Updated 2018 November 1

Name Email URL
Michael Redman michael.redman.4@gmail.com http://www.michael-redman.name

Humanity's growing recognition that the quality of our leadership largely determines the quality of our future, is motivating our inquiry into what makes good leadership and how as a species we can channel good leadership to the top. There is now even an academic discipline of “leadership studies”.

The Chelyabinsk meteor, the renewed Ebola outbreaks in Africa, and the ongoing pattern of foreign and domestic terrorism in nations around the world are recent tangible reminders of humanity's need for great leadership against existential threats, both external and internal. For one example, when a meteor 10 or 1000 times bigger comes (probably “statistically inevitable”), will we be ready to move it off course (we already have reasonable ideas for this) – or will we be like the dinosaurs notwithstanding all that we have figured out? Those are the stakes of leadership.

I am no George Washington or Admiral Nimitz, nor do I really believe leadership is among the things that can be learned directly from books. But I do believe ideas that are written down can help people recognize important patterns in their experience when they encounter them, and thereby learn and benefit more from those experiences than they would if they hadn't had the written examples of the people and patterns before them.

To that end, I hope you all, with or without me, will consolidate for the security and benefit of future generations and our entire ecosystem, what wisdom we can assemble on that most crucial subject of leadership.

Michael Redman
2015 May 4
Denver, Colorado, USA

  1. Information and Operations Management – “abstract” leadership skills that would still be needed even if instead of humans we were emotionless robots
    1. Communication and coordination
      1. Like an animal's nervous system and motor skills, communication is how an organization achieves functionality. Timely routing information (and expectations) to the correct people.
      2. Includes soliciting ideas from others (above and below you).
        1. At a 10 person poker table you only get dealt the best starting hand 1 in 10 times on the average
        2. So you only have the best idea in the group 1 in N times
        3. Doesn't matter how “smart” you are. Everyone thinks they are a better driver too.
    2. Process scheduling and execution
      1. Initiative
        1. If several people recognize that something needs to be done, who is the one actually initiates action about it?
        2. Initiative does not necessarily require any formal job title or rank or the authority to give orders or assign tasks. Sometimes it is as subtle as asking the right questions of your boss or co-workers, or staring to work on something yourself regardless of whether anyone else is helping you - and before you know it people are coordinating toward the goal.
      2. Prioritizing/triaging processes and task shedding
        1. There are usually many more things we can or need to do to help ourselves, than our time and resources allow for. Inevitably some avenues/tasks that we wish we could pursue, must be discarded (“task shedding”) - which ones and when?
        2. Everyone has to prioritize and schedule in their own personal time; leaders also have to do it with processes the organization is executing.
        3. Prioritizing and scheduling can mean thinking clearly in real time in high stakes situations while being flooded with information and demands for responses.
      3. Planning
        1. Includes planning for contingencies
        2. The quality of the planning determines the quality of the operation; “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
        3. Without fully detailed and realistic planning, sometimes for months or years in advance, many complex projects would surely result in disaster or chaos, e.g.:
          1. Construction projects
          2. Military operations
          3. Transportation infrastructure, manufacturing, and other industrial operations
          4. Conventions, large corporate meetings, and festivals
    3. Delegation
      1. Essential to leadership because
        1. No one has all the skills, so someone else can probably do a lot of things better
        2. There are only 24 hours in a day, so you will get bogged down if you don't delegate
      2. Delegation includes:
        1. Human resource management
          1. Ensuring you have good people to delegate to or call for expertise or help
            1. Networking and relationship-building, and recruiting
            2. Training
          2. Knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are
        2. Management of collaboration / chain of command
          1. Communication of operationally relevant information needed so that
            1. People who are supposed to do something know what they're supposed to be doing and how to correctly respond to any contingencies that arise in doing it
            2. People who have to make decisions on what needs to get done, have the information they need to make good decisions (including information on the status of delegated tasks)
            3. Everyone has points of contact to which they can route matters which come up unexpectedly so the right people can address those matters correctly and efficiently.
          2. Ensuring people you delegate to have the resources and authority they need to do their jobs
      3. Example: Delegation is a big challenge to the growth of many small businesses where the proprietors are either
        1. Not as good at recruiting good talent as they are at doing fulfillment work themselves, or
        2. Psychologically unable to relinquish control over the day-to-day details of operating the business.
    4. Other important ideas
      1. Review and analysis of what you did and what the results were to learn from experience (“debriefing”) - (“Every rule is written in blood.”)
      2. Game theory for strategic management, negotiation tactics, and other economic applications of probability and information theory
  2. Human elements
    1. Theme: Do not dramatize or magnify problems, address problems realistically and factually but in a way that also shows how they are beatable, thereby giving folk justifiable cause for hope.

      Example: Churchill's "We Will Fight on the Beaches" speech, amid a factually detailed account of the good, the bad, and the ugly, he reminds his leadership and people that in all its history England has never been safe from invasion, and that many powerful conquerors invaded or tried to invade before and ultimately failed to consolate power over England. ("We are told that Herr Hitler has a plan for invading the British Isles. This has often been thought of before. When Napoleon lay at Boulogne for a year with his flat-bottomed boats and his Grand Army, he was told by someone, 'There are bitter weeds in England.' There are certainly a great many more of them since the British Expeditionary Force returned." ... "I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been givin to our people." ... "I have full confidence ... we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home." https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches/ )

