Leadership: Finding Diamonds in the Pig Slop!

Knowledge Check!Have you ever noticed the many writers pouring billions of gallons of ink into leadership guides, books, articles, and so forth, and leadership is still a problem?  As a kid, we kept pigs.  Not many, just seven or eight, had a couple of batches of piglets, and the pig slop grew the best tomatoes ever.  One day, someone visited and saw the pigs when they dropped something flashy in the pig slop.  I forget what was dropped, but we kids were told to find this item for this visitor — launching a marathon of several days crawling through pig slop all to no avail.

I saw those pigs eat snakes, squirrels, and they even ate a wild dog who got injured inside their pen.  These eating machines never ceased to amaze me, and the slop was the best place to “lose” anything.  Bringing us back to leadership and the search for diamonds in pig slop.  I am not castigating the authors of leadership books, tools, guides, etc., as creating pig slop.  I am claiming that leadership is learned, and in learning, there will be failures and success.  The books on leadership do represent a clamoring quagmire for attention, where finding that one diamond to help your particular situation is going to be difficult, if not impossible.wild pigs in pen - YouTube

What is a Leader to do?

I am a practical-minded person.  Give me information, and let me chew on that information until solutions can begin to appear.  As a leader, I have found some basic principles helpful in producing an atmosphere and culture worthy of passing along.  Use; do not use, doesn’t matter to me.  I offer some suggestions and leave the rest to you.

    1. Create a learning culture. I do not care how many degrees plaster your wall; I do not care how high your GPA is or was in academia.  If you are not a committed lifelong learner, you will not retain the data you learned and treat yourself or others properly.  Read a book!  Investigate topics of interest to you!  Read out loud to children!  Reading has a power over the mind that no other force can match.  Pick up a book!
    2. Never forget, “a leader is a teacher, and a teacher is a leader.” If you are not teaching, you are not leading!  Yes, it truly is that simple to identify a leader from a manager.  Teaching comes in many forms; use them all.  As you get to know your people, you will discover the need to use different teaching styles; don’t be scared not to know something, suggest learning it together.
    3. Delegate, delegate, delegate, and then wash, rinse, and repeat. A leader will not keep everything on their plate.  Recognize the talents around you, take those talents and grow more, using the first two principles and the power of delegation.  The best leader I ever knew never seemed busy.  He delegated as much as possible and spent his days going around to those he delegated to for updates.
    4. Know the value of emotions and use them sparingly! A military commander I served with understood this principle well.  When he got upset, change happened.  But he did not get upset often and was very selective when he showed any emotion, except humor.  When this commander showed he was upset, people respected his emotional displays and worked twice as hard to right the wrong.
    5. Humor! Know some jokes, use them often!  I was working in a call center, the VP of customer relations saw I was logging off for a break; he comes hurrying over to me, acting all important and officious; he says, “Do you know what I just heard?”  “Not a clue.”  “Elvis, he was singing a melody of songs to fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.”  Not a good joke, but I remember it.  Knowledge of humor and application of that knowledge is preeminent to leadership.

Why the discussion on leadership?

Andragogy - The PuzzleLet’s face the 800# gorilla in the room; America, and the world, are in desperate need of leaders.  We have too many managers and people who claim to desire leadership but want nothing more than a manager.  We have people all around us who have become content with management and cannot tell you the difference between a manager and a leader; worse, these same people will try and claim leaders are born, not made.  Plus, a thousand and one other excuses, diatribes, vent spleens, egoistic manifestations, and straight lies.  Worse, politics gets involved, from the government to business; the politics of wagging tongues reminds me of geese in a pen.  Hissing, biting, honking, making tons of noise, and not making a lick of sense.  Chickens cackling in a yard is almost musical compared to geese in a pen, and I think the chickens might be smarter, even without brains, than geese!

