Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Leadership Tent

Vital leadership competencies

We will not add yet another description of the character traits or thought processes of leaders. Our analysis of massive data collected on leaders’ competencies reveals that all vital leadership competencies can be grouped into five elements, which we compare to the poles in a tent:

  1. Character: Our model starts with a center pole representing the “character” of an individual. Personal characters is the core of leadership effectiveness. The ethical standards, integrity, and authenticity of the leader are extremely important. With a strong personal character, the leader is never afraid to be open and transparent. In fact, the more people can see inside, the more highly regarded the leader will be. Without that personal character, leaders are forever in danger of being “discovered.”
  2. Personal capability. The pole of personal capability describes the intellectual, emotional, and skill makeup of the individual. It includes analytical and problem-solving capabilities, along with technical competence. It requires an ability to create a clear vision and sense of purpose. Great leaders need these personal capabilities. Leadership cannot be delegated to others. The leader must be emotionally resilient, trust others, and be self-confident enough to run effective meetings and speak well in public.
  3. Focus on results. Focusing on results describes the ability to have an impact and get things accomplished. Leaders may be wonderful human beings, but if they don’t produce sustained, balanced results, they simply are not good leaders.
  4. Interpersonal skills. Leadership is expressed through the communication process and is the impact that the leader has on other people. It is the leader’s ability to obtain good results in other arenas, such as financial outcomes, productivity improvement, or enhanced customer relations.
  5. Leading change. Another expression of leadership comes in the ability to produce positive change. The highest expression of leadership involves change. Caretaker managers can keep things going, but leaders are demanded if the organization is to pursue a new path or rise to higher performance. For many leadership roles, the first four tent poles may be all that are required. It is not until a person gets into leading strategic change that the final tent pole is required.
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Posted in Management and Leadership

Platonic Love

Platonic Love

Platonic love is the type of love between two people that transcends obsessive physicality.

Platonic love as it is understood today is a love between two people that is chaste, affectionate, but free of intimacy and sexual desire.

The term has its roots with the Greek philosopher Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE), who used it in his philosophical text The Symposium, written in c. 360 BCE. In the text, Plato dissects a series of speeches made by men at a drinking party, or symposium, held in the Athenian household of the poet Agathon. The speeches, expressed in the form of a dramatic dialogue, are written “in praise of love,” and those invited to speak include an aristocrat, a legal expert, a physician, a comic playwright, a statesman, Plato himself in the roles of both host and tragic poet, and Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE), Plato’s own teacher and one of the founders of Western philosophical thought.

It is Socrates’s speech that has since been interpreted as introducing the concept of platonic love. Socrates condemns the sort of love that sees a man and a woman obsess over the physical act of love (eras in Greek) to the detriment of the pursuit of higher ideals in philosophy, art, and science. He speaks of the ideas of a prophetess and philosopher, Diotima of Mantinea, for whom love is a vehicle through which we can contemplate the divine and possess what she calls the “good.” According to Diotima—here “teaching” with Socrates in the role of “naive examinee”—a physically beautiful person should inspire us to seek spiritual things. Her idea of love does not exclude the possibility of physical love, however; the idea that platonic love should exclude physical love altogether is a later, and quite inaccurate, Western construct.

Thomas Hardy said in Jude the Obscure (1895): “We ought to have lived in mental communion, and no more.”

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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Four Strategic Shifts to Streamline Your Work Flow

Four Strategic Shifts to Streamline Your Work Flow

Behind every business strategy is a belief. What we believe about how the world works determines the policies we enact, the plans we devise, the processes we use, and the way we behave. Often, when we want to alter an outcome and improve results, we need to change the underlying belief. Then the processes and activities can be changed.

New product development is one area where erroneous beliefs keep us from getting the results we desire. The drive is always to achieve faster time-to-market and more predictable product development cycles, since finishing second in a winner-takes-all competition means, at worst, giving up millions in revenues, and, at best, delays in translating spending to revenue.

