on leadership and frogs......



There is that unusually cruel experiment, and hopefully illegal experiment, which seeks to demonstrate how an amphibian metabolism is highly adaptive, especially to temperature variations. The experiment requires a frog to be put in water, and then heat is very gradually applied.  Partial portions of heat by small degree. 

The hapless Freddo simply adjusts his internal thermostat to the raising temperature. Freddo adapts to the small increase in heat , perceiving and accepting the environmental change. By the time the steam is wafting around his nostrils, it is sadly too late to make good his escape. 

Office and work environments can be like that with bad or odd or destructive behaviours. Some years ago I consulted at an office perhaps once a fortnight. The administrative officer at that office had a penchant for completing jigsaw puzzles atop desks in what was a large open planned office area. No doubt that the puzzles were complex 1500 piece puzzles. 

I would see her bulked over a desk on my fortnightly visits.  Mt Fuji being constructed. A Gondoliers buttocks the Jigsaws epicenter, from which all of Venice emanated. The pieces would take shape on the desks and as a crown of thorns starfish populates coral they would grow over desk space. In my absence fortnight to fortnight, imperceptibly and gradually. But day by day none the less until a complete desk top was taken over. Then another desk top. Then another.

Given the general politeness of everybody in that office and the managers passive accommodation  nothing was said. Then the tea room. That sanctum, where one could normally retreat to have a coffee, was invaded by The laughing Cavalier. People would squeeze onto another space to drink and eat. No one said anything. By then, they had to beware of spilling tinned  tuna onto Girl with a Pearl Earrings head scarf.

Individual jigsaws were never dismantled by their builder. More to the point they were never dismantled by staff or management out if fear they might cause offence. Nor in my knowledge were there those conversations that had to take place. No Manager showed any leadership,and delivered an apocalyptic pronouncement and dealt an end to mountains , canals , cavaliers and demure Dutch girl with pearl earing and Japanese national parks. 

In other places I heard of  people introducing their pet rats. All very tame and quite cute. But a rat none the less. Introduced with  confidence and bravaro. Introduced. Recognized as a personality extension. Not questioned for fear of offense. And thus the issue escalated. Or an office where I once worked where we dealt with family violence and domestic violence. The feminist cabal had adorned the hallways and  entrance  with posters about struggling poor peasants, invariably women or third world subjects, with mandatory heroic smile, or steely I will not be oppressed looks, for the camera or women looking oppressed. -The usual suspects. - The narrative amongst those women professionals about men generally was never flattering. It was language and behaviour that was never checked or confronted by leadership.  However when a client invariably a violent man "went off" it was the men in the office who were the first responders. Leaders lent towards the ideologically safe and the safety of supporting the loudest voices.

Or the sanctum of men’s football clubs where even in that setting of sports immortals, grief and addictions and episodes needed to be addressed. Or for that matter the emergency service males, some of us were called to work with. The public rhetoric to the media in those clubs or organisations was publicly " we won’t tolerate or condone violence towards women ". You would see public gatherings of blokes chanting say "No to violence" en masse. But the weekly attitudes and language and behaviours towards women colleagues was ordinary. Their established WAGS could expect no loyalty for all their faithful support. They were easily dispensed with and replaced by eager aspirants to the role.

No one ever said anything in those settings. There was no spoken or acted leadership.  Like the viral Jigsaws, like the friendly little rodent companions scuttling about the office carpet and begging food in the kitchen, no manager ever simply turned the heat up. No leader ever called it what it was. Perhaps it was too late to confront the changes that had happened because they were wrought by confidence, by a sense of entitlement and by attenuated barely perceptible degrees.