The MXL folks have published a great doc on microphone basics. Always good to brush up on the basics.
In “An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Leadership Lessons From The Godfather” author Lydia Dishman interviews Justin Moore, CEO and founder of Axcient regarding demonstrations of leadership in the legendary motion picture. Moore explains, of course, that he isn’t suggesting violent and criminal behavior and that “business should not operate like the Mafia” but there are however many universal themes that are common to the Godfather and the CEO.
The five main points Dishman draws out of Moore parallel many of the things we’ve learned over the past months with MOR. There are obvious dark spins on leadership as Vito Corleone has his business strategies carried out but on a macro level much of it informs us on the other side of the law. I do take some issue or see the need to expand on Moore’s points given my experiences of the last few years at the University and as a MOR student.
Here are Moore’s points with my thoughts included:
- Build a powerful community.
Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. ~Vito Corleone
Uttered in the iconic rasp of Marlon Brando, the words of Vito Corleone illustrate how he creates a loyal community among those he has helped. Moore says, “By granting these favors and helping people with their problems, Vito Corleone is building a network of influence–relationships that may or may not deliver a specific or quantifiable return, but all which serve to strengthen his power base and which have the potential to be reciprocal in the long run.”
Moore says building strategic partnerships enables companies to work through challenging markets and fast-track overall success. “As a CEO, I see it as part of my job to be a super connector, networking with the technology and investment community without an expectation of reciprocation. Partnerships forged through time, trust, and mutual benefit–such as those Axcient has built with HP, Ingram-Micro, and a vast network of service providers and resellers–are the types of community relationships that bring about the greatest returns.”
Fostering relationships, networking and community have been well demonstrated in our MOR activities, an especially concrete example being the simulation we worked through at Michigan. The “expectation of reciprocation” is a significantly different matter in the Godfather. Coercion on the part of Corleone to receive reciprocation exclusively on his terms is quite different than relying on a mutually created relationship based on trust. I would equate Corleone’s methods to be similar to the “sandwich” strategy in our simulation where pressure was applied to get the desired outcome regardless of the state of or investment in the relationship. However, unlike our experience, Corleone’s sandwich would be very likely be successful and possibly painful for personal between the slices.
Never leave a Dean’s Office with the Canolli and Gun question on your mind. Enough said.
- Hold people accountable.
What’s the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft. ~Vito Corleone
The Godfather reminds us of the importance of being tough when necessary. “As soon as Vito Corleone allowed a few moments of weakness to be seen by his enemy, they attempted to assassinate him. And it was largely because of failures of his team,” Moore observes.
“In business, accountability isn’t achieved by a murderous rampage. But the lesson is this–to be successful in business you have to be tough, and you have to be extremely focused on hitting goals and getting results,“ says Moore. That doesn’t mean patience and understanding don’t have a place, he says, but ongoing tolerance of low-performing people or products just eats away at the success of the entire company. “You are ultimately responsible for all of your employees and shareholders, and that requires tough and swift decisions.
Many of the ideas from our readings on accountability prior to our fourth session contradict this last quote. In these readings we learned accountability often works better when there’s not a perception of a leader’s “ultimate responsibility” but a shared responsibility amongst all people across the organization. Metrics, numbers, targets, etc. are critical as they tangibly represent a shared goal or destination where all members recognize their contribution to and responsibility for. I think Vito does have it right here, when someone’s “brain is going soft” there’s not a full sharing of the responsibility required to be truly accountable to the organization.
- Don’t get emotional.
It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business. ~Michael Corleone
“Many people don’t like to talk about the fact that in business, there are winners and losers. When Sonny Corleone reacts impulsively and emotionally, he gets taken out. In business, if you don’t take the opportunity to out-sell, out-bid, or out-market your competitor, they’ll take you out. I’m not suggesting doing anything outside the boundaries of morality or rightness–simply pointing out that when people make emotional decisions, they start making bad decisions. To lead successfully, you have to take your emotion and ego out of the equation.”
Likewise, Moore says it’s important to play to win. In business, that translates to knowing the competition and always staying at least one step ahead. “Operate your business with integrity and have respect for competition, but you also need to seize opportunities to eliminate your competition and win.”
