The strangest thing happened today. one of the most powerful men in technology is stepping away from his post. Ken Auletta shares some reflections and a little digging he has done on the surprise announcement.
For some time now it has seemed to watchers that there were to faces of google. Which must have felt more poignant, and piqued in a group dynamic of three – where a dissenter is inevitably going to feel piled up on.
…He often joked that he provided “adult supervision,” and was never shy about interrupting the founders at meetings to crystallize a point. In the eleven interviews I conducted with him for my book on Google, he freely told anecdotes about the founders, sometimes making gentle fun of them, never seeming to look over his shoulder. Yet he always made clear that they were “geniuses” and he, in effect, was their manager. After a bumpy first couple of years after he joined Google as C.E.O. in 2001, they had developed a remarkable relationship. But also a weird one. How many successful organizations have a troika making decisions?
via News Desk: Why Is Eric Schmidt Stepping Down at Google? : The New Yorker.
William Deresiewicz makes the case for having your own ideas as prerequesite for leadership in an address to a class at West Point. A soaring and detailed case at that. It will take some time to immerse in. But it is time well invested.
…That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that, like the manager of the Central Station, you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.
I tell you this to forewarn you, because I promise you that you will meet these people and you will find yourself in environments where what is rewarded above all is conformity. I tell you so you can decide to be a different kind of leader. And I tell you for one other reason. As I thought about these things and put all these pieces together—the kind of students I had, the kind of leadership they were being trained for, the kind of leaders I saw in my own institution—I realized that this is a national problem. We have a crisis of leadership in this country, in every institution. Not just in government. Look at what happened to American corporations in recent decades, as all the old dinosaurs like General Motors or TWA or U.S. Steel fell apart. Look at what happened to Wall Street in just the last couple of years.
via Solitude and Leadership: an article by William Deresiewicz | The American Scholar.
Era’s of change are often defined by leaders who make an organization do new things – or better yet do things differently. One sign that such a leader is in demand is when people routinely ask “what would so and so do?” – in this case. As to invoke leadership where the vacancy exists. This article from the LA Times, asks plainly and loudly if NASA can learn to change its ways.
Early this month, Hawthorne-based rocket venture SpaceX launched an unmanned version of its Dragon capsule into orbit, took it for a few spins around Earth and then brought it home with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The total cost — including design, manufacture, testing and launch of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule — was about $800 million.
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In the world of government spaceflight, that’s almost a rounding error. And the ability of SpaceX to do so much with so little money is raising serious questions about NASA.
The agency that once stood for American technical wizardry is starting to lose its luster. Inside NASA, some employees have taken to wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the letters “WWED,” which stands for “What Would Elon Do?” — a reference to SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk, the Internet tycoon who invested his own fortune in pursuit of his dream of sending humans into space.
Aerospace industry executives, NASA contractors and employees all warn that unless the storied agency can become leaner and more efficient in an era of shrinking federal budgets, it could find itself becoming a historical footnote…
via NASA facing competition from private space ventures – latimes.com.