Thursday, May 28, 2009

Madness, Madness...

by Paul Greenberg - May 27th, 2009 - Arkansas Democrat Gazette

The words linger in my mind-Madness, Madness!-and recur every time various lawyers, including the current president of the United States and commander-in-chief of its armed forces, proceed to explain why we need to follow the rules of criminal procedure in this war rather than the laws of war.

Great article by a great writer. Paul uses a reference from "Bridge on the River Kwai" to point out how easy it is to focus on the irrelevant.

I am reminded of a class I took in business school that used the same movie to make the point about the difference between management and leadership. After the class had watched the movie we were asked who was the better leader, the Japanese Commander or the British Commander. The overwhelming majority said that the British Commander was the better leader. Me included. The professor then pointed out how superficial that analysis was. The British Commander was poised, confident, efficient, methodical and decent to his men. The Japanese Commander was cruel, vindictive, emotional and indifferent to his men's suffering.

Yet it is easy to get confused about the difference between management process and leadership goals. No matter how humiliating it was to him, the Japanese Commander suppressed his instincts and made the decisions that got the bridge built. He understood that was his job. The British Commander used creativity and innovative engineering to build a bridge for the enemy to use simply because he was allowed to exercise his management perogatives. He had allowed himself to think he was leading his men, when what he actually was doing was managing their activities within a specific process, building bridges. When the bridge was built he was proud of it, without thinking at all about the use the enemy would make of it.

All my life I have remembered that lesson. Whenever there is a tough decision to make, I worry that I am not the British Commander but enough the Japanese Commander that I remember the goal. The only question is what is the right goal, not what is the process.

Right now we are watching a President that is the epitome of the British Commander.


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