One of those authors who write about leadership but could not lead a platoon of sailors into a bar after a long deployment was recently quoted as having said something others claim is essential to leadership.  Leaders need to embrace the C’s of leadership.  The C’s of leadership include:

    • Calm. Employees and customers look to Leaders to project a sense of calm through an uncertain situation.
        • This is a true statement, but if the employees have been appropriately trained, uncertain situations are diminished proportionally to quality, value-added training as part of being lifelong learners.
    • Confidence. Being calm, but not still-water calm. Employees and customers rely on the confidence a Leader brings.
        • Calmness is a projection of inner thoughts onto situational awareness.
        • Confidence is the sum of training, plus experience and the desire to excel — all of which the leader does not control and can only influence. Thus, we have a confusion of terms and ideas that do damage when confused.
    • Communication. Relentlessly communicate and communicate more clearly. This is to avoid rumors developing the muddy waters.
        • Muddy waters will always exist; people gossip like mad. But leadership communication can only go so far when people choose to ignore communication.  Hence, again, we confuse roles and responsibilities being passed off as a leadership principle.
        • Communication is a two-directional street and requires both parties to be listeners and speakers in their due order.
    • Collaboration. Call on the resources and capabilities of ALL your team and bring them together. Have a role for everyone in which they can contribute.
        • NO! Contribution is nothing without training, training requires delegation, and delegation is only useful if you include a return and report requirement.  Collaboration has a role, but not in leadership as described.
    • Community. All of us live in communities.  It’s important we set an example, and model behaviors that are supportive.
        • Would someone please tell me how modeling behaviors is part of living in communities?
        • Modeling behaviors is essential in the leadership toolbox, and I would never implicate otherwise. However, the community is left with a choice to exemplify the modeled behaviors or not.  Worse, those outside the company cannot be controlled except through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned — all tools a leader needs to be promoting in followers.
    • Compassion and empathy, during and post a crisis are critical in leadership.
        • Every time you see the word empathy, remember it is an emotional road to ruin. Worse, add sympathy to the mix, and the speed to ruin increases dangerously.
        • Compassion is not empathy; compassion is not sympathy; it is simply recognizing pain in another person and rendering support without participating in that emotional crisis.

FAIR AND BIASED: STAY OUT OF THE HOG PEN!Thus, we have the pig slop and the diamond hunt.  Unless an author provides principles, many leadership books, guides, and articles are just noise, pig slop, where the person desiring to improve individual leadership skills is hunting for diamonds. At the same time, fighting through a gaggle of geese that are hissing, honking, and clamoring for attention.

How does a person avoid the diamond hunt in pig slop?

Gaggle of geeseThe following is not an all-inclusive list.  However, it is the beginning of a list of tools helpful to leaders in all situations:

    1. Start being a leader by being a good follower. Even if being a good follower requires you to be the loyal opposition.  “Yes,” people are managers looking for a leader to pin their star to and never understand the power of being the loyal opposition.  I have never met a leader who was not first a good follower, even if they had to be the loyal opposition.
    2. Not just books on leadership, as this is only going on a diamond hunt in pig slop.  Read books on every topic you can think of, for when you read; you discover principles for future application.  I found how to understand complex theories in biology and how to use these complex organizational systems in how the human body interacts with its disparate parts and systems.
    3. Never stop learning! Going hand-in-hand with reading, never stop learning is a principle and motto for life.  If you need or want information, go to a subject matter expert and beg lessons.  I had a boss who did not know the industry, did not know the company and had no clue how to build the team.  He was hired for a specific set of skills and discovered his collateral duties one assignment at a time.  He went around to every long-term employee and asked them to teach him their jobs.  Six months into his tenure as leader, he was the best leader many had ever experienced.  Never stopping learning means being willing to learn from anyone.
    4. Leaders are trained, not born. Leaders do not magically appear.  Leaders are carefully taught, built, and never stop!  Are you carefully building yourself mentally and physically?  In the US Army, I was taught physical fitness, and with the number of mistakes I was constantly making, I learned a lot about physical fitness.  But, until I was injured, I had not taught my brain to meet my body’s strength and made more mistakes because the strength of my body excelled the strength of my mind.  In carefully building your leadership skills, abilities, and talents, do not forget to keep the body and mind equal in strength.

