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Plato Discusses Compulsory Education in “The Republic”

Compulsory education is a system of education that begins at birth and identifies society’s future leaders.

A second-century relief from a Roman burial monument, depicting a boy reading to his teacher. Schooling was provided for boys only during Roman times. The notion of compulsory education refers to a period of education mandated by law or by some comparable authority. One of the earliest efforts to codify requirements for education is set out in the Talmud, the compendium of Jewish law. The Talmud recommends a form of private education in the family home that emphasizes religious matters in addition to training in whatever the family vocation might be.

Plato (c. 424–c. 348 BCE) was one of the earliest thinkers to draw up the architecture of a full-blown system of public education. In The Republic (c. 360BCE), he describes an education system designed to effect the social stratification that, according to him, is prerequisite for justice to prevail in a state. Plato wrote, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

Plato, Philosopher and Mathematician in Classical Greece The education system of his republic begins at birth, when infants are removed from the family and raised by a collective. Educators are tasked with monitoring children in order to identify leadership qualities so that those who have “gold in their souls” (Plato uses this precious metal as a metaphor for leadership potential) can be properly trained to assume elevated offices of state, the highest of which is the office of philosopher king.

In Laws (c. 360 BCE), a later work, Plato presents a more moderate education system, one that more closely resembles contemporary systems. Infants are not removed from their families and there are no philosopher kings. However, proper social stratification is still the objective. Formal schooling begins at the age of six, when the curriculum focuses on literacy and arithmetic. By age thirteen, music is introduced into the curriculum, and at age eighteen the youth begins his terms of military service. By the age of twentyone, those students demonstrating the necessary aptitudes are selected for advanced studies that lead to the highest offices of the state. Education systems surprisingly close in character to this ancient model are now the norm in every developed country.

Posted in Education and Career

The Socratic Method

A 19th Century painting by Gustav Adolph Spangenberg, depicting Socrates and his disciples.

The Socratic Method is a teaching method that relies on continually asking questions.

The Socratic Method is a pedagogical style named after its well-known exemplar. Unlike the great sophist orators of his time and the later Aristotelian and Scholastic teachers, who disseminated information through carefully planned lectures, Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE) engaged his audience individually and personally with a series of questions. These questions were designed to elicit a reflective and mostly skeptical perspective on various philosophical, political, and religious ideas.

In a well-known case, depicted in Plato’s dialogue Meno (c. 380 BCE), Socrates used his method to “teach” an uneducated slave-boy a set of Euclidean propositions, including the Pythagorean theorem. The central assumption underlying Socrates’s approach is that knowledge is innate—we do not acquire new information, instead education reminds us of what we already know.

'Socratic Logic' by Peter Kreeft (ISBN 1587318083) Socrates’s Method was overshadowed in the Middle Ages by the popularity of classical orators such as Aristotle and Cicero, leading to an increase of lecture-centered pedagogy known as the Scholastic Model (also called the “banking model” because it assumes knowledge can be “deposited” in a student as money in a bank.) A further setback came in the seventeenth century with the rise in prominence of empiricism, the view that we come to the world as “blank slates” and must obtain knowledge through experience. Empiricism implies that innatism is mistaken, and thus challenges the pedagogy based on it.

The question of the effectiveness of the Socratic Method still receives attention from education researchers. Some contend that it constrains learning and fosters aggression. Others respond that, as with all teaching styles, the Socratic Method can be abused, but when used well it can be effective. It is still frequently applied in law schools, as memorably portrayed in the movie The Paper Chase (1973).

Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

Show Uncommon Commitment in Your Job

Show Uncommon Commitment in Your Job

Some people say that the key lesson of strategy has to do with speed. If you can think and act faster than your competition, you can stay one step ahead. Certainly speed is critical, but why do some firms take over the market after others do the pioneer work?

Other strategists say that the concentration of superior resources at the decisive point drives strategy: if you concentrate your resources, you are sure to win. But if superior resources are key, why do some firms with inferior resources beat stronger ones?

After studying great strategic thinkers, I’m convinced that neither resources nor speed are decisive. Some have abundant resources, others do not. Some companies operate at light speed, and it helps them. But others make it policy of not entering the market first and are still successful.

