Little Boxes in Mar-a-Lago

“Little Boxes in Mar-a-Lago” is sung to the tune of “Little Boxes” by Melvina Reynolds

Little boxes in Mar-a-Lago
Little boxes moved by Trumpy Dumpy
Little boxes at Mar-a-Lago
Little boxes not the same

There were photos and mementos
And defense plans and nuclear things
They were all moved by Trumpy Dumpy
And they all weren’t just the same

And the people at Mar-a-lago
All went to there eat and dance
Which they did near all the boxes
And they all weren’t just the same

There were liars and defilers
And sons of foreign presidents
And they all went to Trumpy Dumpy
And they all weren’t just the same

There they hit balls on the tennis courts
And drank all their martinis dry
And they had lots of money honey
But they all weren’t the just same

And the boxes with the secrets
Were scattered all throughout the place
Like a basement and a ballroom
And rooms weren’t all the same

Then the Feds said to return them
And they asked all very nicey wicey
Bout the boxes with the secrets
Cause they all weren’t just the same

Though forbidden, they were hidden
And then they were lied about
But the Feds finally found them all
Now the whole world’s not the same

Political Addendum

I wrote the political satire above partly just to see if I could, but the truth is that I know very well this is no laughing matter for Mr. Trump or the nation as a whole.

I’m not one of the people actually celebrating the indictment. In a nation of laws, it may be necessary to prosecute Trump given the flagrant nature of the crime and, especially, the absurd and repeated attempts to cover it up, but it’s ultimately a tragedy for the nation.

By many measures, Mr. Trump deserves this. If he’d just given everything back and said, “Oops, my bad,” this issue would have been a minor historical footnote.

But in my non-expert opinion, Trump is seriously mentally ill and has my pity. He genuinely can’t help himself, it appears to me.

The best possible outcome here is for him to be found guilty and forced to seek psychiatric help. Ultimately, that should be part of a plea deal that allows him to stay out of prison, if that’s legally possible, for the good of the nation. Maybe this will require a presidential pardon.

The worst outcome would be for Mr. Trump to become president because he would never be willing to voluntarily leave office, if only (this time) to avoid prosecution. He’d spend four years trying to find some way to subvert the 22nd Amendment.

Of course, the alternative of a smart, Orbán-wannabe like DeSantis would not be much better for the nation. It could arguably be worse if the U.S. continues to move toward fascism. Which makes me hope the GOP comes to its senses and selects a sane, pro-democratic, non-demagogue candidate in the primary, even if he or she leans more conservative than moderate.

Featured image of classified documents in a bathroom at Mar-A-Lago 1000-6.jpg from Wikimedia Commons

Leaders Hanging on Like Grim Death in Moby-Dick

One in a series of blog posts about management lessons derived from the classic novel Moby-Dick

Those who haven’t read Moby-Dick for a while often forget how uproariously funny the book can be. That’s partly because, like Shakespeare, Melville can turn on a dime, making you guffaw one minute and pulling you into dark drama the next. The way he discusses the prideful leader is especially hilarious.

In Chapter 53, “The Gam,”  Ishmael goes for the wry humor, satirizing the details associated with “the gam” — that is, the meeting between two captains of whaleships.  The idea is that one captain must make the trip over to the other captain’s ship in order to have a conversation (“the gam” in question). The tricky part is that whaleboats of the era didn’t have any extra “seats” because they hosted a full crew of rowers and no tiller at all. So the captain was forced stand up in the boat as it carried him to the other ship.  Being cargo was no easy task, as Ishmael relates:

[O]ften you will notice that being conscious of the eyes of the whole visible world resting on him from the sides of the two ships, this standing captain is all alive to the importance of sustaining his dignity by maintaining his legs. Nor is this any very easy matter; for in his rear is the immense projecting steering oar hitting him now and then in the small of his back, the after-oar reciprocating by rapping his knees in front…[I]t would never do…for this straddling captain to be seen steadying himself the slightest particle by catching hold of anything with his hands; indeed, as token of his entire, buoyant self-command, he generally carries his hands in his trowsers’ pockets… Nevertheless there have occurred instances, well authenticated ones too, where the captain has been known for an uncommonly critical moment or two, in a sudden squall say — to seize hold of the nearest oarsman’s hair, and hold on there like grim death.

You’ve got to love this image of a leader jealously guarding his dignity even if it means tugging the tresses of some poor schmuck just trying to do his job.

Have things changed so much? Oh sure, there is (one likes to think) less literal hair pulling now, but maintaining dignity remains a high priority for your average leader, even at risk of metaphorically mangling an employee or two. I hear tell of an exec who, when speaking to the organization or even in front of groups of clients, would make fun of one of his high-level direct reports. The stories were often of how bumbling the other was, making that person look like the clown of the company. In this case, the exec wasn’t exactly trying to protect his own dignity (I imagine he thought it was good-natured ribbing), but he seemed to be trying to make himself look clever, both by his talent as a raconteur and by pitting himself in stark contrast with the purported clown. It was (reportedly) pretty awful. Even as that direct report chuckled along with the joke like a bullied kid in high school, others would just wince. A hair pull might have been preferable.

Sometimes the hair-pulling is more of a bus-throwing. When the infamous bridge closure scandal rocked the world of Governor Chris Chistie, the New York Daily News editorialized with this headline: “Gov. Chris Christie’s load of bull: Fired aide Bridget Kelly merely a patsy in attempt to shelter Port Authority cronies, himself”. If true, that goes well beyond the innocent if arrogant hair-pull. On the other hand, it would also be a classic case of a leader looking for somebody to take the heat off him, allowing him to stand again with dignity during a major squall. The News put it bluntly:

Christie needed blood to express his outrage to the public, so he drew it from deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly for the sin, the governor said, of lying to him. Perhaps Kelly did lie, although it seems incredible that anyone would flat-out attempt to deceive an intense, emergency inquiry.

Christie is hardly the first or last leader to throw a direct report under the bus. Consider how many former employees one of our recent presidents tossed under a wide array wheels.

Sometimes, of course, the hair-pull is far more innocuous. How many of us have seen the example of a leader who, making some technology-related or other mistake during a presentation (or otherwise showing some area of ignorance), growls at some poor underling/handler who has been tasked with keeping him or her out of trouble? The inference is always that someone, anyone, is to blame for the hitch, certainly not the leader his or her self.

Then there’s the leader who goes out of his or her way to avoid any hair-pulling, preferring to stumble publicly than to grab at the nearest available head. Those leaders deserve a lot of credit, though I wonder how often they get it. Do they look weak as a result of allowing themselves to stumble? Do we, in fact, expect our leaders to be able to get away with a little hair-pulling now and then? Perhaps it’s all part of the leadership aura.

At any rate, Ishmael casts no particular blame in Moby-Dick. His is an amusing observation, not a sense of outrage. He indicates that like everyone else (and probably more so), leaders play their comic roles on life’s grand stage.

Melvillian Leadership Lesson of the Day: As a leader, try to avoid the hair pull. It does, in fact, make you look nearly as absurd as the stumble it is intended avoid. If you do wind up metaphorically pulling hair, be sure to apologize after the fact. If you’ve pulled hair literally, well, get a good attorney.

Featured image by Samuel Calvert (1828-1913) after sketch by William McMinn