A Leader Reads


Join me as I focus a leadership lens on fantasy books and series. Current Series: The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) Contact me: s10473@protonmail.com

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The Great Hunt - Chapters 8 & 9 [#100Days, Day 41]

Leader Assessment: Yarin

    Yarin is a very minor character: Captain Bayle Domon's second-in-command of the Spray.  Bayle's assessment is that "he always look[s] on the dark side, but he [is] a good sailor."  Personally, I like the fact that Jordan gave even a minor character dimensions.  It would have been extremely easy to just have Yarin be a "yes-man", simply following orders and making the captain look good.  Instead, he's got a mind and intelligence of his own, bringing concerns for the safety of ship and crew to the captain and making Bayle look even better.

    "Take her out, Yarin. Take her out now, and come back to me when we be beyond the breakwater."

    His second hesitated - Domon never let a tricky bit of sailing pass without him on deck giving orders, and taking Spray out in the night would be all of that, shallow draft or no - then nodded and vanished.  In moments the sounds of Yarin's shouting orders and bare feet thumping on the decks overhead penetrated Domon's cabin.

Yarin and Bayle, The Great Hunt, p. 136

    Yarin has the trust and confidence of Bayle, and in a crisis situation is given the freedom to execute his duties as a professional mariner.  This reflects on Bayle's own leadership: he runs a tight crew, with professionalism and skill at the forefront of his mind.  Once Yarin clears Spray through the breakwater, he and Bayle have another excellent interaction about where to sail.  Yarin's intelligence makes the discussion an actual discussion - there's back and forth, pros and cons to each of the destinations available. And there is a respect between the two.  Despite the fact that Yarin disagrees with the intended destination, he made his case, but the decision is made and it's off to execute.  That is an excellent second.

The Great Hunt - Chapters 6 & 7 [#100Days, Day 40]


    The forces of Shadow target the Keep of Fal Dara, leaving destruction and death in their wake.  In the aftermath, Ingtar reveals that Darkfriends are amongst the denizens of Lord Agelmar's fortress.  Secure in belief that the victory at Tarwin's Gap was decisive, and that every Shienaran in Fal Dara dedicated to the fight against the Shadow, that, even though guards were posted, the threat was always believed to be from outside.  Loyalty to lord and land was never questioned, and they paid a price for it.  It's a challenging situation: assuming the worst of everyone spreads distrust.  Assuming invincibility opens the door to complacency and vulnerability.

    Another danger confronts us, and [Verin] sounds as if it is a puzzle in a book.  Light, the Browns truly are not aware of the world at all.

Moiraine, The Great Hunt, p. 87

    "And of course," Verin said calmly, "the man who channels must be one of the three young men traveling with you, Moiraine."

    Moiraine started in shock. Not aware of the world? I am a fool.  Before she realized what she was doing, she had reached out to the pulsating glow she always felt there waiting, to the True Source.

Verin and Moirane, The Great Hunt, p. 92

    Moiraine and Siuan were confident to the point of arrogance that their plans remained shrouded in secrecy.  Part of Moiraine's lack of communication, I'm sure, was to continue covering tracks as to her true aims.  Wrapped up in their own plans and causes, they neglect the fundamental realization that there are a multitude of solutions to a problem. 

    An effective counter to this is humility.  Constantly assessing yourself against your biases; being attentive and considering all options, especially those provided from other team members.  It takes a great deal of self-awareness to be successful, but, like most things, it becomes more habitual with practice.  Pausing to ask 'why' can be effective: 'Why am I discarding this option? Is it because it is truly ineffective? Or is it for some other less relevant reason?"

The Great Hunt - Chapter 5 [#100Days, Day 39]

Leading Friends

    Peer leadership is challenging.  Siuan's frustrated uttering that "[m]ost of my troubles with the Hall stem from you," is an indication to the nuanced challenges that being in a position of leadership over friends can cause.  There is an unspoken expectation of loyalty with friends (otherwise, why have friends?).  But there are also aims and goals of the organization, and personal relationships can cloud judgment.  Or give the appearance of favoritism.  Or both (and more!).  In this case, it's Moiraine's lack of communications with Siuan that is causing the frustration.  As readers, we know the reason behind - they were on the run since Emond's Field - but for Siuan, she has no knowledge of her friend's intentions.  At the moment, it appears that she's covering for a rogue Aes Sedai, for which the punishment would be even harsher if people remembered their friendship as novices. 

