Orbiting the Truth about Leadership


Yesterday I was Board Host for a City Club of Portland talk by human brain researcher Dr. Paul Nussbaum, and got a brain-full of his brilliance about how our most valuable organ works, and how to make it work better.

Listening to him, and later as I reflected on his message, I kept thinking about how my Tom on Leadership radio program keeps bringing up new material, and at the same time we keep revisiting some of the same themes.

If you’ve ever read four or five books on how to sell, one after another, you notice that too — some of the same basic points keep getting made, albeit in different ways by different experts, many of whom learned it all the hard way.

They can’t all be copying from each other.

That tells me that there is a basic underlying reality, rooted in human nature, and each expert gives us another glimpse of it from a different perspective.

Sometimes you may wonder — as I used to — why we need yet another book, or speaker, or talk, or article when it’s all just this one basic underlying reality.

Just as a late 19th Century wag is supposed to have predicted that, since there are only eight notes, and they can only be combined in so many ways, soon all possible music will have been written, so too we might suppose that there’s nothing new to say about Leadership.

Quite the contrary.  Because the audience is always changing, and because our experiences give us different starting points, we always need new people helping us understand the basic underlying reality, translating it into our language, using our metaphors, making it relevant to our existence.

In the comedy The Full Monty, a group of not very attractive working-class British men decide as a group to perform as strippers to earn money.  Only one of them, Gerald, knows anything about dancing.  The other men can’t follow his directions because they don’t understand — until another one, Horse, suddenly figures it out, and explains it in terms the others can understand — soccer.

GERALD: One, two, three–
[the men again bump into one another, and are unsure what to do]
No! No! No! [Expletive] All I want to do is get you in a straight bloody line!  What do I have to do?
[Horse has sudden insight]
HORSE: It’s the Arsenal off-side trap, isn’t it?
-The what?
-The Arsenal off-side trap. Lomper here is Tony Adams, right?  Any bugger looks like scoring… we all step forward in a line… and wave our arms around like a fairy.
DAVE: Well, that’s easy.  OK.
GERALD:  And one, two, three, four, go!
[the men move in unison, forming a straight line]
ALL: yes!
GERALD: Perfect. Perfect.
DAVE:  Well, you should have said.

We will always need our Geralds and our Horses — people to understand the way Leadership works, and people to translate it so it makes sense to us, so it fits our language and our frame of reference.

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