The cult of personality

Monty Python’s satire divided the Christian Church. Some lauded the message as emphasizing Christ’s teachings, others were offended that Jesus was seen as the target of ridicule. However the Sermon on the Mount teachings by the Christ in one scene are shown to be distinct from Brian’s hapless life, so clearly he’s not a spoofed Messiah. His “Thinking for yourself” isn’t a match for the key biblical message in the Beatitudes, of perfecting oneself. But both emphasize individuality over blind obedience to dogma.

The mass psychology used at rallies can embolden the meek to escape their anxieties, but is open to abuse. Nuremberg Nazis exemplifying the worst abuse by a leader, and one man’s madness threw the earth off its axis for six years. Hitler was declared Man of the Year in 1938 by Time Magazine due to his having the greatest impact on the world. The concern is that this award is given to the one with the mostest, sadly however greatness isn’t always admirable.  Robbins’ whipping up crowd frenzy in Date with Destiny has led some to question their own use of motivational tools. There’s risk of manipulation at any hyped seminar. Obedience to the mob is a taking away of freedom, especially when being carried along in euphoric hysteria.

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Evangelical crusader?

The coach is often thought of as the  motivator who brings the team victory, but that’s actually the captain’s role to lead into affray. A true coach coaxes out the strength within, liberating the individual to resolve the current, and future issues. It’s a task best undertaken humbly, rather than as an idol. “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” [Luke 6:26] The true prophet gives the glory to another. Absence of ego is central to Buddhism, which in turn comes from the teachings in the ancient Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism.

Nothing’s changed today, but for the manner of delivery. In the video clip to Living Colour’s 1988 hit Cult of Personality an impressionable youngster sits in front of a TV, an omnipresent medium for mass reach. It could now be any of our electronic media – which all glorify celebrity. What follows is loud, but not too proud 😉


CO(ach) says: ‘Command Approved’

No Naval Officer would ever dare to approach the CO with a problem. Every briefing presents the situation along with a proposed solution. Which’d better have consideration of every contingent risk, and mitigation thereof. All that one ever hopes for is an approval to proceed. There’s absolute certainty of such only if the plan has been informed by the grizzled salts, the Senior Sailors (or NCOs). They hold the experience, and the technical knowledge. Nothing else is required to ‘make it so’ except the management of those staff tasked with its execution.

this is not the way out of Flying Fish Cove
this is not the way out of Flying Fish Cove

The role allocation would appear to be perfect, partly because the failures are kept secret. We won’t really know why HMAS Ballarat left Christmas Is port in Jan ’05 with throttle wide open. In reverse (shhh). Extremely funny footage, of the PT class falling over during star-jumps as she grounds, is indelibly preserved in the consciousness of many Seamanship Officers.

Watch out for that reef
Watch out for that reef

This post is prompted by an article in the HR professionals forum HRzone on a workplace without managers. Plans are made at grassroots level, using collegiate input. This collaborative phase lengthens the process, and inevitably choices must be made as to the most worthy opinion. Decisions could be entrusted to the individual, the team, or even directors when strategic matters are concerned. The advantage is that the team is immediately committed to the proposal’s fruition.

But when only you as an individual is involved, the sounding board is very limited. Confidentiality and privacy needs restrict selection of peer opinion, and family usually offer lukewarm approval of anything that doesn’t impact upon them. That’s nice. This is where the coach is invaluable. Vocalising of ideas, teasing out the wishful or emotive thinking, and motivating the undertaking are more readily provided by a counselor than an innovation-stifling expert.

Your plan is doomed
Your plan is doomed

I’ve written before on military leadership. Officer training focuses on strengths development because combat is always a two-way tussle, where there’s too much at stake to come second. Sun Tzu’s sagely advice on preparation, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war” is much like the lawyers adage to never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. And how do you ensure success upfront? “Know thy enemy but not yourself, wallow in defeat every time“. The introspective ‘knowing yourself’ is most easily achieved when your character is reflected back – in the same way that a mirror is needed to observe one’s appearance. A good coach helps you look within.

And will save you much hardship when alternatives for ‘finding yourself’, such as solitude in a Himalayan cave, are considered. There has been some discussion regarding desirable qualities and qualifications for a coach of late, and though not mandatory, credentialing for ICF registration sets an appropriate standard. The CO too, has diligently earned their title.

Author: Geoff Kirwood has taken on the world, under cautioned instruction from wife Carole.

Do you need a yogi?

yogi_bearA urologist for whom I’ve a lot of respect inspires this post (no idea whether he should go near your prostate with a scalpel, but Ranjit-ji is a beautiful soul who shares enlightenment in a blog – EVERY SINGLE DAY!) My blog at also borrows from his sentiments.

In answering a question as to the necessity of a guru he suggests that rather than following a leader, we can take advantage of their experience in walking a similar path. Thus avoiding many pitfalls. Like a spiritual practice which needs support when motivation is low, the yogi encourages us through times of disinterest or difficulty. It’s easy enough to memorise the yoga routine, or follow a new one from DVD. But human interaction hasn’t yet been superseded (standby for Internet v2.0) as a source of inspiration, so an accomplished master is to be valued rather than resented for their amazing flexibility. And since yogis come in all shapes and sizes, it’s easy to find one we can relate to.

Physical Training Instructors Course 2nd class 1/13
Navy PTIs are nicknamed ‘Clubz’, which reflects their rate insignia of crossed clubs.

Personal coaches have a can-do persona, much like the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) in the Armed Forces. Psychologists could learn much from their verve, since motivating a hungover ships crew onto the wharf for a workout takes fortitude. Plus the nous to confine the vomiting consequent to a first night of shore leave well away from the decks. Though their intimidating biceps and CO’s delegated authority enforce discipline, there’s much more leadership learning to be had. A senior, grizzled PTI yelled to a squad of HMAS Creswell recruits at 5am in winter: “Does anyone NOT want to do exercises this morning?”

The one respondent was told, “Right then, back to bed with you…. Squad, follow me to the soft sand for an endurance run”.

Enough reminiscing (there wasn’t that much to recall with amusement), and onto future trends. Harvard Medical School visionary dean Oliver Wendell Holmes stated “I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica [drugs], as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be better for mankind-and all the worse for the fishes”. This was well before 20th C breakthroughs, but he specifically mentioned the opioids that are only now being universally condemned for their harm. Richard Smith, 25 years at the ethical helm of the British Medical Jnl writes that ‘Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies‘, which by inference makes doctor’s surgeries an extension of Pfarma’s distribution department. The power of the med as a fix has diminished greatly due to corrupt regulatory governance, and powerful researcher statistic’s ability to glean small improvements in symptoms during trials. The lack of success in later, epidemiology studies on society has led to proposal of a new paradigm by Health, where the fee-for-service paid to GPs would be transformed into outcome-based merit payment.

The Latin ‘doctor’ meaning teacher reflected the joint responsibility for improving patient health. This origin has been lost, as the divide of responsibility for psychology limited their focus to physiology. Only recently has Integrative, or Holistic medicine “in which the ‘whole person’ is focused on, not just the malady itself” factored in mind, and body. The GP may be the last health professional to adopt the thinking that Health Coaches and Positive Psychologists have been advocating.

If you want to make major change, start at the top.

Author: Geoff Kirwood was privileged to have given his best shot as an Officer under the Australian military’s highest ranked moslem, who also happened to be female. But the strength of mind that forged mine belonged to ‘Fish’, a PTI.