To discover the key lesson practiced by all great strategists, I interviewed more than 200 combat leaders from the military services and asked them, whatif anything they had learned from leading in combat that they applied successfully in their careers. Almost all included the idea of “uncommon commitment.”

What’s so special about uncommon commitment? People follow a leader with this quality for two reasons:

  1. it proves that the goal is worthwhile and important
  2. it proves that the leader won’t quit.

Extraordinary commitment affects the planning and implementation of strategy.

If you hope to implement your strategy successfully, you need to display uncommon commitment.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

CEOs Want Executives Who Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader

A CEO’s job is to keep his people interested in staying, and working, and growing and prospering with this company.

Larry Bossidy, the retired CEO of AlliedSignal took this philosophy a step further and extended it to the people he moved into senior management positions. Bossidy said, “I want to find leaders who are human beings, and who have an interest in being successful for themselves and want to share that success with others. If I can get people like this, they’re easy to lead.”

Bossidy has said that he is looking for the following characteristics when filling up the executive ranks at his company:

  • Positive people, to begin with. CEOs like to see people with smiles on their faces. Business is difficult. It’s so much better to greet the world with a smile on your face. You can’t show me people with great accomplishments who are negative people.
  • CEOs like to see ambitious people who want to get something done.
  • 'Execution' by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan (ISBN 0609610570) CEOs look to see if they can contain their ego. Do CEOs see a person who can work well with others? Do CEOs see a person who’s shown some interest in others? Are these the people who can share their knowledge with other people and do it gracefully and willingly? Or are they very self-centered, very ambitious, but not necessarily to the benefit of anybody else?

Under Bossidy, AlliedSignal purchased and became Honeywell. Honeywell is a prominent engineering services and aerospace systems company. Before AlliedSignal, Bossidy spent 30 years working his way up the executive ranks at General Electric, where he was a protege of Jack Welch.

Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

How to Use Power Positively

How to Use Power Positively

Power is often a dirty word, as in “power corrupts.” Yet, without the power to make things happen, managers can’t build organizations.

Managers need to understand the dynamics of power in four arenas and harness and direct energies in ways that are not just effective and efficient, but also deeply satisfying and empowering of self and the others who lend their energy toward goals.

Power has two primary components: a vision—a goal to achieve—and energy—the impetus or force needed to bring the vision into reality. This offers an equation: Vision multiplied by energy produces the power to accomplish goals! However, opposing energies can vitiate even a great vision supported by enormous energy.

Here, then, is a more realistic equation for power:

Power = Vision
  • Energy/Resistance

    Applying this simple equation is not so simple. Once being powerful was a perquisite of managers. People did what their managers wanted them to do. Wages were provided in return for obedient labor.

    Today, managers need new ways to generate power and influence if they are to harness and focus the energy of their people into power sufficient for excellence and continued success.

    Finite and Infinite Perspectives

    I see two basic views of power:

    • The finite perspective says that power is scarce, limited, and finite—that there is not enough to go around, that someone will win, and someone must lose. This limited view of power limits the power we might accrue. A win/lose perspective of power actually creates resistance, as those who believe they will lose if you win, will fight aggressively and passively to turn the tables.
    • The infinite view sees power as abundant, unlimited, and infinite. In this view, power is accrued through partnering with and learning from others-including those who might resist. The quantity and quality of available power from this perspective is potentially infinite, facilitating great energy.

    Harnessing infinite power depends on mastering six principles:

    1. Focus your energy—focusing, releasing, and managing the energy of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your goals.
    2. Think systemically—seeing that every thing and every action exists within some system of other things and actions, and that every thing and action within a system impacts and is impacted by every other thing and action with that system.
    3. Learn from differences—using differences to accrue knowledge and skill, not to foster contention or conformity.
    4. Seek sound and current data—operating from accurate, up-to-date information rather than from opinion, interpretation, assumption, or speculation.
    5. Empower others—supporting self and others to identify and resolve their issues and discover their excellence.
    6. Use support systems—developing and using a diverse group of supporters who contribute to achieving. Support systems achieve their goals as they reach critical mass.
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    Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

    Process of Building a Personal Brand

    You already have a personal brand. What do people feel when you walk into the room? And what do you want them to feel? With successful branding, your key audiences think about you the way you want them to think.