Andragogy - LEARNNo single person has all the answers on how to be a good leader.  I know I am still learning, and the more I learn, the less I know, and I have been studying leadership, becoming a leader, and working as a leader for the majority of my adult life.  I have led teams in dangerous work, I have developed people in all sorts of industries, and I still fall back on these time-honored principles because they work.  Thus, I ask you to put down the diamond hunt, get out of the goose pen, and simplify your life so you can learn easier and practice better the principles of delegation, learning, reading, and using humor.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Why it matters – The Answer

Andragogy - LEARNTelomeres are strings on the end of a DNA chain.  The longer the telomere string, the healthier and longer the cell lives.  The reverse is also true, shorten the telomere string, and death and sickness occur.  There are a ton of peer-reviewed resources that can explain, detail, and expound about telomeres; feel free to look them up; please accept for the moment the statement is true.  While I am not going much further into telomeres and DNA science, the fact that long telomere strings and living healthier and happier are important correlational pieces of data essential to the rest of this article.

Learning and having a purpose are two separate but conjoined variables essential to keep the telomere string long and the DNA healthy.  However, both purpose and learning are individual choices with physical health consequences.  Please note, these two choices are not a magic bullet to the fountain of youth, nor are they going to change a person’s health overnight.  Both take long hours of investment and require a lifestyle change.

Non Sequitur - Carpe DiemWe begin with some important history.  John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He was one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.  In the 1900s, Dewey established how free people and free societies are built; they are built upon education and literacy.  Dewey then changed education to halt literacy and started a ball of ignorance and government theft of freedoms to begin.  Your reading habits were carefully taught to you during your trip through K-12 government schools.  Unless you purposefully chose to read, you will generally possess a dislike for reading that was taught to you to keep you functionally illiterate, thus programmable to government propaganda.  Dewey’s plan succeeded far and above his wildest dreams.

With this understanding, when the topic of lifelong learning is discussed, the central point becomes formal education failed purposefully to teach; thus, one’s desire for learning must be an internal commitment — a personal appetite for books, knowledge, and a thirst for learning.  When discussing the life and health-changing aspects of learning, this is the point, what are you doing to learn something new every day?  What was the last book you read?  Did you enjoy it?  Would you recommend it?Calvin & Hobbes - Irony Hurts

K-12 education taught you that learning something new was somebody else’s responsibility; whereas, the truth is precisely the opposite.  What you choose to learn will have direct consequences upon your health, mental and physical.  Hence the need for purpose.  Many people can study aimlessly and never fully obtain the full mental and physical health promises because they lack a purpose, a reason, and a motivating reason to direct efforts.  For example, I met a retired Major of the US Air Force; he pursued his MBA because he needed it for promotion.  No other purpose, no reason other than his career, and no genuine interest.  That he topped out at Major and Retired less than his desired rank goal ruined him from learning anything else.  He sits at home, lacking a purpose and reason, miserable.  He has not touched a book to read in years, his TV is his link to the world, and he feels like a failure.  In remembering my friend, I often think to weep at what could have been.

Jack Sparrow's compass - Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki - The Unofficial Pirates of the Caribbean ...A purpose is all about intention, a goal for which one intends, cognitively, to achieve.  A burning passion, a deep hunger, a longing, purpose, as a word, has many synonyms, but the end goal is the same, “What is it you want most?”  One of the reasons I am such a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean is the compass held by Captain Jack Sparrow.  The compass works when the captain knows what he wants, sailing is easier, and progress is made.  Failure to understand what he wants, to know absolutely his purpose, and the journey fails, chaos abounds, and trouble ensues.

