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Chapter 7 The Third Cornerstone of Competence: Judgment

Clark, Timothy R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A decision is a judgment. It is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong. It is at best a choice between “almost right” and “probably wrong”—but much more often a choice between two courses of action neither of which is provably more nearly right than the other.

Peter F. Drucker (1909–2005)
Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author
Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, and Practices (1993)

In 1952 a group of renowned scientists gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for what would become known as the Summer Study Group. In the background Cold War tensions were escalating between the United States and the Soviet Union. What concerned national security experts most was the possibility that Moscow could dispatch long-range bombers armed with nuclear warheads and send them over the polar region undetected. In response the US government commissioned its scientists to make a detailed study of North American vulnerability to such an attack. Out of the deliberations came an urgent recommendation to build a distant early-warning system—what became known as the DEW Line—consisting of state-of-the-art radar stations arrayed across the Arctic Circle.

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Chapter 6 The Second Cornerstone of Competence: Change

Clark, Timothy R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

[Humans tend to] seek a state of well-ordered, painless, contented, self-perpetuating equilibrium.

Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997)
Social and political theorist, philosopher, and historian of ideas
“The Intellectual Life of American Universities” (speech, 1949)

Author and journalist Sylvia Nasar wrote, “From the beginning of civilization to the 19th century, 90 percent of humanity was stuck in place, even if their country did comparatively well. Average people lived like livestock—they didn’t go anywhere, read anything, or wear much; they ate bad food and didn’t live a very long time.”1

I would not trade centuries with those people, but at least they took some comfort in the familiar. Today we live in a near-constant state of disturbance. We are anything but stuck in place, which makes leadership a more dangerous calling. The principles have not changed, but the conditions have. In education, government, healthcare, and the nonprofit sectors, market upheaval, technological disruption, demographic churning, and political unrest are not going away. Even the hale and hearty must shake hands with radical change here and there. There are no storm-proof organizations, and there are no sources of competitive advantage that last forever. It’s all ice. The only question is the rate of the melt.

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Chapter 5 The First Cornerstone of Competence: Learning

Clark, Timothy R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer (1902–1983)
Author and moral and social philosopher
Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)

The first cornerstone of competence is learning. On one occasion I had the opportunity to advise leaders at a technology company. On one visit to the company, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman and learned that he trained people in cell phone forensics. I asked him how often he had to update his teaching curriculum to stay current with technology. Answer: every two months. Can you imagine your knowledge and skills becoming obsolete in eight weeks? This may be the exception, but it illustrates the hyperspeed of change in the twenty-first century.

The question is, What are you going to do about it? The new normal is visible to all but not felt by all. Are you still untouched and unconverted by the riptide of change? You may not feel it now, but eventually we must all yield or bow out. The new normal antagonizes the inflexible, persecutes the nonlearner, and punishes the resister. The placid years of docile domestic markets are gone. The cherished employer/employee compact is gone. The “learn, earn, and burn” model of career progression—learn your profession, earn your living, and burn your banked resources during your golden years—that’s gone too.

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Chapter 2 The Second Cornerstone of Character: Humility

Clark, Timothy R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

[The highest level of leadership] builds
enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend
of personal humility and professional will.

James C. “Jim” Collins (1958–)
American business consultant, lecturer, and author
Good to Great (2001)

The second cornerstone of character is humility. People will tell you politely that humility is important, but most don’t really believe it. As an attribute, humility has a weak public reputation and a bad name. People think it’s soft, cowering, and acquiescent when in fact the opposite is true. So my first job is to puncture that myth. The bottom line is that humility is a performance accelerator. It allows you to develop, grow, and progress faster. This unadorned attribute is shockingly powerful. Ironically, it is also one of the most difficult to cultivate.

In his autobiography Benjamin Franklin said, “In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”1

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Clark, Timothy R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub



The Four Cornerstones of Character

The First Cornerstone of Character: Integrity

The Second Cornerstone of Character: Humility

The Third Cornerstone of Character: Accountability

The Fourth Cornerstone of Character: Courage

The Four Cornerstones of Competence

The First Cornerstone of Competence: Learning

The Second Cornerstone of Competence: Change

The Third Cornerstone of Competence: Judgment

The Fourth Cornerstone of Competence: Vision

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