Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Archive for June 2011

Review: Lonesome Dove, Leadership and Adventure

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My brother and his wife gave me the Lonesome Dove miniseries for Christmas. They love it, and knowing my enjoyment of Westerns, thought I would too. Their gift stirred my interest in reading the book, which I determined to do before watching the miniseries. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Russell S.

June 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm

On Human Reason and its Evolution

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A new theory of cognitive and behavioral science, called the argumentative theory of reasoning, asserts that discourse and discursive reason evolved in human beings for no other purpose than to win debates.  “It [reason] was a purely social phenomenon.  It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.”  The argumentative theory is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, stirring intriguing discussion and abhorred dissent among academics of all stripes—philosophers, political scientists, educators, and psychologists alike. Read the rest of this entry »

“Medicare as we know it:” A Lesson in Demagoguery and Political Phrasing

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Our nation faces a crushing burden of debt from an entitlement state that continues to accrete power in ways unknown to most people.  We face the debt burden with a Congress full of unprecedented partisan rancor and a leadership deficit where very few are willing to rise above the fray and propose bold solutions.  Indeed, the Congress offered only one solution to the budget and entitlement crisis, Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan.  The US Senate decided it would not attempt to pass a budget this year—for the second straight year—and the President only gave one speech on the budget, which has not assumed legislative form (the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan agency charged with formally scoring legislation, cannot score speeches).  To make matters worse, the President invited Representative Paul Ryan to his speech at George Washington University, only to call his plan “unserious” and “uncourageous” after seating Ryan in the first row—just when the GOP expected an olive branch on debt and deficit reduction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Leading & Leadership

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Below is the review I wrote for my company’s newsletter, on Leading & Leadership. If you’d like more information about Chiefist, please contact us.


Most of our clients and subscribers have a keen interest in leadership. As investors, you must judge leaders  — their abilities, skills, character and performance. As leaders in your firms, you must motivate your teams, make critical decisions and find ways to differentiate your firm and services in a crowded, competitive industry.

At Chiefist, we primarily serve clients in that first role. With our analytical tools, executive profiles and searches, and actionable trading ideas, we support the appraisal of corporate leadership as a key element of investment due diligence. But more broadly, we aid clients by offering unique ideas. And when we find a good leadership idea, we would be remiss not to share it — in this case, a book of fascinating ideas.

In Leading & Leadership, editor Timothy Fuller surveys some of history’s greatest thinking on the subject of leadership. He includes writings from Confucius, Homer, Plato, Machiavelli, Aquinas, Washington, Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass and Woodrow Wilson. It also contains important contributions from modern writers, including Ronald Glassman and Abraham Zaleznik. (Future editions would benefit from adding William Deresiewicz’s excellent speech, “Solitude and Leadership”.)

The book contains much wisdom about the characteristics and ethos of leadership. Every executive should read Zaleznik on “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” Washington’s “Farewell Address” should serve as a model for thoughtful succession transitions. The tension between Machiavelli’s and Aquinas’s conceptions of leadership are played out in organizations every day.

Individual readers will of course find their favorites among the chapters. Taken as a whole, the book offers a useful and needed counterweight to today’s often vacuous prattle on the subject. Our study of leadership needs practical advice, analysis of hard numbers and modern examples. But it also requires philosophical reflection, reasoned and dispassionate consideration, and a historical perspective. What emerges is a powerful reminder of the complexities and nuances of leadership. That reminder can only help us both to better evaluate the leaders in investments we’re considering, and to more effectively lead our own organizations.

Written by Russell S.

June 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm