Arguing with Leonard Bernstein

The 1970s. Israel Philharmonic. Mahler. Christa Ludwig, a German, argues with Bernstein about tempo. Bernstein describes this passage as “always impossible” and suggests that the audience won’t understand the words anyway, so what’s the big deal? Awkward. For both. Conductor and soloist.

Bernstein is clearly the boss. Ludwig, however, is the specialist. They’re not at eye-level (Augenhöhe) with each other, but they’re pretty darn close. And Berstein accepts this.

Here is another clip with Bernstein and an orchestra. The second trumpet player and the conductor interact. See the very thoughtful comments from musicians with experience.

denken mit auf Augenhöhe

“Bei aller Strategie bleiben wir menschlich: Wir hören zu, denken mit und kommunizieren auf Augenhöhe.” In English: “Yes, it’s about strategy. But more importantly it’s about people. We are people. We listen. We think with. And we communicate at eye-level.”

Think with. At eye-level. That’s it. The German logic. In black and white. Clear as a bell.

The quote is from gambit. A Germany-based marketing and communications agency. Specialists. Serving companies who build buildings. gambit understands architects and interior designers.

I stumbled across gambit when noticing how superb the Simonswerk website is. Created by gambit. Simonswerk. A German mid-sized company located near Hanover, with a strong presence in France, Italy, and most importantly in the United States.

And why the term gambit as the name of their agency? They provide the definition on their website: “gambit [gæmbit], n. (Schach) einleitender Schachzug, (in conversation) einleitende Bemerkung.”

From MerriamWebster: “A chess opening in which a player risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position; a remark intended to start a conversation or make a telling point.”

selbständig – independent

“The team at Minderleinsmühle opened up their hearts to me. From the first minute onward I felt very comfortable. In my area I work independently. My colleagues, however, are always there for me should I need help. Every day I learn something new.” Anna, Intern in Quality Control, 2019

Minderleinsmühle near Nuremberg, Germany. From their website:

“Our mueslis & cereals, pastries, sweets, chocolates and snacks stand for high-end quality, sustainability and best taste. Under leading of the Hubmann Family, the Minderleinsmühle was arisen from a craft mill with connected agriculture to an established manufacturer in the sector of organic food. As a grown enterprise with a vision, we unify craftsmanship and experience with technology and innovation.”

German Leadership Style … wrong !

Here we go, another misreading of German leadership logic. See correction in ( … ):

“In Germany there is a clear chain of command in each department, and information and instructions are passed down from the top. (no, it goes in both directions) This does not mean, however, that German management is exclusively autocratic (not only not exclusively, not autocratic at all): while the vertical structure in each department is clear, considerable value is placed on consensus.

Equally, the German striving for perfection in systems and procedures carries with it the implication that the manager who vigorously applies and monitors these is showing faith in a framework that has proved successful for all.

Accordingly, German managers motivate staff by showing solidarity with them in following procedures. They work long hours (wrog), obey the rules (a cliché, often Germans will go against or ignore a process or procedure) and, though expecting immediate obedience (a terrible cliché, as if Germans were dogs), insist on fair play. For their part, German employees welcome close instruction (actually it’s the opposite, they want generally-formulated tasks, and not specifically/detailed-formulate orders): they know where they stand and what they are expected to do.”

Helpful to understand how Germans lead and want to be led, see the comparison of soccer and American football:

Kareem about Wooden

One of the greatest scorers in the history of NBA basketball in the United States. Kareem, formerly Lew Alcindor. An intelligent, very thoughtful person. On and off the basketball court.

He, like so many other players at UCLA – University of California Los Angeles – who played under coach John Wooden, was greatly influenced by Wooden.

In this talk Abdul-Jabbar speaks about the great strengths of John Wooden. Not only in how he formed great basketball players and teams. But more importantly how he formed young men. And they were as players at UCLA young men between the ages of 18 and 22.

Why is this post listed under Germany instead of the USA? Because Wooden’s approach to coaching is more indicative of the German leadership logic than of the American.