    Lots of organizations have hierarchical structures to put the weight of the position behind the person.  The White Tower appears more decentralized, giving Sisters more autonomy and freedom to pursue personal goals or adjust how they achieve the Tower's desires.  There is an allegiance to ajah, but there also seems to be a direct line from the Amyrlin Seat to each Aes Sedai.  This gives the Amyrlin the ability to give direct orders to hand-picked Aes Sedai, but also places the burden of their performance squarely on her shoulders. 

    It's a balancing act.  Being friendly, but not having favorites.  Being approachable, but staying professional.  Staying focused on the mission, but open to alternative solutions.  Being responsible and accountable for outcomes, but trusting the team to drive the bus.

The Great Hunt - Chapters 4 [#100Days, Day 38]

There's Only Room For One In The Captain's Chair

    The arrival and introduction of the Amyrlin Seat finally puts a face to a name, so to speak.  Her authority is vast - spanning the entirety of the known lands.  The White Tower has Aes Sedai from (nearly) all lands and peoples, giving The Amyrlin Seat a web of Sisters with inroads to influence and shape world events.  Chosen by and raised from her peers, the Amyrlin Seat is of all ajahs and of none

    Suddenly she threw her arms around Moiraine, a warm hug between old friends; Moiraine hugged back as warmly.

    "You are the only one Moiraine, with whom I can remember who I was.  Even Leane always acts as if I had become the stole and the staff, even when we are alone, as if we'd never giggled together as novices."

Moiraine and Siuan, The Great Hunt, p. 50

    Leadership is hard.  And it's equally as hard on the leader.  The pressures of the position are unrelenting.  And it's lonely - the responsibility rests upon the leader alone.  The rest of the team actually drives the success (or failure) and produces the results; but the ownership rests upon the leader.  It's important for leaders to have trusted people outside the immediate hierarchy or organization to act as sounding boards.  Part of it is to benefit from similar experiences and different perspectives.  Perhaps the more critical advantage is that it provides an honest assessment.   Everyone in an organization has aims, goals, and desires.  Often they parallel the overall organizational goals; sometimes there are divergences.  The divergences may be slight, and a trusted sounding board can help wrestle ideas and work the situations back to the leader's advantage. 

The Great Hunt - Chapters 2 & 3 [#100Days, Day 37]

Emotional Intelligence III: Rand

    The next two chapters continue to follow Rand's attempts to escape Fal Dara and break free from the Aes Sedai.  His failure to act earlier continues to compound as he finds himself thwarted at every avenue for escape: the stable hands aren't allowed to saddle his horse and the gate guards were issued strict orders to allow no one in or out.  During Rand's stubborn search for a way out, he runs into his friends.  Mat, Perrin and Loial don't know that Rand can channel and is doomed to madness.  They offer to join him, but Rand harshly dismisses their offers.

    Displaying emotions to achieve an objective can be an effective tactic.  I've always said that anger is like a nuclear weapon - people should know you've got it and it should be used sparingly, if ever.  Used too often, emotions can cause a toxic environment.  In this case, Rand is, somewhat paradoxically, being both emotionally intelligent* and controlled by his emotions.  He deliberately uses anger to achieve an objective: drive his friends away, in order to protect them from himself, or what he fears he will become.  Unfortunately, this protectiveness stems from a mind ruled by fear and uncertainty.  There is no timeline towards the madness that Rand fears, the end state simply exists at a point in the future.  To be clear, Rand is a complete dick to his friends.  At no point does a leader have cause to berate and belittle friends or team members. 

*Note: Emotional intelligence in this case is the choice to deliberately use an emotion to achieve an objective.

The Great Hunt - Chapter 1 [#100Days, Day 36]

Failing To Commit, Committing To Fail

    Chapter 1 picks up within weeks of the end of The Eye of the World.  Rand and Lan are sparring on a tower in Fal Dara.  Rand has been meaning to leave, for weeks, but still lingers in the Borderlands.  When pressed by Lan, Rand can't really provide an articulate response.  As the chapter closes, Rand finds the walls are closing in - the Amyrlin Seat has come in person.  Failing to act forces Rand down a path he can't control.

