Category Archives: Cold War

Surely no human existence can be as empty of meaning as this

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-28-10From time to time Dalrymple receives invitations to attend conferences on something called medical leadership. The invitations ask,

Do you want to be a leader?

The answer, in Dalrymple’s case, is

No.

The latest conference on medical leadership, Dalrymple reports,

has 80 speakers and lasts three days. The organisers seem to believe that the longer the conference and the larger the number of speakers on so patently dull a subject, the more impressive it is, no doubt in the way that a big box of chocolates impresses a greedy person more than a small one. All things considered, I’d rather stay at home and read the collected works of Kim Il-sung.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-25-28Dalrymple looks at the biographical details of a couple of the speakers, taken from the list at random.

Mr R.

is founding Director of Harthill Consulting. His extensive practitioner background includes working with senior leaders from organisations such as Fujitsu, Danone, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Volvo, Eli Lilly and Microsoft. Co-author of HBR’s award-winning article ‘Seven Transformations of Leadership’ (April 2005) it has since consistently been named as one of HBR’s ‘Top 10 Must Reads’ on Leadership. He recently co-authored and contributed to the large-scale 2015 PwC study on leader transformation and retention. His expertise is exploring leadership as a process of evolving ‘wisdom’ — enabling individuals to integrate discernment, courage, power and compassion.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-31-37Ms A.-M.

is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Chief Executive of Real World Group (a University of Leeds spin-out company). She is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Business and Enterprise, University of Southern Queensland. She has been working with Real World Group for the past 15 years, supporting leadership development with both individuals and groups up to Board level globally. She has a particular passion for a focus on positive psychology and diversity & inclusion in leadership. She has helped establish Real World Group’s approach to Engaging Leadership, based on uniquely proven research involving tens of thousands of people across the world, and has authored or co-authored most of Real World Group’s diagnostic instruments. The research she has been involved with has established the common sense but often missing behaviours that distinguish leaders from managers, and effective leadership among teams and organisations. They are factors that drive productivity in a sustainable way, even when resources are diminishing. As a result of her research and experience in working with organisations, she has been invited to speak at international and national conferences, and consults on behalf of Real World Group with organisations from the UK, North America, South East Asia and the wider Asia Pacific region. She has worked extensively in Higher Education, including at leading Universities and with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. She has authored and co-authored a number of articles in practitioner and peer-reviewed journals, as well as book chapters in academic books by leading publishers on leaders’ career development. She is Co-Chair of the Steering Group of the government sponsored Engage For Success movement (www.engageforsuccess.org) and the editorial committee of the International Congress on Leadership, Management and Governance. She has an MSc in Occupational Psychology from the University of London, Birkbeck College and an MSc in Positive Organization Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-22-57In case, says Dalrymple, the above

should be insufficiently enticing to prospective attendees,

it is explained why they should attend the conference:

Be a part of the first Leaders in Healthcare conference, which will bring together both the future generation and most senior of healthcare professionals and managers. The event aims to focus on the leadership challenges all nations face in healthcare to improve the care we deliver for our patients. Learn about and be part of widespread discussions including standards, professionalism and the opportunity for a step change in quality, the leadership challenges facing healthcare on a national and international scale and how we, as a profession, will face these, and contemporary leadership theory from international experts. Attend interactive workshops and hear from inspiring speakers exploring the essentials of what you need to know to continually grow your leaderships skills, how innovation in healthcare can change the way we work, and how medical education can improve leadership, clinical performance and patient safety. Represent the voice of medical students by planning your leadership skills development at an early stage of your career. Explore sessions to understand the essentials of leadership and how to take charge of your own development, and network with peers and senior medical leaders. Develop essential skills for being an effective leader who can motivate and inspire others in the team, influence the way care is given, ensuring it is high quality, compassionate and responds to individual needs, and network with the full spectrum of healthcare leaders from all professional backgrounds. Network with a broad range of healthcare professionals, develop a shared understanding of what good leadership is and how working together can benefit service delivery and patient care, consider how we can encourage greater involvement of healthcare professionals, service users, communities and the general public in shaping healthcare services that are fit for purpose, and network in a unique multi-professional healthcare leadership event embracing all levels and sectors. Leaders in Healthcare 2016 welcomes other professionals who share our passion for excellence in leadership and management.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-38-20After reading a few lines of such prose, Dalrymple’s mind

goes fuzzy as if I were suffering from a hangover, or as if an almost physical shutter comes down in my brain, just as it does on reading a paragraph of Kim Il-sung. The prose destroys my capacity, even my will, to concentrate or fix my mind on anything. My remaining thoughts are fleeting and desultory: ‘Can anyone really have a passion for diversity and inclusion in leadership?’ or ‘What can the life of someone who does have such a passion be like?’ I try to imagine it, but nothing comes to mind. Surely no human existence could be as empty of meaning as that.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-23-09Then Dalrymple begins to wonder what Alexander the Great or Napoleon would have made of the conference on leadership.

Would they have been able to reach a shared understanding of what good leadership is? If Alexander had only been better able to integrate compassion into his discernment, courage, and power, would he have found new worlds to conquer? If Napoleon had learned about leader transformation, would he have crowned himself emperor earlier in his career than he did?