    The branding process has four steps.

    Consider the corporate brand

    The more senior the executive, the closer the fit needs to be between corporate brand and personal brand. CEOs should consider themselves an extension or an embodiment of the corporate brand. What does your corporate brand stand for? How does your CEO’s brand fit within it? If the branding does not fit, the CEO’s tenure will likely be short. Successful branding does not mean that the CEO needs to layer another persona over his or her own. Nor does it mean that the CEO needs to be conventionally charismatic. The branding of many CEOs is modest, low key, and but their personal brand stands for something that key constituents relate to.

    Some CEOs have star power and are extremely media-genie. In this case, the challenge is to ensure that the CEO’s personal brand contributes to the corporate brand rather than distracts from it. The spotlight is put on the mission of the company, rather than on the personality of the CEO.

    Articulate your personal brand

    How do you identify and articulate your personal brand? Consider using archetypes-themes that tell a story. All business communication involves the telling of stories. An annual report is a story. A press release is a story. Archetypes tell the maximum story with minimum effort. We have all certain archetypes within us. In personal branding, focus on one or two major archetypes that explain your core motivation and strategies. For example, President George W. Bush is most effective when he takes on the Regular Guy persona. Al Gore is a Sage brand. The ability to make each person feel heard is the hallmark of a Lover brand and Bill Clinton personifies this. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a true Ruler brand-fully in control.

    In business, Apple Computer is an Outlaw brand (” Think Different“), and its CEO Steve Jobs is a Creator/Outlaw brand. The close alignment between the company and its leader works well. Another Outlaw brand with a flavor of Warrior is Hong Kong entrepreneur Richard Li, whose career was built on taking risks and turning away from convention. Oracle Software is a Warrior brand, as is its CEO, Larry Ellison. Executives who work in healthcare often exemplify the Caregiver brand.

    What archetype is dominant for you and your company? When coaching executives, we use assessments and questions to uncover an executive’s dominant archetype, the basis of his or her personal brand. To discover your archetype, ask yourself: What do I value above all else? What do I represent? What is unique about me? What is my call to action? What is my greatest fear? What story am I living?

    Adjust your brand

    Once you have articulated your brand, check for congruence. Ask others, “Does this brand evoke me?” You should get agreement from your audiences. Is your brand aligned with your actions and words? Are your actions aligned with your desired branding? Are there conflicts within your archetypes? For example, if you have a strong Regular Guy streak, you probably fear standing out. Does this prevent you from stepping into a Ruler role when your leadership calls for it? Or does the Lover aspect of your personality conflict with the Wnniors need to achieve? Finally, ask yourself: Is this really who I want to be? How can I aim even higher? What quirks of mine can I incorporate into my branding? Most of us spend our lives trying to conform. This is a chance to celebrate our uniqueness.

    Live your brand

    As you implement your brand, you will find that you have some clear strengths and liabilities. Your brand will alienate some people, and that’s okay. Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people. Each archetype presents both opportunities and traps. A Warrior leader can be powerful, but may not create a nurturing work environment.

    A Creator leader can be invigorating to follow, but may not be a structured thinker. Your strategy should be to mitigate your liabilities by flexing your behavior to meet the needs of the people and groups who are important to your business. For example, if you deal frequently with Ruler archetypes but are not a Ruler brand yourself, you will need to learn certain strategies and skills. By noticing your impact on your key audiences, and by stretching your skill set, you become a stronger, more flexible brand. Successful leaders who live their personal branding exercise a paradox. They are both deeply steeped in their own personal identities and deeply flexible toward their key audiences. Leaders who are good at both elements are authentic (true to themselves) and influential (powerful with others).

    A Brand is A Promise

    Remember: a brand is a promise, one that you make and fulfill, over and over. What promises are you and your company fulfilling? Fulfilling the business promise through effective communication yields a high Return on Communication.