Emotional Intelligence, the EQ or EI, that we explored in Nebraska plays a role in everything a leader does. I would differ with Moore in that every decision is an emotional decision. The skilled leader has a full knowledge of his/herself and can parse the factors in the decision making process. The leader’s EQ/EI moves into the social realm as the leader operates the “business with integrity.” Here the awareness and management of those external conduct traits are in full play.
- Be decisive.
Moore says that he, like most people who appreciate The Godfather, watch the movie with a combination of shock and respect. “Shock because he is so ruthless that he kills his own family member, but respect for the fact that Don Corleone knows exactly what he wants, executes decisively, and commands respect through unwavering leadership.”
While you don’t have to kill anyone to prove a point, as soon as you know what choice to make, move forward. “Know who on your team is making the right choices, and trust them to take decisive action as well. Hesitation too often leads to missed opportunities.”
As I thought about this point it strongly became apparent to me that decisiveness, successful decisiveness that is, is the result of this whole quest for improving our leadership skills. A decisive action really can’t take place without processing everything we’ve been learning in our MOR experiences. Of course a mature leader does this more intuitively than us newbies. Even I, if I put my mind and effort towards a situation, can act decisively within my current role.
- Spend time with your family.
Do you spend time with your family? Because a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man. ~Vito Corleone
Moore isn’t endorsing 1940s machismo, but he is decrying 100-hour workweeks that many entrepreneurs fall prey to in hot pursuit of the next big thing. Though he’s been dedicated like that in the past, Moore finds it’s not sustainable in the long run.
“A leader can’t be successful in creative problem-solving and making excellent decisions unless that person is connected to people and passions outside of work. I find that it’s often time with family and friends that gives me the perspective I need to build the relationships and make the decisive actions required for continued success in business,” says Moore.
I would take Moore’s thought one step further; I find that if I’m not feeling good about something in my home life I lose focus and effectiveness in my work life. Realizing I didn’t give my kid a hug before dropping him off at school ends up bugging me all day. A down swing in a relationship, the loss of a loved one, a financial pinch, and so many other situations can take a toll on my ability to lead. I need to work at both aspects of my life with equal effort.
It’s often little things that help so much in my total life. Here a few examples that work at:
- Walk out of the office at 5p unless it’s an absolute necessity.
- Rather than read the news on my phone at breakfast we now practice my son’s spelling words for the week.
- Attempt to practice self-awareness at all times.
- Share the evening cooking as much as possible (when we’re not in extracurricular shuttle mode with the kid).
Work/Life balance is critical but too often are empty words in the work world. I am grateful that it feels that the higher education sphere is better at this balance than the private sector. Certainly it’s an improvement from my ten years in the private sector. Hopefully it stays that way.
Finally one thought came to mind when looking at the picture of Brando and DuVall – it has to do with appearance and impression. The image of a “secret” being whispered into the “leader’s” ear has always been something that makes me uneasy. It sets a tone that lacks transparency, in face-to-face meetings or even during public events. I’ve been on the bandstand hiding behind my bass or behind a camera for well over 500 events; a position where I’m thought of and treated like wallpaper. It’s provided me an anonymous and fascinating view of interactions both formal and informal, overt and covert. My “research sample” has representation by leaders from multiple universities, governors, congressmen/women, clergy and business leaders. I’ve seen plenty of examples that are reminiscent of the Brando-DuVall picture and many other scenarios play out right in front of me. (don’t ask about wedding party behavior on the dance floor – NSFW) After awhile one gets quite adept at assessing the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” When I say bad, for a few, it means an orange jumpsuit sort of bad. Anybody that knows Illinois can guess at who some of those people may be.
Together we have learned that we are always on stage as leaders. Do we want to be compared to Brando?
This is fabulous. No company or digital personality gets left out.
The Apple announcements, as expected, have stirred things up in the digital textbook discussion. I’ve been heavily involved with digital textbooks for the last 2 1/2 years and have learned numerous lessons, experienced pitfalls and worked toward fabulous instructional opportunities. I will continue to share those in this blog.