    Leaders are decisive; or, rather, they should be decisive.  Indecision erodes confidence, both in the team and in the self.  It also eliminates options.  Options provide avenues to change direction as the situation develops.  Failing to decide, and by succession, failing to act, removes options until the situation decides for you.  Instead of controlling the path to the best possible outcome, you've backed yourself into making the best of the possible outcome

    Indecision, in this sense, is not deliberately choosing to delay a decision.  It's actively being unable to decide.  Choosing to deliberately delay a decision is perfectly acceptable.  It prevents making overly emotional decisions too early with very little information.  Of course, there are times when quick decisions are required, but those are usually in very time constrained situations.  Unfortunately, that tends to be when people freeze and find themselves unable to make a decision. 

The Great Hunt - Prologue [#100Days, Day 35]

The Man Who Calls Himself Bors

    The prologues in this series are fantastic; full of details that confuse at first, then smack you in the face later on in the series.  This one is particularly sinister - providing a glimpse of the magnitude of the host of Darkfriends in the world.  Every country and every affiliation are represented.  This prologues also provides an active example of OODA Loops operating against each other.  Bors makes great effort to disguise everything about himself:

... The bulky folds of his cloak hid the stoop he used to disguise his height, and bred confusion as to whether he was thin or thick.  He was not the only one there enveloped in a tailor's span of cloth.
    Silently he watched his companions.  Patience had marked much of his life.  Always, if he waited and watched long enough, someone made a mistake. 
The Great Hunt, p. xiv

    Bors marks details among the rest of his companions, putting together a remarkable background on many of them with just meager clues.  He is focused entirely on observing quietly.

    Idly he wondered whether the servants would have to be disposed of after this meeting.  Servants hear everything.  As the serving girl straightened from her bow, his eye caught hers above that sweet smile.  Blank eyes.  Empty eyes.  A doll's eyes.  Eyes more dead than death.
    He shivered as she moved gracefully away, and raised the goblet to his lips before he caught himself.  It was not what had been done to the girl that chilled him.  Rather, every time he thought he detected a weakness in those he now served, he found himself preceded, the supposed weakness cut out with a ruthless precision that left him amazed.  And worried.  The first rule of his life had always been to search for weakness, for every weakness was a chink where he could probe and pry and influence.  If his current masters, his masters for the moment, had no weakness. ...
The Great Hunt, p. xiv

    While Bors is outmaneuvering his fellow Darkfriends, he finds himself outflanked in turn.  He finds his actions and decisions being dictated for him, instead of directing the course of the interaction to his own ends.  In his frustration he makes mistakes: nearly sipping the (poisoned?) wine and forgetting to continue his stooped disguise.  Bors finds himself falling for the very tricks he himself uses - patient observation followed by swift action.

The Wheel of Time - Interlude I [#100Days, Day 34]

    That does it for The Eye of the World.  Up next: Book 2, The Great Hunt.  On my first read; I remember finding The Great Hunt too slow for my liking.  There wasn't enough action.  The Eye of the World had a blistering pace to it - things were always moving and always happening; so fast, sometimes, it felt like the characters were barely hanging on.  Really, minus a couple days rest in Baerlon and again in Caemlyn, the gang practically sprinted from Emond's Field to the Blight.  Subsequent reads, especially more recently, The Great Hunt has turned into one of my favorites.  One of the main reasons: lots of significant character (and, by extension, leadership) development.  The Great Hunt imparts lessons learned the hard way; and the characters keep those scars throughout the series.

The Eye of the World - Chapters 51, 52 & 53 [#100Days, Day 33]

R - E - S - P - E - C - T

"Good to see you alive, sheepherder," Lan said gruffly.  "I see you hung onto your sword.  Maybe you'll learn to use it, now."  Rand felt a sudden burst of affection for the Warder; Lan knew, but on the surface at least, nothing had changed.  He thought that perhaps, for Lan, nothing had changed inside either."
Rand and Lan, The Eye of the World, p. 646

    A tiny thing, but extremely important and meaningful: treating everyone with absolute respect.  Egwene and Nynaeve, people Rand has known his entire life, drew back when they found out he is doomed to insanity from wielding the One Power.  Lan, on the other hand, simply gives the same sort of off-hand remark he's been giving in the brief time they've traveled together.  

