Linda E. Ginzel on Leadership and Skyscrapers

Linda E. Ginzel, Clinical Professor of Managerial Psychology at University of Chicago Booth School of Business and co-founder of Kids in Danger, gives an address to 2017 Executive MBA graduates entitled, “Skyscrapers and Leadership: Rising Above Load-Bearing Assumptions.”

It’s definitely worth watching the whole thing.

“In the classroom, we speak often about frameworks that allow us to think complexly about business issues across industries, economies, and geographies. When I teach leadership, I emphasize building our own personal frameworks. When we create our own structures and reduce our reliance on externally provided ones, we increase our ability to handle ambiguity. Creating our own frameworks can help us to be wiser, younger, to learn more from our everyday experience and what we learn can better inform our choices. Frameworks can help each of us to create a better future. Just like a skyscraper’s strength comes from its core, the clarity, vision, and support for your own framework must come from your core. Your classroom now is the world outside these hallowed halls, there’s no blueprint for your future.

In architecture, structural integrity is established during the planning phase and built into the foundation. William Le Baron Jenney taught us to build up by building from within. Leaving here, you will need that same kind of structural integrity, build from within, build your frame with strong values, build with unselfishness, with kindness, with curiosity, build with open-mindedness to new ideas, with compassion, with a sense of fairness. Your own inner framework will determine how high you can go.”

Random observation: She has an interesting way of articulating. Slow, deliberate, clear, soft-spoken – like a mother sweetly uplifting her children. I also noticed that her voice would quiver at a few points in the speech. I wonder if she was getting emotional or if that’s just the way she talks.

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Wisdom in the Art of War

Sun Tzu’s perennial military treatise, the Art of War, has slid in and out of my consciousness over the years. I don’t remember the exact moment I’d heard about it for the first time, but it certainly was a long time ago.

I never understood why people liked to glorify war. My aversion to war and the inevitable tragic outcomes that come from it kept me from reading Sun Tzu’s (English: Master Sun) magnum opus but I can’t deny that a slight curiosity was always there, tickling the back of my mind ever so gently. It’s enduring status as a classic must-read intrigued me.

To the people who know me: I realize my interest in martial arts and enjoyment in watching fighters pulverize each other’s faces on TV might be seen as hypocritical given my views on war. But that’s another discussion…perhaps best reserved for another blog that no one will read.

The manner in which Sun Tzu speaks of warfare is so contrary to the typical nature of war itself. The stoicism, philosophy, subtlety and even gentleness that shines through in his words were such that I was taken aback to see the word “killing” in the book (re: “Treat prisoners of war kindly, and care for them”).

What I — and others who have read it— love about the Art of War is that its lessons are not restricted to emerging victorious in a war; you can bring them with you anywhere life takes you.

Here are the ones that stood out to me:

Victory belongs to the side that scores most in the temple calculations before battle. — Chapter 1, Making of Plans

Thinking, calculating, planning, strategizing — everything that goes on in between your ears is what counts the most.

I have heard that in war haste can be folly but have never seen delay that was wise. — Chapter 2, Waging of War

Secure victory as fast as you can — prolonging the fight can have grave consequences.

Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.— Chapter 3, Strategic Offensive

No comment needed.

The victorious army is victorious first and seeks battle later; the defeated army does battle first and seeks victory later.Chapter 4, Forms and Dispositions

You’d better be judicious in your planning if you expect to succeed. Otherwise, you’re fucked (or at least, you won’t get what you aimed for).

I am concentrated into one; he is divided into ten. I am ten to his one; many against his few. — Chapter 6, Empty and Full

I like to relate this to divided attention. If you focus your efforts in ten different directions, you’ll only make small progress on those things. But if you concentrate all your effort into one pursuit, the progress you’ll make on that particular thing will yield significant and meaningful results.

The Skillful Warrior does not rely on the enemy’s not coming, but on his own preparedness. He does not rely on the enemy’s not attacking, but on his own impregnability. — Chapter 8, The Nine Changes

Take charge of your situation to ensure you get what you want. Don’t rely on someone else’s shortcomings, which aren’t guaranteed, to bring you to victory or success.

To the question “How should we confront an enemy, numerous and well arrayed, poised to attack?” My reply is “Seize something he cherishes, and he will do to your will.” Chapter 11, The Nine Kinds of Ground

Can you imagine being a superhero with a lot of villainous enemies bent on your destruction? The fewer people you care about, the less vulnerable you are.

Anger can turn to pleasure; spite can turn to joy. But a nation destroyed cannot be put back together again; a dead man cannot be brought back to life. Chapter 12, Attack by Fire

Anger and spite are fleeting, but broken nations and dead men aren’t. Don’t let those emotions control you and lead you to irreversible consequences.

In terms of word count, the Art of War is bare bones. In terms of meaning, it is limitless.

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