Trainwrecks and Universities

Leadership Moment: Overlawyering

It feels like I’ve been commenting on university leadership a lot lately, and maybe that’s because MIT, Harvard, and Penn have been providing a masterclass in how not to lead large organizations. Those three university presidents were in front of Congress last week (which is always a circus), and were repeatedly asked a question in various ways:

“Does calling for the genocide of Jews constitute bullying or harassment under your code of conduct?”

Answers were all variants of “If the speech because conduct, then,” or “If it is directed, and severe or pervasive” or “It depends on the context.”

It’s pretty clear that all three presidents had coordinated on the answers, presumably (hopefully!) engaging with legal and public policy counsel in advance. And that’s where they got themselves into trouble. In an effort to not give a blanket “Yes” answer – likely because they didn’t want to deal with the corner cases – they functionally gave a “No” answer. (Harvard and Penn presidents attempted to walk back their statements the following day).

But, really, there is only one answer: YES. Calling for the genocide of Jews – or any other people – should be intolerable to an organization. Don’t let your legalese keep you from your morality.

Rich Eisen has a fantastic response to that testimony.

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One Minute Pro Tip: Don’t Fall Off the BLUF

Bottom Line Up Front. It’s a common way to write emails (techies often use TLDR for Too Long, Didn’t Read), where you put the key takeaways right at the top of your message (or in the case of 1% Leadership, as each chapter title). But sometimes, your message is delicate and nuanced communication, and there won’t be an opportunity to do so.

Write your key message anyway. As your communication gets edited by by a wide organization, always check it against the key message: does this communication still say what you want it to say? Make sure that you don’t end up missing the whole point.


Recent Appearances

Nov 27: Business Security Weekly

Dec 8: Cyber Security Headlines in Review

Future appearances

Dec 12: CyberMarketingCon (Two talks: Stop Destroying Value, and 9 Answers Your CISO Prospect Needs)

Dec 19: Panel, Managing SaaS Identity Risks in Post-M&A IT Integration

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Chapter Cameo: Keep your hand on the wheel to stay in your lane

Chapter 43 of 1% Leadership appears heavily in this newsletter – making sure you understand at all times what your trying to get across, and not getting distracted along the way and ending up in a ditch.

Leader Q&A: Balancing Brevity and Verbosity

Leader B asks, I have a team member who is always pressing me to push more detailed information upwards, while my boss is pressing me to provide less detail and be more concise.  How do I balance these two demands?

Well, B, on the bright side, you have a team member who is advanced enough to recognize the differences between what they know, what you know, and what you’re speaking upwards. That’s a start. I like to look at the four stages of team member awareness like this:

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