I thought I would share a brief video that discusses eText.Illinois, the digital textbook system we’ve developed in the College of ACES Information Technology and Communication Services.
Lots of rumors swirling today – will the announcement be an iTunes-eque selling of textbooks from the major publishers -OR- self-publishing.
I’m hoping for both.
Self-Publishing – Power to the Local Author
eText.Illinois, the digital textbook system my group developed plays on the need for locally produced, short run (can you say that in the digital world?) textbooks. We use the ePub format at the core but the main consumption of the book is through our webapp. It is a big production getting the texts formatted and ready. Unfortunately and usually the books/docs are written in MS-Word and any export of course is a mess. We revert everything back to plain text.
I’ve come to love editing in Markdown (actually Multimarkdown since we need tables). Getting a cleanly marked up book is pretty straightforward, however it’s hard to tell a professor to write in a text editor. Will there be a slick and enticing Apple authoring tool? The buzz is teasing us with a “Garageband for e-books.” That would be cool and particularly if it creates clean, ADA accessible docs.
So Much for the Self-Publishing Angle. How About the Big Publishers?
There are so many textbook purchasing models available to students: purchased, purchase – sell back (used), rental, digital textbook access for specific amount of time, and purchase of digital textbooks with and without digital rights management. The model that the publishers don’t like is the used book’s purchase – sell back cycle, effectively removing the publisher from those additional sales and profits as books get used and sold over and over again. The publishers see digital sales, without resale, as their chance back into the profit game.
A sales model for textbooks similar to the iTunes music model with Apple operating the cash register, paying the wholesale publishers, and dealing with consumption devices like the iPad is a very nice model for all involved. Apple did transform the music industry in this way like it or not.
The interesting twist is that iTunes is not just about the major record labels, it’s got the indie labels and even the solo artist/act with a couple of records. These lower sales volume releases co-mingle in an online storefront with the big labels. The blending of all ranks of music business is effective and can drive sales for the little guy. (I know, I’ve played on and engineered quite a few records on iTunes.)
Can this mixture of big companies and little guys work with digital textbooks?
The missing piece from our eText.Illinois model is use of published, copyrighted content within a locally authored book legally but without all the hoop jumping of permissions. If our local authors and us as producers had a simple means to blend copyrighted content into self published eBooks I would be extremely excited. Companies like McGraw-Hill already have an “a la carte” book building process through their own web interfaces and formats. If Apple could provide the a la carte selection of copyrighted content in their authoring tool THAT WOULD BE A GAME CHANGER.
You have a course “reader” that contains a number of articles and reprints from books, journals, etc. The local copy shop gets permissions and prints it up for the students to buy and read. The professor/author may want to write introductions, add some glue between articles and a postscript. Maybe insert some assignments in between articles. Definitely value-added content.
While writing in this epublishing dream world I am describing Apple’s authoring tool would provide the ability to “browse” – like Apple’s iLife Media Browser – copyrighted content from the big publishers. Each piece of copyrighted content would have a unit cost that dynamically adds cost to the final book price. The “meter is running”; depending on what and how much the author finds and inserts into their book.
So the end price of the locally authored book is:
Author’s Price + Autocalculated License Fee to Publisher(s) = Textbook Cost
The student buys the book from the iAcademicBookstore (or whatever Apple calls it) and everyone is happy:
- Pubishers get accurate licensing with no overhead in dealing with numerous small books.
- Authors can use copyrighted content without worry of infringement. If it’s easy to use, the authors will use copyrighted content more liberally.
- Locally authored books generate local revenue for author, department, college, etc. whatever is appropriate.
- If the myth of digital books hold true, student costs should go down. (we’ll see)
I was put in the lead on a recommendation committee for live streaming media across our three campuses. We are not well coordinated that’s for sure and this is certainly a step in he right direction. I had a group of five people working with me. It was a good process. I had some disagreements with the team and had to grapple with how to deal with it. I reached for guidance from the leadership I work under.
What I found was that I didn’t need to agree. I simply reported the differences in opinion honestly. There is this myth of consensus in higher education. Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye but we also must move forward and let the decision makers that requested the report read it and act.
Just glad to turn it in tomorrow.