Leno and Conan O’Brien took cheap shots at McCain’s age. Very clever. I believe it was Leno who said that they recently found some letters from Thomas Jefferson thanking McCain for his support.
Those jokes reminded me of this quote from Thomas Jefferson. Timeless and yet it seems to be very timely at the moment:
The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.
I ran across a story from Jack Welch recently, I wish I could remember where. I’m paraphrasing for now.
It went something like this:
When trying to figure out which HQ functions to eliminate, a good thing to look at is the phone records. If the group receives a lot of calls from the field, what they’re doing may be of some value. If they call the field more often looking for data to report, then they probably aren’t adding a lot of value.
Most corporate cutters would interview the group leaders and benchmark the operations against other companies. In that case, the workers in that group on are the mercy of how well their boss sells them, whether they fit into a group that’s at other companies and the whims of the decision makers at interpreting the analysis. They wouldn’t think about looking at true evidence of their value.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” -Albert Einstein
Einstein’s quote put into words something I realized long ago. The world is full of smart people. Smart people revel in complexity. They seek it, create it and use it to set themselves apart from others. Brilliant people make it simple. Smart people often mistake brilliance for simple-mindedness.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, said the same for leadership: “Insecure managers create complexity. Real leaders don’t need the clutter.”
There are so few geniuses. The NFL has 32 teams that are supposedly composed of the best athletes and coaches in the sport. Yet, in any given year fewer than a handful of coaches are brilliant. The others are, at best, smart.
Einstein and Welch added a new dimension to how I thought about this. Courage. Insecurity. Those two elements are often the only difference between smarts and genius.