    Treating everyone with respect seems like it should be well understood and left unsaid; yet there are plenty of leaders in organizations who fail at this very basic act of humanity.  A significant driver of such unacceptable behavior is the constant demand for results.  Be it sales numbers, on time delivery metrics, revenue and earnings statistics, the easy road is to drive the organization mercilessly.  I ran into this at my company.  Shortly after taking over, our QA department issued some findings on internal assessments.  My team frantically tried to prove how it wasn't their fault, how the blame should be cast somewhere else, how they'd been following the processes.  There was a line outside my office of people ready to apologize and deflect blame.  Although I was stunned (and confused as to why they were so adamant about proving it wasn't their fault), I gave no hint of emotion at all; I simply talked to my team leads.  I let them know the results weren't damning and that we should view them as an opportunity to figure out how to improve our processes.  It was quite the dialogue over a couple months.  One day, one of the team leads told me a story of  when he was a young supervisor and a similar instance of poor internal assessment results came in: his supervisor at the time went ballistic.  Flipped into a complete rage; screaming, yelling and publicly humiliating him.  That's when it clicked for me - this team was terrified something similar would happen.  In the end, my team lead left in a sort of disbelief that I wasn't particularly fazed at all by the results.  I'm still baffled as to how someone can think it's perfectly acceptable to treat other human beings in such a fashion.  But it happens.  And, unfortunately, it usually gets results and a promotion.

The Eye of the World - Chapters 48, 49 & 50 [#100Days, Day 32]

Alone And Unafraid

"...Knowing they would die, they charged me to guard it against the need to come.  It was not what I was made for, but all was breaking apart, and they were alone, and I was all they had.  It was not what I was made for, but I have kept the faith."  He looked down at Moiraine, nodding to himself.  "I have kept the faith, until it was needed.  And now it ends."

The Green Man to Moiraine, The Eye of the World, p. 625

    Alone, with no specific training and only scant guidance, relying on ingenuity and resourcefulness, the Green Man held the Blight at bay.  None of us can be wholly prepared or "purpose built" for the organizations we're a part of.  There will be some reliance on past experience, ingenuity and creativity to assist us.  An excellent complement to either continue to develop these skills or to provide the foundation for them, is training.  I've mentioned training previously, particularly on how it's usually given a tacit head nod instead of full commitment.  From a leadership perspective, training does a number of things:

  1. Training develops your team.  It provides pathways to individual growth and development, without sole reliance on the "school of hard knocks".  It shows the employees that they are valued, and are an integral part of the organization. 
  2. Training sets a standard.  Having a known baseline is powerful.  It provides a benchmark that can be used to assess capabilities and limitations.  This enables a quicker round of decision making when encountering challenges.  Instead of wondering if an employee is capable of the task, assigning it to them because you've run out of time, and then watching the project fail; instead you'll know who should make up the team to ensure it succeeds.
  3. Training raises the bar.  Combining an individual, tailored development plan with a requisite set of training for the job means that over the long term, the benchmarks will rise.  Unless there are significant driving factors (e.g. high turnover), pushing employees to the same training time and again is a waste of resources.  Instead, seek to broaden or deepen the skill sets.  Cross training is particularly effective.  Lots of organizations operate in stovepipes or black boxes.  Different departments within the same organization may not fully understand what others do.  Cross training can build that organizational level of understanding, yielding greater effectiveness.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 46 & 47 [#100Days, Day 31]

Leadership Insight: The Man From The North

    We've seen inklings of what Lan is like through this point, but always an external assessment.  A man who prefers action to words, exhibits tremendous skill with a sword, and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of his enemies; we know surprisingly little about him at this point.  In the cold spring in the Borderlands, we finally see a lot more into Lan's turmoil.

