -- are launching fiscal bombs against ourselves. You have it in your power as the electors of our fiscal authorities to prevent this destruction." Dallas Fed President Richard W. Fisher

This is the time and season for Americans to step up to the plate and create change.

"Sí, se puede"

(So sorry! I just felt the urge, even though I know to some of you this mantra is an Obama anathema, in more ways than one)

Monday, August 11, 2008

New ways of thinking: Intelligent Design

In this video presentation “Beyond Belief '06,”Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson makes excellent points about intelligent design. In the video he points out how we invoke God/intelligent design when we reach the limits of our knowledge. It is a presentation taken from his essay “The Perimeter of Ignorance

Philosopher George Jaidar: “The term spiritual must be seen and used analogously to the term education, both of which deal with the evolution of our consciousness. Kindergarten is an early stage of education but would never be used as equivalent to or synonymously with it. Similarly, religion can be used to describe an early, childish stage of the spiritual. Religions tend to keep people in the kindergarten stage of our spiritual evolution, which requires that we go on or transcend to Higher Consciousness, the analog here of higher education. As with higher education, our spiritual evolution requires going through and far beyond, not just continuing, the kindergarten of religion.”

Tyson and Jaidar assert that the pursuit of education, experience, experiment, and the engagement in the audacity of thought are the routes to the evolution of knowledge. It seems to me that this is not an arguable point. It is ignorance, a copout, and being just plain lazy to say that it is “God’s Way” when we do not have an explanation for certain phenomena, and therefore we should not question or pursue the knowledge of those things we do not understand. When we rely on “God’s Way,” we become harnessed by religion and the God mindset; when we pursue knowledge we evolve.

God is as good a symbol as any other for that of which we do not understand if our intention is to use the symbolic word God, as such. However, the symbolic word God used in the religious sense refers to a personal God: a being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, a being of supernatural powers.

We must transcend religion and not turn to the “God of the Gaps” when we don’t understand; but rather be cognizant of the fact that we simply lack the knowledge to understand. Those who rely on God or rely on their religious beliefs for the explanation of things they don’t understand, rather than understanding they are up against the limits of their knowledge, as George Jaider asserts, are in the kindergarten of evolution. They will remain there if they do not rise out of and above religion and their Gods, and pursue understanding through the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Our evolution, in every aspect, is our purpose in life.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Essentiality of Authentic Leadership

There is a misguided conception of leadership. The misconception that money, power, and performance management through counseling, disciplinary procedures , and rewards represent the nuts and bolts of leadership, and that if one has the authority and therefore the power to bring a nation to war or to make life or death decisions then he or she is a leader. A misconception that a leader has all the answers and that his followers must be subservient. There is a view that the military-manufacturing organizational paradigm is representative of good leadership. Military officers, presidents, executive officers, managers, and supervisors are in leadership positions; but that does not make them authentic leaders.

Corporate America and government use a system of reward and punishment to manage and lead their flock to meet their goals. Leadership in this sense is the process of guiding, directing, and communicating what has to be done to meet a goal or to achieve results. However, coercing someone to do something they might not otherwise be willing to accept or do is not authentic leadership.

Corporate America’s management paradigm involves the process of planning, organizing, directing, staffing and controlling. A president, executive officer, manager, or supervisor must lead the charge in order to make goals viable and bring them to fruition. Each of these managerial processes is accomplished through technical criteria, except for leading, which does have some technical aspects, but the heart and soul of leadership is an art. The mindset of an authentic leader is very different than that of being the boss

“Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership. They are more interested in empowering the people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money, or prestige for themselves. They are as guided by qualities of the heart, by passion and compassion, as they are by qualities of the mind.

Authentic leaders are not born that way. Many people have natural leadership gifts, but they have to develop them fully to become outstanding leaders. Authentic leaders use their natural abilities, but they also recognize their shortcomings and work hard to overcome them. They lead with purpose, meaning, and values. They build enduring relationships with people. Others follow them because they know where they stand. They are consistent and self-disciplined. When their principles are tested, they refuse to compromise. Authentic leaders are dedicated to developing themselves because they know that becoming a leader takes a lifetime of personal growth.”
Becoming an Authentic Leader by Bill George, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School

The gift one must possess to be an effective leader, above all, is the gift of communication; the ability to articulate the message. Communication is the creation of understanding. It is the single most important attribute that defines ones capacity and ability to lead. When a leader communicates effectively he or she motivates their audience to follow their guidance and direction.

That “Motivation … as Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed it, … is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

“They want to do it” because the message has been communicated with gravitas, a sense of importance and commitment, sincerity and truthfulness, that what is being conveyed is achievable, has value, and that all have a stake in its success. It is the empowerment of people to step up and share responsibility. “Leadership is the art of getting people to move together toward a goal they don't yet see.” For example, “courage is not the absence of fear — it's inspiring others to move beyond it.” A good leader must impart the vision and lead by setting the example. Nelson Mandela also stated “Quitting is leading too.”

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ideologies; leaders possess good, bad, moral and immoral intentions. It is important to keep in mind that it has been opined that Adolf Hitler was actually one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known, but Hitler preached HIS vision; it was not the vision of the German people. A demagogic leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace does not possess the character of authentic leadership.

Therefore, a leader can also lead one down a wrong path. This path will often be taken when the message conveyed comes from the top down and not the bottom up. In a democratic republic the leader’s message should be a grass roots conveyance through state representation. However, authentic leadership must always be rooted at its base -- the populace. If the message is originated and conveyed from the top down, then the populace must accept or reject its principles. Unfortunately, there is always the risk that Americans will accept the principle, simply based on their archaic perspectives of leadership; critical thinking, asking oneself the tough questions, is essential to authentic leadership. There must be a shared vision, for leadership is a shared responsibility of each one of us. Authentic leadership is a process that comes with experience; it is a heterarchial process -- there is not a “chain of command.”

The leadership challenge for America is enormous. At no time before has America had a greater need for new directions in leadership.

America needs an essential new way of thinking regarding leadership and the individual leadership role every American must play in the 21st century.

With the election of a new president this just may be the time. The time and season for a new perspective: a world and an America that stands as one directed and lead by its authentic leaders, namely, “WE THE PEOPLE.”