    Posted in Education and Career

    Before You Start a Business

    Before You Start a Business

    • Come up with a great business idea: Great businesses are built on great ideas. Discover your own great idea by drawing on some basic principles plus inspiration from famous entrepreneurs. But first, you must know who your customers are, which is not as straightforward as it sounds.
    • Understand your market: Starting a business is risky. Give your business the best chance to survive and thrive by taking three important steps: conduct primary and secondary research, understand the five key success factors, and create a competitive landscape table that rates the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
    • Prototype your idea to make your idea a reality: Add two important skills to your entrepreneurial toolkit: writing a theory of business and building a prototype. By following these two actions, you’ll be able to refine your business idea, demonstrate that it’s possible to achieve, and show that your idea delivers what your customers want.
    • Perform market analysis and develop a marketing strategy: Continue your examination of the business plan by focusing on the marketing portion, which should include your research and analysis of the market as well as a comprehensive marketing strategy. Stress the importance of telling a persuasive story.
    • Conduct risk analysis: Potential investors reading your business plan will want to know that you have a plan to deal with possible obstacles and catastrophic surprises. Discover tools such as the Porter Five Forces Model and the SWOT analysis, which provide insight into critical risks and how to address them.
    Posted in Business and Strategy Education and Career

    Use Your Beliefs and Values to Gain Higher Commitment

    Use Your Beliefs and Values to Gain Higher Commitment

    Leaders are often reluctant to bring their spiritual beliefs to their leadership roles. Many leaders outside of a religious context are justifiably anxious that bringing their beliefs forward in a multi-religious society will cause unnecessary and unproductive conflict. Still, leaders who win high commitment consciously bring their beliefs to their leadership roles. In other words, they enact their beliefs.

    I once interviewed 20 experienced leaders who win high commitment from others. None of them is a “business leader” in the traditional sense and none learned leadership skills in the traditional way—at a business school or a corporate university.

    Their decision to focus on insights about leadership from leaders outside of business comes from the belief that we often learn the most from people who are unlike us. These leaders are fettered by limited resources. They must win commitment because they can’t afford to buy it. If they excel at winning commitment, they often engage a deeper commitment that comes from the heart and the spirit.

    Although I did not ask those I interviewed about their spiritual beliefs, three beliefs became evident. The ability to enact these three beliefs characterizes leaders who win high commitment.

    Belief in Divine Involvement

    The first belief was expressed by Pat Croce, former president and part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers professional basketball team. Croce said, “My tenet is that if you do your best, God will take care of the rest.” Bonnie Wright, former CEO of the Arizona Red Cross, added an important twist: “If you are doing the right things, the resources will come to you to do it.” The statements form a summary of what leaders express when talking about divine involvement: When you are doing the right things to the best of your ability, the divine powers will supply whatever else is needed. Wright also maintains that periods of reflection are essential to leaders. These are the times, she said, that she gets her “God-given to-do list.”

    This belief in divine involvement is also a source of strength and renewal for leaders. Croce’s belief that if he does his best God will take care of the rest provides him with a basis for dealing with the inevitable problems that all leaders face. With that belief in hand, he said, “You then can handle setbacks, disappointments, and frustrations.”

    Belief in the Primacy of Service

    The second belief is the importance of living a life of service. For example, Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation and an advocate for minorities, said that she ran for the office of Chief because she wanted to be in a position to allocate more resources to rural and poor people. She said, “My decision to choose public service and social justice issues as my life’s work was driven by passion, compassion and idealism. I was brought up in a Cherokee community where it was understood that we are responsible for one other and that we survive in reciprocal relationships.” These leaders are not drawn to serve because it will be profitable or ensure the loyalty of others. They do it for its own sake and for its own rewards.

    The zeal to serve is at the root of the compelling insights that give rise to noble visions. The insights that compel leaders are perceptions about the needs or aspirations of people; they come out of belief in the primacy of service. Noble visions are about the contributions that leaders intend to make to a group of people; they have their roots in the impulse to serve1 and they invite followers to serve as well. Without this impulse to serve, without this belief in the primacy of service, compelling insights and noble visions elude wouldbe leaders. Philosopher Sam Keen wrote: “Whenever you are confused, keep heading in the direction that leads toward deepening your love and care for all living beings, including yourself, and you will never stray far from the path to fulfillment.”