    2. Theme: combination of a likeable personality with being tougher than hell. By overcoming their own personal challenges such leaders are also in a sense leading by example (see below) since we all have challenges to overcome both individually and collectively. Examples leaders:
      1. Ron Reagan (got back up on the podium after taking a bullet to the lung, had to be scary as hell - that sends the message to everyone from the Amerian working poor to the top communist goons that he isn't afraid of shit and neither is America)
      2. JFK (WWII naval combat hero)
      3. John McCain
      4. Theodore Roosovelt (I wasn't alive then but his personal kindess is an example in Dale Carnegie's famous How to Win Friends and Influence People)
      5. Abrhaam Lincoln (had to struggle a lot coming up poor)
    3. Individual psychology – for both the leader and every individual in the group
      1. Logic, emotion, and probability
        1. Humans face the challenge of behaving in logically or “informationally” correct ways whether with or in spite of our emotions
        2. See Edwin Thompson Jaynes, Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, especially the introductory chapters on the derivation of quantitative probability theory from Boolean algebra and qualitative first principles of reasoning.
        3. Poker is a low-stakes arena demonstrating the relevance of this psychological skill
          1. Doyle's quote: “Poker isn't a card game people play, it's a game of people played with cards.”
          2. No one dies (hopefully), and you control what you put on the table.
        4. Quotes in common culture
          1. Pride cometh before a fall
          2. Cool heads will prevail
          3. Don't throw good money after bad
          4. "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." -Luke 3:9 KJV
      2. Survival
        1. Leadership is psychologically burdensome because you care about people and inevitably at some times
          1. you will inherit bad situations no one asked for or saw to avoid
          2. random things will go against you
          3. you will likely make mistakes because you are human too
          4. depending on your leadership role, you may see people losing, suffering, or dying, and
            1. whether or not you ever sort out whether you could have done better
            2. you will have had something to do with it.
        2. See Ch. 2 in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Survival (FM3-05-70) (https://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-05-70.pdf) regarding the importance of emotional states and reactions, especially to adverse events, to survival and success.
        3. Examples
          1. Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War
          2. Churchill as England weathered Hitler's attacks
          3. Admiral Nimitz's quote: “God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.”
          4. Hilary Clinton's resilience against adversity over her long political career when she could have quit politics at any time
      3. Integrity
        1. There is no "organization" for anyone to lead if people cannot count on each other to do the right thing
        2. "GOD sees what you do." Qu'ran 2:110, 2:233, 2:265, 3:156, 8:72, 48:24, 49:18, 57:4, 60:3, 64:2.
        3. Henry Ford: "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."
    4. Group psychology
      1. Motivational use of circumstances and issues
        1. Build morale, cooperation and teamwork by constructively using as focal points common benefits people produce or challenges they face together.
          1. Example: Reagan got America to believe in itself again after a demoralizing experience in Vietnam by refocusing the country on its prosperity and freedoms and on defending itself against the Soviets.
          2. There is a subtle art to using issues effectively and constructively.
            1. Note the differences in:
              1. “Motivational effectiveness” between Carter vs. Reagan
              2. How Reagan seemed less intimidated by the Soviets than by marijuana and cocaine
              3. Bush II's vs. Obama's style of response to terrorism.
                1. Bush II's felt fear-based and like a political bludgeon
                2. Obama's feels a little more optimistic, like we don't need to be scared of the problem because we are bigger than it
            2. Hitler used this strategy to great ill effect; see the discussion in either Ron or Rand Paul's book, with quotations from the time, on this matter. Something of the general nature, “How do you get some kid to leave his farm and go die for you in a war? You make him feel like some external enemy is threatening him.”
        2. Be a “blunderbuss of optimism”
          1. People need to believe they are bigger than their problems to try their hardest to win against them. If you don't believe you can win you end up making half-assed efforts.
          2. Paint a picture of an achievably brighter future
          3. Like the Army says: “Can and will.”
        3. Examples
          1. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” (FDR)
          2. From Ronald Reagan's Brandenburg Gate Speech (listen to it if you never have):
            1. “Today I say as long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the 'German question' alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet, I do not come to here to lament, for I find in Berlin a message of hope...” (~4:40)
            2. (Quoting George Marshall): “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.” (~5:52)
            3. The sign reading, “The Marshall Plan is helping here to strengthen the free world.” (~6:35)
            4. “the practical importance of liberty” (= the main idea that “freedom wins”) (~7:00)
            5. “In the 1950s Khrushchev predicted, 'We will bury you.' But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history.” (~9:20)
            6. “We believe that freedom and security go together” (~10:45)
            7. “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. … Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” (~11:25)
            8. “I invite those who protested then, I invite those who protest to today, to mark this fact: because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table.” (~13:35)
            9. “As I looked out a a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: 'This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.'” (~24:25)
            10. The paradoxical challenge he makes at the end of the speech to the people protesting for communism and against freedom: “I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they're doing again.” (~25:25).
          3. From Barack's 2015 State of the Union:
            1. “Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions, [and] turned against one another, or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?” (Around 5:50 in the White House's recording on YouTube)
            2. “I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together we can do great things, even when the odds are long.” (~51:00).
            3. “We are still more than a collection of 'red states' and 'blue states', we are the United States of America” (~59:50)
      2. Leading by example. Consider that Ronald Reagan had every right to quit the presidency after John Hinckley Jr.'s assassination attempt. After suffering life-threatening injuries including a punctured lung:
        1. How scary and difficult would it have been personally for him to stand back up on the podium and speak again?
        2. When he did, what kind of message did that send, to everyone from regular Americans to the Soviet leadership?
      3. Style. It is easier for other people to have confidence in you if it looks like you have confidence in yourself. From history we recognize:
        1. George Washington in his military uniform and powdered wig
        2. Abraham Lincoln in hit suit and stovepipe hat
        3. Handsome JFK with beautiful wife Jackie
        4. Barack swaggering into the international summit like a rap star