Here are four shifts in belief and behavior that make a profitable difference:

  1. Increasing throughput. The widely held belief is that keeping everyone going full bore-working long hours will speed things up. But most projects take longer than planned, and keeping everyone working longer does not necessarily improve speed. It’s more important to know what is limiting how much work can get through the system, and focusing resources there. Apply the most precious skills to tasks only those people can perform, offloading lesser tasks and ensuring the work arrives fully prepared.
  2. Exposing capacity. The entrenched belief is that idle system capacity is wasteful and should be eliminated. In reality, not having some extra capacity is sure way to miss deadlines and due dates. Too often, business capacity is pared to the bone, and projects fall behind. With no cushion, the system can’t handle even minor mishaps, let alone major problems. A reasonable extra capacity is not excessive but protective, helping to guard against sudden deviations. Flexible protective capacity can reduce project cost and time.
  3. Coherent work behaviors. Multitasking—working on several things at once—does not speed projects along. In fact, multitasking is one way to lengthen project time. Shifting attention among several different tasks inevitably wastes time. It’s almost always possible to speed up work by 10 to 30 percent just by eliminating multitasking. In truth, people cannot do more than one task at a time; they simply switch back and forth and lose time in between. The alternative is to get it, work it, and move it-working on a task until it is finished or you can’t do any more without more input.
  4. Acting globally. The common belief is that any improvement helps the organization, that local excellence always benefits the larger entity. However, local improvements may have no effect, or a negative one, on the bottom line. Becoming faster as a company simply can’t be achieved by optimizing areas. Since organizations are interdependent systems, it’s not always obvious how a change in one part will affect others. Changes toward “faster and better” may shift the balance of power, and people may resist or subvert change that hurts the ego or wallet. So, shifting to a global mindset may also mean adjusting rewards and incentives.

Speeding up product development requires knowing what makes work flow in a smooth and streamlined way. It’s not about keeping everyone busy all the time, eliminating all “waste,” juggling tasks, or making isolated improvements. The way to speed and quality is through stronger alignment—of behavior and belief, of practices and purpose—that frees us to strategically apply resources where real opportunities for improvement lie.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

The Chicken and Egg Conundrum

The Chicken and Egg Conundrum

The age-old puzzle that if chickens come from eggs and vice versa, how do you establish which of the two existed first?

When a hen lays a fertilized egg, that hen will keep the egg warm until it hatches a chick. That chick will then grow up to become a hen and lay other eggs, repeating the process as part of an ongoing cycle. But when did this process start? What was first: the chicken or the egg? This infamous question identifies a problem of causality, a paradox in which both chicken and egg cannot exist without the other, yet there must have been a moment when one of them came first.

What existed at the beginning? How did objects, the world, animals, and humans come to be? These are the basic questions that lie at the heart of the chicken and egg conundrum. When the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) asked the question, he believed that both must have always been in existence. Over the centuries the question remained a challenge to philosophers, though it became less important after English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–82) introduced the theory of evolution by natural selection and explained the development of any organism as a process of slow progress over time.

In 2010, British researchers released the results of a study that, they claimed, conclusively proved that the chicken came first. While the solution was not universally accepted, and others claim that the egg existed prior to the chicken, the question’s importance is not solely one of biological history. The chicken and the egg conundrum prompts us to consider beginning, and how they relate to our experiences. Some theologians have answered the question by saying that the creation of the universe necessarily means that the chicken came first. Other traditions hold that time does not have a clear beginning and end, and the idea of what came first is nonsensical because all things have existed for eternity.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

Zoroastrianism and Cosmic Dualism

The remains of a Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Yazd, Iran. Fire is held sacred in Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is an ancient Persian religion teaching cosmic dualism.

It is not known precisely when the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism first came into existence, although scholars generally agree that it first appeared in the late Bronze Age (1500-800 BCE) as a development of Persian polytheism. The sacredness of the bull, for example, entered into Zoroastrianism (and Hinduism also), as did the strong insistence on ritual purification and the holiness of fire (for this reason Zoroastrians never burn their dead, but rather dispose of corpses by “exposing” them to the birds). The dominant religion of Persia until the rise of Islam, Zoroastrianism is now largely confined to the Parsi community of Bombay. Its scriptures are known as the Avesta.

The ancient Persians and Zoroastrians alike also revered asha (in Hinduism rta), a term that is best understood as truth or universal law, especially moral law. Asha was itself upheld by three ahuras, or “good deities”: Varuna, Mithra, and, the most supreme of all, Mazda, the lord of wisdom.

Claiming to be a true prophet of Mazda, Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, whose time of life is disputed, taught a form of cosmic dualism, namely, that there are two supreme, morally opposed gods—Ahura Mazda (good) and Angra Mainyu (bad). Zoroaster believed that Ahura Mazda and his ahuras were waging a great war against Angra Mainyu and his devas (evil deities), and that humankind, caught in the middle of this war, should choose to ally himself with Ahura Mazda, not only because Mazda is good but also because Mazda will be ultimately victorious.

