Byron's Babbles

Don’t Be Colonel Klink

I just finished re-reading the classic great book, How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. There is so much great stuff in that book. One part made me pause and think, however. Carnegie talked about how to get people in an affirmative state of mind by asking questions that nudge them in the right direction, he argued this as a way to help others arrive at your conclusions or ideas on their own. This feels very coercive to me. But, I am also all too aware of coercive leaders who if it is not their idea, your idea won’t be considered. So sad, but still happens way too much.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last week or so. Then last night I flipped on Hogan’s Heroes to wind down from the day. You know, the fictional comedy based in a Nazi prisoner of war camp, Stalag 13, that ran from 1965-1971 (my childhood). Colonel Hogan was the ranking P.O.W. officer and the throughline of the show was that a group of prisoners, under Hogan’s leadership, were running special operations for the Allied Forces out of the camp. I love watching the show because there are both good and bad leadership examples to think about in a very funny setting. The Commandant, Colonel Klink, is a bumbling, self absorbed, ambitious, and very vane leader who is so inept that he boasts having a no escape record, but has a major underground (literally) Allied operation being run from the camp by prisoners.

Now, back to the topic of nudging ideas in our direction. In almost every episode Hogan will get Klink to do what he wants by putting Kink’s vanity to work. He’ll begin asking Kink things like, “If you would do_____, then you’ll look very innovative.” or “Wow if you”ll order_______, Hitler would probably give you an award or promote you.” Then Klink will turn around and say, “Hogan, I have an idea…” and repeat back the very idea Hogan planted. The best is when Hogan then says to Klink, “I just don’t know how you do it, sir. You come up with the greatest ideas. You have the mind of a great leader.” When in reality Klink couldn’t think himself out of a paper bag.

“Did House interrupt him and say, “That’s not your idea. That’s mine”? Oh, no. Not House. He was too adroit for that. He didn’t care about credit. He wanted results. So he let Wilson continue to feel that the idea was his. House even did more than that. He gave Wilson public credit for these ideas.”

“Let’s remember that everyone we come in contact with is just as human as Woodrow Wilson. So let’s use Colonel House’s technique.”

Dale Carnegie in How To Win Friends & Influence People

In the book, Carnegie used President Woodrow Wilson and Colonel Edward House as examples. House used the strategy, when Woodrow Wilson was president, of rather than giving Wilson explicit advice, the colonel would very casually mention a proposal of his in conversation or ask questions about it. Then, over time, the idea that Colonel House had planted would take root in Wilson’s mind – so much so that Wilson often thought the plan was entirely his own. Of course, House never corrected him. The most important part of this lesson is that House did not care about credit, he just wanted results.

So, if you have that boss (I won’t call them a leader because they don’t deserve it) that everything has to be their idea, give some nudges. But, if you’re that boss – QUIT being Colonel Klink!

Explore And Heighten On President’s Day

Interestingly, the holiday we celebrate today is officially Washington’s Birthday, not President’s Day. In 1971 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Law, Washington’s Birthday (February 22) was moved to the third Monday in February. This put the holiday in between Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Washington’s. It also gave us another three day weekend – the intent of the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill. There was a push to change the name from Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day, but that did not pass – we just all call it President’s Day.

As I take a moment to reflect on this day, I remind myself of advice I give to others: study humans, not heroes. I believe this is important in teaching history and civics as well. While we have the advantage of hindsight when studying the past, always remember those who lived it, did not. One of my favorite authors, David McCullough, put it this way, “Nor was there ever anything like the past. Nobody lived in the past, if you stop to think about it. Jefferson, Adams, Washington—they didn’t walk around saying, ‘Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?’ They lived in the present just as we do. The difference was it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for us, they didn’t either. It’s very easy to stand on the mountaintop as an historian or biographer and find fault with people for why they did this or didn’t do that, because we’re not involved in it, we’re not inside it, we’re not confronting what we don’t know—as everyone who preceded us always was” (McCullough, February 15, 2005, in Phoenix, Arizona, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on the topic, “American History and America’s Future.”). We need to remember that history was not created in a vacuum and could have gone a bunch of different ways.

As we reflect on our Founders and past Presidents we need to remember they were human beings, just like us, with flaws, sins, and both terrible and good qualities. We’ve had leaders do some terrible things and we need to study those things and call them out to make sure and not repeat them. We also need to learn, grow, and continue to improve and get better. In the world of improvisation there are the five syllables “explore and heighten.” This is where we usher in our imagination, where ideas are born, where our power finds its source, and where we discover what’s waiting for us. I believe this to be the genius of our American community. We know everything can and should be improved upon. So, on this day of reflection, let’s renew our resolve recognizing our errors of the past and continued improvement for making the world a better place for ALL.

A World Without Heroes Is No Place For Me

Posted in A World Without Heroes, Courage, Gene Simmons, Heroes, Heroines, KISS, Leadership, Paul Stanley by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 24, 2019

I continue to find inspiration from Gene Simmons. As a fan of KISS from the beginning I still keep up with Gene and Paul Stanley on Twitter. This morning I was reading a Tweet thread from Gene about the song “A World Without Heroes.” This song was on the 1981 KISS album The Elder. I’d actually forgotten about the song, but went and watched the video. Some on the thread liked the song, others not so much. It’s KISS and Gene Simmons singing, so of course I love the song. I was intrigued by the words and proceeded to think about what they were thinking when they wrote the song. Check it out for yourself:

There are a few parts of the lyrics that stand out to me. Here is my take on this great song:

  • “You can’t look up to anyone | Without heroes” ~ Think about those you consider to be heroes. Without them we wouldn’t have anyone to look up to. Our heroes and heroines also understand their core values and walk the walk no matter what. Outstanding leadership often inspires heroic acts. We need heroes as role models. I’m sure glad I’ve had heroes and heroines to look up to and model after.
  • “Where you don’t know what your after | Or if something’s after you | And you don’t know why you don’t know” The hero steps in when exceptional circumstances dictate. Heroes show us how to transform our lives. Every hero story tells of a journey toward vast personal transformation.
  • “In a world without heroes | There’s nothing to be | It’s no place for me” I just can’t even imagine a world without heroes. Many of my heroes and heroines didn’t run into a burning building, go to war with an angry enemy, or win multiple Super Bowls. But they did do great things – many times just compassionate and caring things. They showed me what I wanted to be and who I wanted to be. As the last lines is the song say, “without heroes there’s nothing to be.”

Heroes and heroines can be everyday people doing extraordinary things, or just being extraordinary. They don’t always do it for publicity, money, or because the score is being kept. They simply are the human being we aspire to be, and can be. What do you want to be? Are you a hero to anyone? A world without heroes is no place for me!