March 20, 2013
by John Benson
Ben Yagoda in The Chronicle of Higher Education, on Warren Buffett’s 2012 Letter to Shareholders:
My favorite part of the letter, improbably, is where Buffett explains why the listed operating expenses for Berkshire Hathaway’s Manufacturing, Service and Retailing group do not conform to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). I know, right? It’s just that Buffett’s evident belief that such matters can and should be explained lucidly is touching. And he succeeds. At least while reading the letter, even as unreconstructed an English major as I grasped his point about “the disparate nature of intangible assets: Some truly deplete over time while others never lose value.” He closes the section this way:
“And that ends today’s accounting lecture. Why is no one shouting ‘More, more’?”
You could read any section Buffett’s 24-page letter and come to the same conclusion. It’s approachable and well-researched (and notes where shareholders might obtain further info). Reading it, I felt like Buffett was in the same room explaining it to me simply without insulting my intelligence. The headers help make the document scannable, and each section includes its own summary. Masterfully done.
This week’s “Word of the Week” is palpable. According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, palpable is an adjective that means “capable of being touched or felt” or “tangible.” Frequently, speakers and writers use the word palpable to refer to something that is not usually perceived by the sense of touch in order to emphasize the degree to which its presence is noticeable. For example, have you ever witnessed a public argument between your friends or family members or two strangers? The tension that follows is usually palpable, hence the saying, “the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.”
Let’s look at some examples of palpable from recent news articles.
“The Socialmatic camera allows its users to point, snap and apply one of Instagram’s retro filters to get various artistic effects. Keeping with the theme of turning a digital concept into something more palpable, users can post a caption on their photos before printing them.” http://abcn.ws/13ANhqI
“Oscar Pistorius has claimed in a court hearing that when he heard noises in his home, he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder and accidentally shot her with his 9 mm pistol. Plausible? The courts will decide. In the meantime, the killing has highlighted South Africa’s history of gun violence and high crime. And it’s shown the world that many South Africans live with a palpable, almost paranoid, fear of having their homes broken into. In the past year, more than 50% of South Africans told the country’s police force that they’re afraid. The number of home burglaries across the country of 50 million have more than doubled.” http://bit.ly/W0e3EH
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March 4, 2013
by John Benson
These are great. My favorite:
If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priority on my to-do list?
By all means ask about the culture, but you should also be asking questions about how you could make a difference on day one.
[Brazen Careerist via Jeff Carroll]
February 22, 2013
by John Benson
Two common leadership styles studied are transactional and transformational leadership. A transactional leadership style focuses on using rewards and punishments to support maintenance of the status quo and is largely reactive in nature. Transformational leadership focuses on inspiring growth and change in organizations through encouraging members to be creative (See Northouse, 2010, chapter 9 for a discussion of transformational and transactional leaders). The Hunger Games provides a fun backdrop to discuss different leadership styles.
While I was reading the Hunger Games series, I understood President Snow better when I thought of him as a transactional leader. Transactional leaders promote compliance of their followers through rewards and punishments. I still didn’t like him, but I understood his character better. I made a list of the qualities that President Snow exhibited that I think make him an example of a transactional leader. Let’s consider:
- The winning tribute moved into Victor’s Village (this was supposed to be a reward!).
- He punished individuals for disobedience or even the semblance of rebellion (think the gentleman in the crowd who whistled – Catching Fire).
- Transactional leaders are not looking to change the future – rather to keep things the same – President Snow was desperately trying to quell the rebellion and maintain the current system of rule.
- Transactional leaders focus on faults and deviations – President Snow handed out more punishments than rewards.
- Transactional leaders have a reactive leadership style – President Snow sent in troops in reaction to rebellious behavior, confronted Katniss (creepy scene in the office at her home in Victor’s Village) and threatened her with punishment if she did not act in a manner that was supportive of the Capital in the quarter-quell games.Food for thought: Because transactional leaders are effective in crisis situations, could we argue that he is the right man for the job if the rebellion is to be quelled?
Although Katniss is the main character, I don’t think that she is a leader. Katniss inspired people but she did not lead them. She was the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss was the Mockingjay (with the help of Cinna and some fabulous red carpet fashion), but she did not lead the rebellion. She really wasn’t in on the planning at all. Dr. Anita Blanchard at UNC Charlotte had a fun post about Katniss and she maintained that Katniss was not a transformational leader. Do you agree with Dr. Blanchard? I think she has some great points! Some leaders serve as the symbols of their organizations in addition to their leadership role (I am thinking of Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway here), but Katniss is not one of them. So then, who is the leader of the rebellion?
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February 20, 2013
This week’s “Word of the Week” is cogent. According to Webster’s College Dictionary, cogent is an adjective that means “convincing” or “believable.” Additionally, The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus defines cogent as “having the power to persuade” and as synonymous with “compelling,” “conclusive,” “effective,” “forceful,” and “persuasive.” Understandably, cogency is a highly desirable quality in oral and written communication.
Let’s look at some examples of cogent from recent news articles.
“In its place, a former FBI profiler hired by the Paterno team offered an analysis that excused the former coach’s lack of immediate action as the byproduct of a preconceived notion of Mr. Sandusky’s character and poor communication from the witness, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary. It was a glaring gap in an otherwise cogent rebuttal to the university-commissioned investigation that implicated Mr. Paterno in a high-level conspiracy with university President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz to hide allegations against Mr. Sandusky from law enforcement for more than a decade.” http://bit.ly/WSkdaH
“The digitized British Library manuscript is a fascinating artifact in itself, just to browse. You don’t need a translation to appreciate the beauty and wonder of Leonardo’s mind. This is a great work of art, in a precociously conceptual genre that has been emulated by modern artists such as Joseph Beuys and Cy Twombly. But if you do want to get to grips with the detail of Leonardo’s ideas, a good place to start is the OUP edition of the Notebooks selected by Irma Richter and updated by Thereza Wells. Meanwhile the works of Martin Kemp offer the most lucid modern dissection of the structures of Leonardo’s thought. With these at your side, the sea of words and images the British Library has put online will start to resolve into cogent arguments.” http://bit.ly/XYCWkl
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