    Belief in the Basic Goodness of People

    Despite declarations to the contrary, many of our organizations and many people who hold leadership positions tend to operate as if people are basically selfish, needing to be watched and scrutinized carefully to prevent rampant and destructive self-interest. However, leaders who win high commitment act as if people are basically unselfish and trustworthy. They give people an opportunity to show that they are world-class citizens. They affirm their belief in the goodness of others. Such statements are not simply about the capabilities of others, but about the basic nature of people.

    This belief is what some refer to as the assumption of trust. William Purkey, a professor at the University of North Carolina, notes: “Given an optimally inviting environment, each person will find his or her own best ways of being and becoming.” Leaders who win high commitment create such optimally inviting environments, which depend heavily on the leader’s ability to hold onto the assumption of trust.

    Leaders who win high commitment know what they believe in and value, don’t pretend to anything else, and are persistent about bringing their beliefs to their leadership roles and to the organizations that they lead.

    Posted in Business and Strategy Education and Career Management and Leadership

    Your One Chance to Break Free from the Cubicle

    Break Free from the Cubicle

    Almost everyone stuck in a cubicle dreams of starting his own business. Of course, starting a company while employed by another one can be tricky. Amongst thousands of books on pursuing your dreams and entrepreneurism, Ben Arment’s ‘Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love’ stands out above the crowd. Here’s some of Ben’s unique blend of insight, practical advice and inspiration.

    1. 'Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love' by Ben Arment (ISBN 159184729X) It will be scary, but you should leave your office career to launch your own company, “We are motivated by two conflicting fears in life: the fear of failure and the fear of insignificance.”
    2. Lack of time isn’t a valid excuse. “The truth is, you don’t have extra time to pursue your dream. No one does. We have to remove time from some other endeavor … sacrifice is painful but necessary.”
    3. You’ll need monetary help. “Don’t let rainmaking deter you …. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become more comfortable [with it], you might even enjoy it.”
    4. Be ready to lose sleep. “Work in the margins of your life—the late nights and early mornings—to make it a full-time reality …this is your one chance to break free from the cubicle.”
    Posted in Education and Career

    Selling Your Ideas in Persuasive Presentations

    Selling Your Ideas in Persuasive Presentations

    If you are a professional, entrepreneur, manager, or leader, you are in the business of selling your ideas. Whether you are answering the query, “How’s the project going?” or making a formal presentation, you have a chance to establish an executive presence. Here are six tips for improving the substance and style of your presentations.

    Don’t “let down” for sit-down presentations.

    You may make many presentations to only a few people seated around a table or desk. But there may be no correlation between audience size and importance of the outcome. So, consider the group’s expectations.

    Don’t assume that because the audience is small, its members do not expect a quality presentation with visuals and the works. Since you are seated around a desk or table—at eye level—you must convey your enthusiasm, assertiveness, and authority through your facial expressions, posture, and voice. Sit comfortably erect, leaning slightly forward to show attentiveness and enthusiasm for your subject. Sit back to convey openness to questions.

    Position yourself to maintain eye contact with everyone in the room. Do not get stuck between two listeners. If possible, remove any physical obstacles that block vision or create “distance” between you and your audience.

    Ask relevant questions with a clear purpose.

    When you open with a relevant question, make it clear where you are trying to lead the discussion. Explain the benefits or the point of knowing the answer. Only focused questions seem worthy of an answer. To be persuasive, ask a question that showcases a benefit: “How much time do you spend preparing these charts?” Follow up: “With our software, you can generate such a chart in one minute.”

    Raise a question: “Do your managers enjoy performance appraisals?” Give a response: “Using this survey, we can identify performance problems objectively before they become serious.” Invite others to “try on your idea.” Since people can’t try new ideas on over old ones, you have to persuade people to put aside the old policy, equipment, or training, and give the new idea a fair trial. Ask: “Are you open to discussing something new?” Help others to play with an idea first discuss what-ifs, who-withs, where-necessarys, whys, and how-tos. Asking a question to test others’ openness will allow them to “toy” with an idea before committing to “buy” it.