Because purpose inspires learning, and both purpose and learning are fundamental to your good mental and physical health, the following suggestions are here for your consideration.  However, they also come with a warning, genuine interest.  I have an interest in a lot of different topics.  Sometimes, I have so many books I am in the middle of my desk looks like a public library threw up!  However, I also have topics that I have less than zero interest in ever pursuing.  I have had to learn where my genuine interests lie, primarily through exploring.  No one can give you wisdom or tell you what your interests are.Bait & Switch 2

Funny story, I discovered I had no interest in art.  None!  Paintings, sculpture, drawing, nothing.  No comprehension, no interest, no desire, nothing!  I discovered this during my associate’s degree, where I was forced to take an art class.  Now, I come from a long line of painters, sculptors, artists in different mediums.  My wife draws, paints, and makes music as an outlet for her artistic abilities.  I can barely doodle and generally do not care to try.  I know what I like but cannot describe the why when it comes to art because I have no interest in the how.  Hence the warning, discover where your genuine interests lay and pursue them relentlessly!

      1. Explore to discover your interests. Public libraries are my best friend!  I have been in some public libraries to borrow baking pans and molds to create different stuff for cooking.  Get to know your public library as the launch point for discovering interests.
      2. Ever think you might like to pursue a degree in something. Why not contact your local community colleges and universities.  Auditing a class is a great way to check your interest levels without investing money.
      3. How do you know when you have found a hidden interest; the secret is in your enthusiasm! Do you cheer to be able to study that topic?  Guess what, you found an interest!  Explore that interest to the Nth degree.  I discovered an interest in anthropology, economics, sociology, and psychology through studying history.  I have always been enthused to learn history.  However, the extra information gleaned from economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology has made my enthusiasm for history deeper, more enjoyable, and more meaningful.  Measure your enthusiasm, you can become enthused easily and quickly, or slowly and with difficulty, but your enthusiasm is the compass for your interest and purpose.
      4. Volunteer to work with kids! I do not care about the age of the children.  It doesn’t matter if that volunteering occurs through a religious or non-profit organization, kids ask questions, and in asking questions, you learn.  Create time to volunteer.
      5. On the topic of volunteering, spend time in a long-term care facility as a professional listener. I have spent some great days listening to people, I have learned a lot, and let me tell you, I always leave the experience grateful and enthused.  Memorize a joke as a conversation starter, and listen.
      6. Don’t stop! I cannot emphasize this principle enough.  Failure is part of discovery; not stopping is part of discovery.  Hence, do not stop trying, and in not stopping, you will discover… you!

Knowledge Check!My wife is a journal writer.  I blog — others in my family webcast.  The final suggestion in discovering purpose and learning, write down the experiences.  The good, the bad, the failures, the successes, and in writing or recording your thoughts, you will discover new talents and inspire someone else when you share your thoughts.  I learned this lesson from Robert Fulghum, the author, artist, preacher, and storyteller, who happened to write the book “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”  Want a guide on this voyage of discovery; pick up some of his books, “Uh-Oh,” “It was on fire when I laid down on it,” “Maybe, Maybe Not,” and so many others to choose from.  Mr. Fulghum makes an excellent guide on a voyage of discovery; take along an expert!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

NO MORE BS: Literacy and Freedom – Understanding the Connection

Freedom's LightLiteracy is defined as the ability to read and write and is the competence of knowledge in a specific area.  The links between literacy and freedom continue to be hotly debated among scholars, especially those scholars who choose to be revisionist historians.  One of the essential distinctions in scholars is those centered around revisionists.  No matter the flavor of a scholar, revisionist scholars always support a policy of revision or modification, or worse, advocate for the same.  Revisionist scholars are always looking to revise a topic’s history to fit a political bend for personal gain and political profit.

Literay ArtsThe most egregious example of this is found in the revisionist historians who derive from journals or other documents the sexuality of a historical figure, based upon the scholar’s agenda, political flavor, and the understanding of today’s culture.  During the summer of 2020, America saw many revisionists trying to rewrite history where statues and historical reasoning for erecting those statues were concerned was blatantly attacked by ignorant savages!  By changing history, the culture shifts ever so slightly, and it is only a few degrees of separation across time that can eradicate truth and leave myths instead of fact.