Wooden did not coach his players during the game. He gave only some very general instructions. Instead, he allowed them to apply what he had taught them during practice.

John Wooden always referred to himself as a basketball teacher. By the way, the official professional name for a soccer coach in the German Bundesliga is Fussball-Lehrer, literally soccer teacher.

The Madman and the Bomb

The scene from the White House south lawn on August 9, 1974, is vivid in the nation’s memory. That morning, President Richard Nixon famously boarded Marine One for the final time, put on a wide grin and fired off a final double-V to the assembled crowd.

But one of the most interesting aspects of that day is what didn’t happen on the south lawn: Even though Nixon had more than two hours left in his tenure, the most critical tool of the modern presidency had already been taken away from him. He never noticed it, but the nuclear “football” didn’t travel with him as he boarded the helicopter, and later, Air Force One for his flight back to California.

Moreover, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger recalled years later that in the final days of the Nixon presidency he had issued an unprecedented set of orders: If the president gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders should check with either him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them.

Schlesinger feared that the president, who seemed depressed and was drinking heavily, might order Armageddon. Nixon himself had stoked official fears during a meeting with congressmen during which he reportedly said,

“I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.” Senator Alan Cranston had phoned Schlesinger, warning about “the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.”

Shanghai … wait, what?

Referring again to this article in the New York Times about how a few major U.S. companies are handling the post-Covid work environment. With some employees returning full-time to the office. Others are working exlusively or almost excluisively from home. And many dividing their time between office and home.

“Though most evidence that remote workers are at a disadvantage is anecdotal, at least one study, led by researchers at Stanford University, suggests they are less likely to be promoted than their in-office peers. In the experiment researchers randomly assigned workers at a large travel agency in Shanghai to work remotely or in the office for nine months. Though the remote workers were 13 percent more productive, putting in more hours and making more calls per minute, they were promoted about half as often as their in-office peers.”

“They can get forgotten,” said Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford and one of the study’s authors.

But wait, what, Professor Bloom? That’s Shanghai. Those are Chinese. What does anecdotal evidence from China tell us about how Americans benefit or lose out if and when working remotely?

Face-time with management

A fascinating article in the New York Times about how a few major U.S. companies are handling the post-Covid work environment. Some employees are returning full-time to the office. Others are working exlusively, or almost excluisively from home. And many are splitting the time between office and home.

There are, of course, consequences for each choice. And in the U.S. some companies are concerned about reduced opportunities for those folks who are less present in the office. Why? Reduced face-time with management.

This is a clear statement about the nature of leadership in the U.S. business environment: Get face-time with your boss !

If you collaborate with Germans, ask them if less face-time with management would be a disadvantage or an advantage. And when you do, read to them, as best you can this, well-know, German figure of speech: “Gehe nicht zu Deinem Fürst, wenn Du nicht gerufen wirst.”

Phonetically: Gay nisht tsu die nem first, venn doo nisht gay-roofen veerst.

Walton about Wooden

In this very brief video, Bill Walton, describes the coaching philosophy of John Wooden. In the sense of how Wooden coached during the game.

John Wooden coached men’s basketball team at UCLA – The University of California at Los Angeles. He was most likely the most successful of all coaches at the university level.

Wooden did not coach his players during the game. He gave some general instructions. Instead, he allowed to apply what he had taught them during practice.

John Wooden always referred to himself as a basketball teacher. By the way, the official professional name for a soccer coach in the German Bundesliga is Fussball-Lehrer, literally soccer teacher.

Bill Walton was one of John Wooden’s, and basketball’s, greatest players. His finest game was the 1973 collegiate championship in which he scored 44 points, make 21 of 22 field goals.

The Office

The Office is an American comedy television series adapted from a British series of the same name. The series depicts the everyday lives of office employees in a branch of a fictional paper company.

The office’s manager, Michael Scott, constantly interrupts his workers in an attempt to inspire them and win their approval. His efforts usually fail in a humorous way. Although this is a comedy, the manager’s frequent attempts to keep updated on his employees’ work and interact with them personally is similar to actual office environments.