    When asking your question, always give a context, structure, or purpose. If people know why you are asking, they may supply helpful information that you haven’t even thought to ask. Focus may determine whether you build rapport or destroy a relationship or opportunity—whether people are put off or persuaded by your presentation. When you know your listeners are biased against what you have to say, ask for a suspension of judgment. Diplomatically, acknowledge the situation. Your listeners will give you a fair hearing.

    Select quotations from both the famous and the unknown

    Quotations create impact by adding the words of a recognizable authority. They are usually succinctly and colorfully worded, crystallizing the key idea better than most presenters could. Check out Web sites that put quotations at your finger-tips. Don’t overlook comments by lesser-known individuals. For example, if you are speaking on current problems in the industry, you might interview and share “person on the street” comments gathered from remarks overheard at your trade-show booth. These may be anonymous or attributed remarks, depending on which is more important to your point—what they said or who said it.

    If you are talking about industry trends, you might extract comments from “Letters to the Editor” in a professional journal. If you are talking about feedback on your benefits, you might pull comments from recent telephone interviews with employees. If you’re talking about customer service training, you might add comments from your help desk logs and from complaint emails to make your point. The status of the author of the remark may not be as important as the comment itself.

    Never let facts speak for themselves.

    Facts need interpretation. According to Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” People can make numbers mean almost anything. Interpret your facts so that your listeners draw the conclusions you intend. Use both rounded and exact numbers. Exact numbers sound more credible; so, if you want the numbers to be both credible and memorable, use the exact number first, and then round it off. Use graphs, charts, and demos to make the numbers come alive.

    Determine whether to use a positive or a negative appeal. Consider “You’ll live longer and feel better if you exercise” versus “If you don’t exercise, your chances of getting heart disease increase by 42 percent.” Both appeals work—but not always with the same audience.

    Identify which appeal works best. Use meaningful proof. Don’t waste time gathering proof of your points only to discover that your audience does not agree that the studies, surveys, focus-group findings, or work samples prove anything. Make the proof meaningful to those whose opinions count.

    Persuasive Devices that Aid Retention in Presentations

    Use persuasive devices that aid retention

    Use slogans, metaphors, similes, analogies, allegories, parables, fables, stories, and antitheses to encapsulate, clarify, and aid retention. Slogans capture a key point in a memorable way. As you repeat your slogan during the presentation, you add emphasis to the key message. So, if you want to create a theme for your initiatives, select a slogan to make it memorable. A metaphor is a word or phrase substituted for another to suggest similarity. For example: “Time is money.” A simile compares two things with the words like or as. The more complex the idea, the more important it is to simplify and illustrate by comparison. Visual or emotional analogies help audiences follow you step by step. To reverse thinking, try using antitheses. Opposite ideas juxtaposed in the same sentence create thought-provoking grabbers.

    Weed out generalities, cliches, and platitudes. More is not better. Make your points specific, and support them with facts. Substitute fresh wording for cliches. Do not put your audience to sleep with platitudes. If you tell a story, know your reason for doing so: to illustrate a point, to entertain, or to build common ground. By knowing the purpose, you also will understand the time and effort you should devote to telling it. Never use a $100 story in a three minute time slot to make a nickel point.

    Remember that timing indicates emphasis.

    Spend 10 to 15 percent of your time on the opening, 70 to 85 percent on the body, and 5 to 10 percent on the closing. This allows time up front in the introduction to grab attention, “win over” a hostile or uninterested group, and establish credibility. If your presentation includes an involved action plan, that section most likely should be part of the body of your presentation, and your close should focus on the final persuasive push toward the decision to act.

    You may need to cut. In doing so, always keep the audience’s preferences in mind. As John Brockmann put it, “Most houseplants are killed by overwatering.” Never ramble on past the point of high impact. Anything you say after your point of close dilutes your impact. Do not ramble on with anticlimactic drivel. Say it and stop.

    Posted in Education and Career