Selecting The Wrong Leader. . . Again

Fighting an insidious attack on my immune system, I’ve opted to lean in to the sickness by reading the Atlantic’s God’s Plan for Mike Pence and the New York Times’s Inside Trump’s Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.

Journalism is hemorrhaging jobs, but fortunately, in some places, long form journalism is flourishing. These are detailed; thoughtful; and if you’re left-leaning, harrowing pieces.

From God’s Plan for Mike Pence:

“Scott Pelath, the Democratic minority leader in the Indiana House of Representatives, said that watching Pence vouch for Trump made him sad. “Ah, Mike,” he sighed. “Ambition got the best of him.” It’s an impression that even some of Pence’s oldest friends and allies privately share. As one former adviser marveled, ‘The number of compromises he made to get this job, when you think about it, is pretty staggering.'”

Tucked in the NYT piece were passing references to Trump’s twelve daily Diet Cokes and his regular dinner of. . .

“plates of well-done steak, salad slathered with Roquefort dressing and bacon crumbles, tureens of gravy and massive slices of dessert with extra ice cream.”

I’m calling bullshit on his doc’s glowing reports on his health. #fakenews

Why do we as citizens, employees, members of civic organizations, make leadership decisions we often regret? Why is our batting average too often Seattle Mariner-like?

Because we pick leaders based upon tangible qualifications that most closely match those we detail in our job postings, with far too little attention paid to the finalists’ psychological well-being. Granted, psychological well-being is hella-hard to assess in even a series of interviews, but somehow, we have to get better at it.

Let’s start with this premise, on a “Psychological Health” scale of 1-100, the most self-actualized person in the world is a 90. Put differently, everyone has “issues” and is fallible. The goal is to select leaders with the fewest inner demons so as to avoid getting hopelessly side-tracked from the group’s overarching mission. How about this for an interview question: Which of your inner demons are we likely to learn about six months from now? Maybe I should use italics when joking. But seriously, how do interviewers enter the side or back door to assess a candidate’s relative mental health and basic people skills?

My best work friend of all time took another job two and a half years ago. When the damnable university called me to talk about him, this is some of what I said, “He utterly has no ego. As a result, he doesn’t care who gets the credit for the good work that get’s done. All he cares about is that good work gets done.” His lack of ego was an indicator of genuine psychological health, the foundation of which, was equal parts a wonderful marriage and extended family, a deep spirituality, and a commitment to physical activity. Importantly, he also laughed a lot, often at himself.

Maybe the answer to the question, how do we assess job finalists’ psychological health, lies in the previous paragraph. Talk to more former co-workers in greater depth. I’m interested in other ideas you may have.

 

L’eggo My Ego!

That pun will be lost on the youth.

Recently, while training indoors for next summer’s Tour de France, the DVR offered slim pickings, so I ended up watching an ESPN documentary about the mid-90s Orlando Magic. As the story goes, one year the Magic got to the NBA finals thanks to the play of two young superstars, Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Then they got swept by the Houston Rockets in the Finals. The next year they got swept by the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Then Shaq left for Los Angeles largely because he couldn’t stand sharing the spotlight with his increasingly popular running mate. Twenty years older Shaq admits “it was ego” that got in the way of him staying, and realizing, the Magic’s obvious potential for championships.

Then after a couple of championships in LA, he left largely because he couldn’t stand sharing the spotlight with his equally, if not more popular, superstar teammate. Recently, he’s expressed regret that his “ego” got in the way then too. At the end of the film he says if he could do it all over again, he never would’ve left Orlando. He’s also expressed regret for leaving the Lakers when a few more rings were clearly within reach.

In the end, Shaq won half as many championships as he could’ve because he chose to be “the undisputed man” on lesser teams.

Daily it seems, I see examples of the downside of ego, both the more common male version, and the less familiar, female. Granted, more subtle and nuanced examples than the Big Aristotle’s, but still consequential. The challenge is for leaders to combine self confidence with a Buddhist-like selflessness. Whether star athletes, coaches, teachers, principals, pastors, politicians, or businesspeople. Leaders who don’t need credit for what their team’s accomplish. Leaders who let their legacies take care of itself.

Why did Shaq Daddy so desperately need the brightest spotlight? Why couldn’t he share the credit for his team’s success?

Why do we? Why can’t we?

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Postscript. This just in. Adrian Wojnarowski on George Karl’s new book, Furious George. “Truth be told, Karl was everything he said he disdained about all his players, he was all about the next contract, all about the attention, and always about himself over the team.”

 

Paragraphs to Ponder

Can’t get enough of the Pimco soap opera:

“Sources also told the Journal that Gross referred to himself as “Secretariat,” the legendary racehorse. The article also said that Gross doesn’t like his traders making eye contact or speaking with him.”

Make like Gross and peruse the following list of Derby winners back to my birth year and choose a new name to use at your workplace. I’m torn between Charismatic, Majestic Prince, and Decidedly.