All of which is mentioned because currently, literacy and the links to freedom are being revised heavily to reflect less need for literacy as a means of curtailing expectations of freedom.  Kaestle, Damon-Moore, Stedman, Tinsley, and Trollinger (1991) authored “Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading since 1880, and the first topic in chapter one is discussing the revisers of history and the downplaying of literacy in early (Preliterate) Greece.  While Kaestle et al.’s. (1991) is more of a scholarly work, the point remains that there remains a significant amount of debate on a logically understood topic.

Detective 4The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints reveres “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ” as scripture.  In that book, there are two accounts of people who did not have records to teach reading and writing in their respective populations, which, when taught reading and writing, gained economically, financially, and developed new thinking and acting methods.  One of the first points in “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ” the point is made that without written records, people’s memories cannot be passed down, historical lessons are lost, and art, culture, craft, industry, and so much more stem from the ability to read and write and records are critical to human understanding and growth.  While I am not here to debate religion, the historical underpinnings of needing to read and write as social customs with power are well established.  Consider the Old Testament and the Jewish culture and society, and the same pattern is discovered, when the people know how to read and write, they are different from those who do not know how to read and write.

Hence, from a purely anthropological perception, reading and writing are essential keys in society forming and development from hunter/gatherers to tool-wielding crafting and agrarian societies.  While the scholars will debate causation until everyone is confused, the links between literacy and social development cannot be separated without twisting logic and ruining the historical facts found in ancient writings held by religion.  Causation and the connections between one topic and another remains an area ripe for abuse by the researchers’ personal bias.  I fully admit sufficient peer-reviewed sources are supporting and denying literate societies’ links and freedom to bury an ocean liner in paper.  Mark Twain is quoted as, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run. Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”

Reading - A JourneyMark Twain is also quoted as, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”  These quotes point to the specific problem facing America.  In every society globally, literacy has been purposefully designed to be worth less to people by conspiring leaders who want and need drones instead of people.  The world is poised on the knife blade’s edge of history, pushed there by those conspirators, and every person is now faced with a choice, stand and learn, or remain ignorant and fall.  If we fall, we will fall an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle, and our graves will be cursed by those who come after us.

Mark Twain points to the same problem discussed here, “The man who does not read has NO advantage over the man who cannot read. [emphasis mine]”  Knowing how to read does nothing if it is not practiced, knowing how to write does nothing if it is not practiced, and failure to read and write puts us worse off than those who have never been taught to read and write.  Why worse, because we make a conscious choice not to use the tools we have been provided, and the consequences are worse for knowing better and not acting in a manner that honors the tools we have been given.

PenmanshipLet the scholars argue about how to measure literacy in a person and a population, but for us, let us measure literacy by how often we read a full book, paper, or eBook and write.  Not just emails for work, but journals, blogs, our histories, and family histories.  The aim is not to get readers as much as it is to exercise the power of writing.

For example, my wife loves to write letters and cards.  She has a master’s touch on expressing through words her feelings, developed over her entire life of 80-years.  The receivers cherish her letters and cards, and I cannot count how many people write to her and express this sentiment.  I have all the letters she wrote me while I was in the US Army.  Due to my luggage’s theft at a Greyhound Station, I have very few to none of her letters written to me in the US Navy, which remains a great sadness to me.  Never having been professionally taught, my wife writes music, and I cherish the song she wrote for me that I have never heard.  Using experience and constant trial and error, my wife drew pictures for each of the grand kids.  Literacy is the power behind letters, arts, music, and so much more, even if the scholars disagree.

Non Sequitur - DecisionsJim Croce wrote a song asking a simple question, “Which way are you going?”  I know my direction; I am headed to a library, a bookstore, and then a computer to record my thoughts, for I desire more literacy.  Join me and let us make a “Liberty FIRST Culture” where literacy is cherished as the source of our collective mental batteries!

Non Sequitur - Carpe Diem© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.