    "Lan - no! - Dai Shan, for you are a Diademed Battle Lord of Malkier, whatever you say.  Dai Shan, the Golden Crane banner in the van would put hear into men who know they are riding north to die.  The word will spread like wildfire, and though their kings have told them to hodl where they are, lances will come from Arafel and Kandor, and even from Saldaea.  Though they cannot come in time to stand with us in the Gap, they may save Shienar."
    Lan peered into his wine.  His face did not change, but wine slopped over his hand; the silver goblet crumpled in his grip.  A servant took the ruined cup and wiped the Warder's hand with a cloth; a second put a fresh goblet in his hand while the other was whisked away.  Lan did not seem to notice.  "I cannot!" he whispered hoarsely.  When he raised his head his blue eyes burned with a fierce light, but his voice was calm again, and flat.  "I am a Warder, Agelmar."  His gaze slid across Rand and Mat and Perrin to Moiraine.  "At first light I ride to the Blight."
Agelmar and Lan, The Eye of the World, p. 587

    Never has Lan had such an emotional display of conflict between the personal and professional.  A part of him very clearly holds an allegiance to defending his homeland by fighting in the thick of battle.  Another, just as clearly, holds an oath sworn to Moiraine above family, friends and home.  In either case, the enemy is the same.  That, perhaps, makes the internal turmoil that much greater; leaving him wondering if he's made the right choice.  The Borderlands have long been the frontline against the enemy; for them to fail pushes the rest of the world to the brink of collapse.  Chasing a legend deep in the Blight on a hope that it will result in a favorable outcome is quite the leap of faith; especially for a man such as Lan.  Yet he swore an oath to serve.

    The leader as servant is an important framework to grasp.  It's not about subsuming oneself to the overall whims of an organization and becoming a mindless drone; but to ensure that the leader is actively participating in achieving the goals of the organization.  It enables the leader to spend time teaching instead of preaching.  Part of that teaching involves learning; learning about the organization and it's people and what their strengths are to drive them towards success more effectively.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 43, 44 & 45 [#100Days, Day 30]

Careful Steps In Darkness

    The Ways.  A decaying relic of an age past.  However beautiful in their origin, they bask in impenetrable darkness now.

The lanterns should have given enough light to fill a house, but ten feet away from them it stopped.  The blackness stopped it as if it had struck a wall.
The Eye of the World, p. 562

    I find the concept of the Ways a useful allegory for leading changes in an organization.  Not at all as sinister as what may lurk in the darkness, but a frame of reference for understanding what is being done to the organization.  Change is bridging the gap between a current state and a desired future state.  How to get there, of course, is not necessarily a linear path.  Much like the Ways, there will be bridges, twists and turns.  Dead ends will be found, alternate paths need to be uncovered.  All of this is done with only one or two next steps bathed in light.  Steps beyond remain hidden.  That murkiness can be unbearable to team members that prefer very explicit and discrete direction.  For others, nightmares may lurk in the dark; they may feel their jobs are on the chopping block, regardless of reassurances to the contrary.  Others may feel the pace of change too slow (or too fast).  As leaders, we need to keep a steady pace forward, shifting the light to the next couple steps.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 41 & 42 [#100Days, Day 29]

Fear cannot be allowed to affect our course.
Moiraine Sedai, The Eye of the World, p. 541

    I remember the first time I stood in front of my team. It was a mundane topic; just the daily task list.  My hands were sweating; I tensed arms and legs to keep from shaking everywhere.  It took all of 5 minutes, but when I was done, my legs were shaking on their own so much I couldn't walk.  Not anything close to the portrait of an inspiring leader.  Prior to that day, I'd made every effort to avoid any semblance of public speaking.  Debate team? No thanks.  Running for school leadership positions? Hard pass.  That was my first lesson in leadership: get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Pushing ourselves outside the comfort zone is what develops us, as leaders and humans.  And it's hard work.  It takes guts* to knowingly walk towards something you would prefer not to do.  Turning aside, taking the easier path, ensures stagnation; personally and professionally.  

*Or, in the parlance of the book, a certain amount of mule-headed stubborn stupid.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 39 & 40 [#100Days, Day 28]

An Oath Kept

    "Suspicion is smothering Caemlyn, perhaps all of Andor.  Fear and black suspicion.  Women denounce their neighbors for Darkfriends.  Men scrawl the Dragon's Fang on the doors of people they have known for years.  I will not become a part of it."    

    "Morgase-" Elaida began, but the Queen cut her off.    

