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Posts in: hubris

Populating the tent

Promoting other people in your own image not only says something about your preferences, it says something – and not something particularly healthy – about your own self-image. Leadership depends not just on developing self-awareness, but on maintaining it – staying aware of your impact, of the impression you create, and your relationship to the changing world around you. (If you want a truly ghastly analogy here, consider the scene in Behind the Candelabra where Liberace produces a photograph of himself as guidance for the plastic surgeon hired to ‘re-model’ his partner. If you want to be adored, try being adorable. It’s cheaper and it leaves fewer scars – on everyone – although it does mean finding out what other people find attractive.)

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Going against the grain, or sailing against the tide?

Every culture, however broadly or narrowly you define it, tends to have its ideals, including the type of people that it holds up for admiration. We may think of etiquette as being the preserve of delicate ladies in lace gloves, but every situation has its own protocols. ‘Honour amongst thieves’ is a type of etiquette too. But cultural ideals embrace personal and behavioural styles as well as social manners. Being ‘the ideal’ type can be about more than which fork you use for the fish course or where you were schooled.

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The Great Smell of Brute?

The charisma thing has, it seems, raised its perfectly groomed head once more. The always readable Mervyn Dinnen blogged in response to a Guardian article by Jonathan Freedland, both exploring the apparent gap between the type of leaders we elect or support, and the kind of leaders we might choose if perhaps we put a bit more thought into the process. As is customary in contemporary business blogging circles, lines from a song were quoted. I think this is primarily an attribute of the demographic profile of bloggers, and can only plead guilty. And as songs go, Paul Weller’s Going Underground has retained the lyrical and emotive power it originally had around the time I heard being blasted live from the back of flat-bed trucks at various protests and marches in the early 1980s. Personally, however, I might have chosen a line a few bars further into the song that strikes me as both truer and considerably more cynical: “The public wants what the public gets”.

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Whistle-blowers and flag bearers: watching the World Cup

Though their governments and economies may rise and fall, countries have one lasting trump card: national pride is a potent force. A force strong enough to effectively close much of England yesterday afternoon, remove traffic from motorways and leave every checkout in my local Sainsbury’s completely queueless. Which is one reason – probably the reason – the French Minister of Sport was tasked by President Sarkozy to have what was presumably neither a quiet nor a soothing word with the national football team during a World Cup campaign marred by in-fighting and threats to ‘strike’ in a sense totally unconnected with goal scoring. ‘Sporting behaviour’ embraces more than a strictly athletic meaning: it also invokes respect, team play and a bit of basic decency.

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