Kentucky Derby winners
Year Winner Jockey Trainer Owner Time*
2014 California Chrome Victor Espinoza Art Sherman Steve Coburn & Perry Martin 2:03.66
2013 Orb Joel Rosario Claude McGaughey III Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable 2:02.89
2012 I’ll Have Another Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neill J. Paul Reddam 2:01.83
2011 Animal Kingdom John Velazquez H. Graham Motion Team Valor 2:02.04
2010 Super Saver Calvin Borel Todd Pletcher WinStar Farm 2:04.45
2009 Mine That Bird Calvin Borel Bennie L. Woolley, Jr. Double Eagle Ranch et al. 2:02.66
2008 Big Brown Kent Desormeaux Richard E. Dutrow, Jr. IEAH Stables / P. Pompa 2:01.82
2007 Street Sense Calvin Borel Carl Nafzger James B. Tafel 2:02.17
2006 Barbaro Edgar Prado Michael R. Matz Lael Stables 2:01.36
2005 Giacomo Mike E. Smith John Shirreffs Jerry & Ann Moss 2:02.75
2004 Smarty Jones Stewart Elliott John Servis Someday Farm 2:04.06
2003 Funny Cide Jose Santos Barclay Tagg Sackatoga Stable 2:01.19
2002 War Emblem Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert Thoroughbred Corp. 2:01.13
2001 Monarchos Jorge F. Chavez John T. Ward, Jr. John C. Oxley 1:59.97
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus Kent Desormeaux Neil Drysdale Fusao Sekiguchi 2:01.00
1999 Charismatic Chris Antley D. Wayne Lukas Bob & Beverly Lewis 2:03.20
1998 Real Quiet Kent Desormeaux Bob Baffert Michael E. Pegram 2:02.20
1997 Silver Charm Gary Stevens Bob Baffert Bob & Beverly Lewis 2:02.40
1996 Grindstone Jerry Bailey D. Wayne Lukas Overbrook Farm 2:01.00
1995 Thunder Gulch Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas Michael Tabor 2:01.20
1994 Go for Gin Chris McCarron Nick Zito Condren & Cornacchia 2:03.60
1993 Sea Hero Jerry Bailey MacKenzie Miller Rokeby Stables 2:02.40
1992 Lil E. Tee Pat Day Lynn S. Whiting W. Cal Partee 2:03.00
1991 Strike the Gold Chris Antley Nick Zito BCC Stable 2:03.00
1990 Unbridled Craig Perret Carl Nafzger Frances A. Genter 2:02.00
1989 Sunday Silence Pat Valenzuela Charlie Whittingham H-G-W Partners 2:05.00
1988 Winning Colors Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas Eugene V. Klein 2:02.20
1987 Alysheba Chris McCarron Jack Van Berg D. & P. Scharbauer 2:03.40
1986 Ferdinand Bill Shoemaker Charlie Whittingham Elizabeth A. Keck 2:02.80
1985 Spend A Buck Angel Cordero, Jr. Cam Gambolati Dennis Diaz 2:00.20
1984 Swale Laffit Pincay, Jr. Woody Stephens Claiborne Farm 2:02.40
1983 Sunny’s Halo Eddie Delahoussaye David C. Cross, Jr. D. J. Foster Stable 2:02.20
1982 Gato Del Sol Eddie Delahoussaye Edwin J. Gregson Hancock & Peters 2:02.40
1981 Pleasant Colony Jorge Velasquez John P. Campo Buckland Farm 2:02.00
1980 Genuine Risk Jacinto Vasquez LeRoy Jolley Diana M. Firestone 2:02.00
1979 Spectacular Bid Ronnie Franklin Bud Delp Hawksworth Farm 2:02.40
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen Laz Barrera Harbor View Farm 2:01.20
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William H. Turner, Jr. Karen L. Taylor 2:02.20
1976 Bold Forbes Angel Cordero, Jr. Laz Barrera E. Rodriguez Tizol 2:01.60
1975 Foolish Pleasure Jacinto Vasquez LeRoy Jolley John L. Greer 2:02.00
1974 Cannonade Angel Cordero, Jr. Woody Stephens John M. Olin 2:04.00
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stable 1:59.40
1972 Riva Ridge Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stud 2:01.80
1971 Canonero II Gustavo Avila Juan Arias Edgar Caibett 2:03.20
1970 Dust Commander Mike Manganello Don Combs Robert E. Lehmann 2:03.40
1969 Majestic Prince Bill Hartack Johnny Longden Frank M. McMahon 2:01.80
1968* Forward Pass Ismael Valenzuela Henry Forrest Calumet Farm 2:02.20
1967 Proud Clarion Bobby Ussery Loyd Gentry, Jr. Darby Dan Farm 2:00.60
1966 Kauai King Don Brumfield Henry Forrest Ford Stable 2:02.00
1965 Lucky Debonair Bill Shoemaker Frank Catrone Ada L. Rice 2:01.20
1964 Northern Dancer Bill Hartack Horatio Luro Windfields Farm 2:00.00
1963 Chateaugay Braulio Baeza James P. Conway Darby Dan Farm 2:01.80
1962 Decidedly Bill Hartack Horatio Luro El Peco Ranch 2:00.40