Monday, March 19, 2012


My faithful reader, Azulao asked me to ponder loyalty in a comment a few weeks ago. So here I ponder...

I have worked for bosses before that I felt disloyal to for whatever reason. Different leadership styles, different personalities, perspectives, whatever, have made it difficult to work for them. So this is not my first time toeing a line which I would rather draw another way. And certainly, these days, I'm still living it on a daily basis. There is an issue being debated right now that goes to the very core of one of my hard-learned, deeply-rooted institutional beliefs. Do we pay for it or not? Every atom of every molecule of every cell of every muscle and organ and bone in my body screams, yes, we ABSOLUTELY *MUST* pay for it. But the Boss has a different priority. 


"Aye, aye, sir."

And back I go to the drawing board for a stronger argument to use next time.

I think a lot of loyalty issues, both in my world and in academia, come down to altitude (tee hee...sorry). Or put another way by Chris McGoff in The Primes, "Big Hat-Little Hat." The Big Hat is worn by the Boss, looking at things from a 3,000 foot level (warning: I suck at aviation metaphors, so my apologies if I get the numbers should get the point anyway). The Little Hat is worn by the individual projects/programs/departments, looking at things from, if not the flight deck, than at least a low hover (see, better if we include a shipboard reference). Detail versus big picture; scope versus intricacy. Neither one is wrong or right, just different. And both have their necessary place.

Amusingly, I have an anecdote on nearly this very issue from today. I was in a meeting (shocker), trying to lead a couple of programs to the trough of shared responsibility. I think I even got them to drink...after pushing their heads into the water and forcing their lips open, figuratively speaking (seriously though, did we have to go Slide.By.Slide to make a decision?). But as the thirst for resolution to a common problem was slaked, one of the program reps decided to make a snarky remark about being forced to share the trough with yet a third program. Now I always know at least a second or two beforehand, when I'm gonna to say something I'm likely to, if not regret, at least wonder what the hell made me say it out loud. I got that feeling, and then said, "Sir, one team, one fight...we're all on the same side here." There was a moment of awkward silence from the other O4s and O5s in the room, and then the conversation moved on. But *really,* we (collectively, me included) spend too much time hidebound in our own opinions and tiny little worlds. I think there's another entire post on this little concept of being stuck in our comfort zone...but I'll leave it for another time.

But referring back to The Primes, I'll quote Chris's recommendation (pg 145-146 in my 2011 version published by Victory Publishers, NYC, NY):
"1. It's a right-versus-right dilemma, as opposed to right-versus-wrong.
2. The implicit dichotomy of this PRIME can't be eliminated, only managed.
3. People need to be clear about which hat they're wearing when they speak.
4. It's fair to advocate for your LITTLE HAT but not to the detriment of the whole."
I think that there is a major difference between the military, especially the Coast Guard and the academic world. That is, the CG has a well-defined, concrete goal...whichever mission an individual joined to be a part of, search and rescue, law enforcement, national security, environmental protection...all we Coasties have a common goal. One Team, One Fight. 

I'm not sure the same can really be said of academia. What really is the goal of Universities? Is it teaching the students? The research being done? The prestige/reputation of the institution? Pleasing alumni with a popular sports program? Without that baseline commonality, people's interest diverge quickly and divisively into little kingdoms of influence which continually battle over the same resources.

A, I have no idea if I even came close to what you were talking about. I think it comes down to the fact that you have to believe in something to be loyal to it.

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