Who would pay good money for such a conference?

The taxpayer. He would not attend the conference himself, of course, but he would pay for employees to attend it who needed or desired a three-day break from their work in a public hospital or as part of their mandatory continuing professional development. He would also pay the fees of the speakers, some of them flown in from distant lands.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-40-36The attendees, Dalrymple notes, would learn about something called lean management, one definition of which is as follows:

If someone tells you that ‘lean management is this’ and not something else, if someone puts it in a box and ties a bow around it and presents it in a neat package with four walls around it, then that someone knows not of what they speak. Why? Because it is in motion and not a framed picture hanging on the wall. It is a melody, a rhythm, and not a single note.

This, says Dalrymple, is

the mysticism of apparatchiks, the romanticism of bureaucrats, the poetry of clerks. From my limited observations of management in public hospitals and other parts of the public health care system, it seeks to be not lean, in the commonly used sense of the word, but fat, indeed as fat as possible; nor are large private institutions very much different.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-43-08We have entered, writes Dalrymple,

gradually and without any central direction or decree, a golden age of langue de bois or of Newspeak. Langue de bois is the pompous, vague, and abstract words that have some kind of connotation but no real denotation used by those who have to hide their real motives and activities by a smokescreen of scientific- or benevolent-sounding verbiage. Newspeak is the language in Nineteen Eighty-Four whose object is to limit human minds to a few simple politically permissible thoughts, excluding all others, and making doublethink — the frictionless assent to incompatible propositions—part of everyday mentation.

Langue de bois and Newspeak

are no longer languages into which normal thought must be translated; rather they have become the languages in which thought itself, or rather cerebral activity, takes place, at least in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that rules us. If you ask someone who speaks either of them to translate what he has said or written into normal language, it is more than likely he will be unable to do so: His translation will be indistinguishable from the words translated.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-49-41It is therefore clear that,

where culture is concerned, the Soviet Union scored a decisive and probably irreversible victory in the Cold War.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-52-17

The communist world of yesterday

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 23.19.29Και τώρα τι θα γένουμε χωρίς βαρβάρους.
Οι άνθρωποι αυτοί ήσαν μια κάποια λύσις.

Nostalgia has its own laws

Dalrymple is nostalgic for

something that I detested at the time and detest still, namely communism as it was practised in Eastern Europe. I sometimes wished it was still there so that I could experience the thrill of crossing the Iron Curtain.

Berlin Friedrichstraße station

Friedrichstraße

Self-indulgence

He recognises that this is

an entirely self-indulgent wish, for it pits my enjoyment of a relatively fleeting sensation against the prolonged suffering of millions of people.

Communists

were a kind of solution for us; the world they created was something near, bordering and threatening us, that was worse, far worse, than anything that we had, no matter what our dissatisfactions with what we had might have been.

BucharestNakedness

This was

snatched from us by communism’s unexpected collapse. We were left with our dissatisfactions naked and unadorned, without the consolation for them that the existence of communism not very far away offered us. The communists simplified the world for us.

Dalrymple misses the atmosphere of the communist days:

the dim lights, the unanimated streets, the absence of traffic, the smell of bad, adulterated fuel that polluted the air, the hushed voices, the echoing footfall, the grey dilapidation, the feeling of satisfaction if one found anything to eat, above all the frisson of fear that one was being watched and followed.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 00.12.46Prurience

For a young man

such as I – with an easy escape route, of course, for I do not pretend that my experience had anything to do, or bore any comparison with, that of the people actually living in those countries – the idea that I might be considered dangerous enough to be watched or followed was flattering, for in my own country I was of no account whatsoever.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 00.15.38Salacity

Then,

on the very brief occasions when one made human contact with someone in those benighted, oppressed lands, that were like flashes of lightning that illuminated for a second a black landscape, one sensed a person with an intensity of experience much deeper than one’s own, a person who lived on a philosophical plane, whose life had been stripped down to the essential: and whom, with foolish romanticism, one almost envied.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 00.21.16What did Dalrymple have

to set against their problems: an unhappy childhood, uncertainty about my career? Mere trifles by comparison with the peine forte et dure that was life in the Peoples’ Republics.

His enjoyment behind the Iron Curtain

was salacious, prurient and self-indulgent, with just enough of a grain of philosophy thrown in to assure myself that I had a higher purpose in thus enjoying myself.

Therefore Dalrymple does not claim for his nostalgia

any superior sensibility, much less a proper role in political thought or philosophy. In fact, I am rather ashamed of it, that I am capable of looking back on what was a terrible period for millions with something like affection.

 

Glory to the bureaucrats of the Ministry of National Education!

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 22.32.46An elated and ecstatic Comrade Dalrymple proclaims:

The production quota has been over-fulfilled!

The baccalauréat pass rate is advancing towards 100% and beyond. The Soviet Union has won the cultural Cold War — decisively.

Glory to the teachers of France! Glory to the Ministers of National Education of France! Glory to the pupils of France! Eternal glory to the unemployed youth of France!