Zoroastrianism’s influence lies firstly in itself, which is to say that it is one of the oldest living religions. Beyond this, Zoroastrianism gave Islam its format of five prayers a day, Tibetan Buddhism its practice of corpse exposure, Mahayana Buddhism its world savior concept (Saoshyant, or Maitreya), and Gnosticism and Manichaeism their belief that the world was made by an evil spirit. Zoroastrianism’s apparent influence on Jewish and Christian eschatology, however, has proved difficult to substantiate.

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Posted in Faith and Religion

Value Investing: Philip Fisher on When to Sell a Stock

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, by Philip Fisher

Philip Fisher (1907–2004) is widely considered the pioneer and thought process leader in long-term value investing. Years after his death, Fisher

is widely respected and admired as one of the most influential investors of all time. Fisher developed his long-term investing philosophy decades ago

and discussed them in his seminal book, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits. Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits was first published in 1958

and continues to be a must-read today for investors and finance professionals around the world.

Philip Fisher, Investor, Author of Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits Today, we will dig deeper into his selling discipline. For many investors, buying a stock is much easier than deciding when to sell it. Selling securities is much more difficult than buying them. The average investor often lacks emotional self-control and is unable to be honest with himself. Since most investors hate being wrong, their egos prevent taking losses on positions, even if it is the proper, rational decision. Often the end result is an inability to sell deteriorating stocks until capitulating near price bottoms.

Selling may be more difficult for most, but Fisher actually has a simpler and crisper number of sell rules as compared to his buy rules (3 vs. 15). Here are Fisher’s three rules for selling a stock:

  • Wrong Facts: There are times after a security is purchased that the investor realizes the facts do not support the supposed rosy reasons of the original purchase. If the purchase thesis was initially built on a shaky foundation, then the shares should be sold.
  • Changing Facts: The facts of the original purchase may have been deemed correct, but facts can change negatively over the passage of time. Management deterioration and/or the exhaustion of growth opportunities are a few reasons why a security should be sold according to Fisher.
  • Scarcity of Cash: If there is a shortage of cash available, and if a unique opportunity presents itself, then Fisher advises the sale of other securities to fund the purchase.

Many investors are reactive and sell at the same time everyone else does—when they’re fearful. But your emotions aren’t the best guide for making critical financial decisions. Long-term investors should not fear occasional swings in the market. When the market dips or takes an unusual turn, that is the perfect time to review your portfolio and re-evaluate your investing strategy.

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Posted in Investing and Finance

Megalithic Monuments of Hirebenakal near Raichur in Karnataka

Megalithic Monuments of Hirebenakal, Prehistoric Site, Raichur in Karnataka

The term megalithic culture is used to denote the culture of a group of people who built their large tombs with the help of mega (huge) liths (stone) or huge stones. Literally there are thousands of such tombs all over South India including Karnataka. In general terms they were the successors to the new stone-age people. After the megalithic period we enter into the early historic period.

Chronologically, the megalithic period lasted from about 10th century B.C. to 3rd Century AD., with lot of various dates in between. There is a great variety in their tombs and culturally they are the introducers of iron into South India. Though their habitation sites are rare, their burials have been found in groups in hundreds. They had learnt the technique of quarrying and dressing stones for the purpose of the building their tombs of different varieties. These tombs contain bones and other related grave goods including iron objects. After the systematic excavations of Brahmagiri megaliths (near Chitradurga) many other sites have been excavated which give us a glimpse into the life of the megalithic people.

Benakal Prehistoric Site, Karnataka

Megaliths at Hirebenakal in Raichur, Aihole in Bijapur, and Kumati have been studied in, great detail. Kumati is unique because it has stone anthropomorphic figures of huge size, not generally found elsewhere. Megaliths are locally known as Moriyaramane, Moriyara Angadi or Moriyara Gudda. They may be divided into many varieties on the basis of their external appearance as dolmenoid cists with port-holes, rock-shelter chambers, polygonal cists, dolmens with closed port~hole, stone circles etc.

The underground chambers generally contained various types of pottery with food and water along with iron implements used by the person, beads, other ornaments and skeletal remains. This shows that they had a strong belief in life after death. With the help of these objects, life of the megalithic people has been reconstructed. They belonged to an agricultural community and manufactured iron tools such as knives, axes, hooks, chisels etc. Perhaps they had a class system the details of which are not known. They practiced agriculture and lived in huts. Thus the megalithic people laid a firm foundation for the beginning of historical culture.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys