Thursday, February 14, 2013

West Point Speech on Leadership

This is great:

We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders.
I enjoyed reading this speech. It made a lot of great points. I like how it touched on our institutions that are supposed to create leaders focus mainly on making them become good at jumping through hoops. How great a leader can you be when the only way to get into West Point is to participate in 25 extracurricular activities in a single year? Sure, it shows you can jump through hoops, but can you sit down in quiet reflection and think your way through a problem?

In fact, does jumping through that many hoops do anything useful for you? If anything, it'll keep you so busy you never stop to ask if what you're doing is right. You'll follow any orders you're given because you don't have time to stop and think.

If you really want to be a leader; if you really want to go far in life, follow this speaker's advice and spend time in solitude. Find something that keeps your body busy but your mind free. Work diligently with your hands while you ponder deep problems and mysteries.

In this article, I learned something else interesting. I hadn't seen Apocalypse Now until about the year 2000. People kept telling me I HAD to watch it (they told me the same thing about Pulp Fiction, which might be why I stopped trusting movie recommendations). One guy got a new Director's edition, so he gave me his old VHS. I watched it and thought "What the heck is this supposed to be?" After reading this article, and seeing that it came from the novel "Heart of Darkness" which was about mindless bureaucracy, it started to make sense. Mindless bureaucracy is born from people who can jump through hoops but never stop to ask "Why?"

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