Two Kinds of Bad Bosses

One-third of the country readily buys whatever President Trump is selling day-to-day. This is about the two-thirds of us who think Snake Oil salesman is far too kind a description.

We act like his Presidency is unprecedented because in many ways it is. We’ve never had a President pay so little regard to the truth. And it’s not even close. But anyone 30 years old or older has had at least one bad boss, and if you’re my advanced age, probably many bad bosses.

So it’s not completely unchartered territory.

There are two kinds of bad bosses. The kind that knows they’re in way over their head and bide their time by disappearing into the background. Hoping against hope that they can mask their incompetence indefinitely.

Trump is the exact other kind. The kind that has no idea they’re in way over their head and has to be front and center all of the time. The technical term is narcissism. Even when Trump’s aides tell him his daily press conferences are hurting him, he continues with them in slightly different form. A certifiable media whore. So we can’t sidestep his lying, incompetence, lack of empathy, and general destructiveness.

And yet, we’ve survived lots of bad bosses, both kinds, because our organizations have been filled with caring, competent people who collectively compensated for the poor leadership at the top.

And we always outlast them because we’re resilient. And we’ll outlast this one too if enough of us turn out to say “You’re fired!” on November 3, 2020.

I’m Like Fox News, Fair and Balanced

I dedicate this to Travis and Mike who are convinced I’m being even less fair and balanced about the current administration than normal.

From Arnold Kling’s blog post “Calibrating anger”.

“I don’t think that anger toward President Trump is well justified. It is true that he reacted more slowly than many people who are more technically oriented and better able to read exponential processes. But almost every other leader around the world reacted just as slowly. And he was badly served by the FDA. . . Some of those FDA folks are still taking their case to the press, attacking President Trump for breaking out of their regulatory straitjacket.

No doubt that there were some officials somewhere in the bowels of the bureaucracy who saw this coming and tried to send warnings up the chain of command. Perhaps some of those warnings made it all the way to the Oval Office. But suppose that Mr. Trump had understood and been ahead of the curve. Had he told people back in February that they needed to change their behavior, I am skeptical that he could have brought the country with him. The left, rather than respecting such a judgment, would more likely have denounced early measures to stop the virus as a fascist takeover. As it is, they can call him an idiot for being too late. Fine.

I don’t recall leading Democrats putting much pressure on him to act sooner.

Where I am inclined to fault Mr. Trump is in what I see as a lack of ability to attract and retain outstanding personnel. I think that his circle of trust is too narrow. If my intuition about this is correct, then this shortcoming is quite consequential.”

I’m trying really hard to make nice so I will not say a narcissist is incapable of “hiring only the best” because their smarts and competence would accentuate his relative shortcomings.

Dammit, so close.

Maybe I’m Wrong

These days, when it comes to narcissism in the (dis)United States, maybe resistance is futile. Maybe I should go full-Trump and embrace myself even more fully.

And start a gofundme campaign. I have many legit needs that are definitely profound and kinda social if we’re being honest. For example, I’m running a little low on Christmas lights. Even more critical though, the Good Wife and I need to burnish our environmental credentials. Among our leafy friends, the Honda Pilot is a bad look.

So please help us buy a Rivian R1S SUV when it comes to market in late 2020. Read all about it here. Because I am not greedy, I am setting the target at the base MSRP price of $72,500. If your largess exceeds that, I will purchase roof racks, insurance, and electricity.

What do you get in return? The peace of mind that comes with knowing you have helped meet an unmet need of the fastest highest order. Thank you in advance.

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Self Promotion—The New Normal

My trial run as a university administrator is eleven months old. My experience has been mostly positive. On good days I even think about taking on more administrative responsibilities. Increasingly, it seems, demand for capable School of Ed leaders exceeds the supply. Meaning opportunities are aplenty.

But as I read vita after vita of my peers applying for higher administrative posts, with an eye to how I compare, I’m more and more convinced that I am at a disadvantage because of (at least) one glaring shortcoming. Relative to my peers, I’ve failed at self promotion. That’s not quite the right term because failing implies having tried. Probably because of my dad’s Eastern Montana, Depression Era humility that I hope has shaped me, I haven’t even tried.

An administrator friend recently told me she was working on a reference for a faculty colleague who was applying for a teaching award. I would never think to apply for an award, which may be one (among others of course) reason I’ve never received one. One peer’s vita I read recently included a list of 16 awards. Odds are that required some serious hustle.

I can’t help but think that the most eager self promoters have narcissist tendencies, but since it’s become the norm, maybe I should be more understanding. Maybe self promotion is more savvy than it is morally questionable. Maybe I need to get with the program. What do you think?

Unless you convince me otherwise, my plan is to be true to my dad, my uncle, my mom, and myself, and sit this trend out, even if it limits my professional opportunities. Despite that, I acknowledge everyone needs to be affirmed, appreciated, recognized for their efforts on behalf of others. Whether in their personal or professional lives. Myself included.

And that’s the thing. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have been affirmed and appreciated by a steady stream of students. Including, one glorious day many moons ago, when I did a guest teaching stint in my daughter’s third grade classroom. Showed slides of bicyclists in China. Led a discussion. Felt pretty good about how engaged everyone was. “How was it?” I asked Alison afterward. “Dad,” she beamed, “it was perfect!” Hell yeah.

The Good Wife has been a continual source of personal and professional encouragement. A very Good Wife, loving daughters, appreciative students, more than enough fuel for my fire.

It’s at this point in the story that somewhere in Northwest Indiana, my head shaking older sissy thinks to herself, “It’s not about YOUR fire!”

Dad lives in sis. Thanks for the telepathy. Case closed.

 

In Praise of Digital Minimalism

I just spent five days* cycling on some of Central Oregon’s most beautiful roadways and I don’t have a single picture to show for it. Mount Bachelor and the surrounding mountain lakes were spectacular, as was the Prineville Resevoir, Paulina Lake, and McKenzie Pass.

I wish I had taken a few, but three things conspired against my picture taking—limited jersey pocket space, riding most of it at a very brisk pace, and a reaction against camera happy people who fail to live in the moment because they’re preoccupied with capturing “the moment” for other people and future reference.

I always marveled at the phalanx of parent poparazzi** at my children’s athletic competitions, artistic performances, and graduations. I wanted to ask what’s it like trying to organize all of those images? And even more perplexing, I wondered when exactly they planned on breaking out the 7th grade piano recital video? At halftime of the Superbowl when all of their friends are huddled in front of their television? “Hey, want to watch something even better than Beyonce?!”

In the interest of quality over quantity, computer sanity, and realistically accessing images with some regularity, I’m considering a limit on my digital images. No more than 500. That would make at least one of my daughter’s nauseous. Yes, I’ve heard of the cloud, but what good does it do to have tens of thousands of images or hours upon hours of video if you hardly ever make the time to access more than a tiny fraction of your digital library?

On Saturday, I’m looking forward to attending my eldest’s college graduation in Minnesota. I’ll probably be the only guy not taking pictures or filming for future reference. Why? Because I want to be fully present and I’ll be surrounded by family and friend fotogs***. I will ride their digital coattails just like you can view the ride I took Sunday up and over McKenzie Pass if you click the link in the opening paragraph. The YouTube video shows you some of the fantastic video looping in my head tonight.

* actually four days—I swam, ate, napped, and ate one day while the rest of the gang rode another 100 miles

** damn, that may be my best use of alliteration ever, thank you very much

*** I know how to spell photog, it’s just that sometimes my genius for alliteration gets the best of me