    "I will not become a part of it.  When I took the throne I swore to uphold justice for the high and the low, and I will uphold it even if I am the last in Andor to remember justice. ..."

Queen Morgase, The Eye of the World, p. 515

        Commitment implies action.  Not just a singular effort, but continuous engagement.  It requires constant evaluation of the current state in relation to impacts of current efforts.  To be most effective, such evaluation should be objective and rooted in some measurable criterion.  Many organizations boast a "Commitment to Excellence", but how do they measure it?  How do you evaluate your own organization?  For leaders, it's important to consider the metrics being gathered.  An oft-overlooked consequence of metrics is that they drive behaviors.  Measuring assembly line throughput based on units per hour against a "set standard" or "accepted industry benchmark"?  The risk of poor quality may increase as lines that exceed the benchmark are rewarded.  Incentivizing overall schedule to ensure on-time delivery?  A similar quality risk exists.  Leading yourself in a commitment to enhancing fitness and health?  A reward for merely "going to the gym" may erode the overall made towards the goals.  Commitment matched with discipline will drive the organization to excellence.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 37 & 38 [#100Days, Day 27]

Unity of Effort

You must understand, there are ... factions within Tar Valon.  Some would fight the Dark One one way, some another.  The goal is the same, but the differences ... the differences can mean lives changed, or ended.  The lives of men or nations.

Lan, The Eye of the World, p. 486

    People aren't robots; so by default, there will always be varying degrees of opinion in any organization.  Smaller organizations generally have an easier time avoiding or overcoming severe differences of opinion.  Large organizations, on the other hand, can find progress crippled by factions.  It's especially evident when significant changes are planned - there will always be a contingent that opposes the move.  For leaders, it's a frustrating spot.  The direction is clear, but resistance to that progress can doom the entire project.  Big changes are challenging to manage.  Change causes angst and opposing factions can use that to rally additional folks to their flag.  An effective counter is detailed and engaged communications.  Working with the opposing faction(s), understanding their concerns, detailing the plan forward with the workforce at large; obtaining unity of effort requires intensive communications.  This isn't a propaganda campaign, but engaged dialogues, countering concerns from a multitude of angles.  It requires leaders to maintain open minds; there may be incredibly valuable solutions held by opposing factions.  The solution set should be unique to each individual organization.  A solution that has worked in the past doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the present, nor is it the only possible solution.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 36 [#100Days, Day 26]

What's In A Name: Loial

    Shortly after settling in at the Queen's Blessing, Rand (almost quite literally) bumps into the Ogier, Loial.  At this point, little is known about the Ogier.  They have a fondness for trees and all things that grow and they work wonders with stone carving.  More interesting, perhaps, is the pronunciation of this particular Ogier's name: LOY-ahl.  Identical to loyal.  At this meeting, it's unclear how this Ogier was named, but he immediately expresses an interest in joining Rand in his travels:

The Ogier was a comforting presence.  Maybe he was young as Ogier reckoned age, but he seemed as unflappable as a rock, just like Tam.  And Loial had been all of those places , and knew about others.

The Eye of the World, p. 467

Note:  This is an extremely short post.  The effort today is focusing on keeping the habit alive, even when life gets in the way.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 34 & 35 [#100Days, Day 25]

The Quality of Trust

    Mat and Rand finally make it to Caemlyn.  Despite the awe-inspiring grandeur, the city is broiling in turmoil as well.  The lads end up at Thom's recommended inn, The Queen's Blessing.  They mention Thom and show the gleeman's flute and case to Basel Gill, the innkeeper.  

Rand put a hand on Mat's shoulder. "It's all right, Mat. He's a friend."
Master Gill glanced at Matt, and sighed. "I suppose I am at that."

The Eye of the World, p. 452-453
"You two look the right sort, and I do believe you were - are - friends of Thom, but it's hard times and stony days.  I don't suppose you can pay?  No, I didn't think so.  There's not enough of anything, and what there is costs the earth, so I'll give you beds - not the best, but warm and dry - and something to eat, and I cannot promise more, however much I'd like."
Basel Gill, The Eye of the World, p. 453

    At face value, it seems almost far-fetched to think that such a innocuous interaction would be so beneficial.  After all, these people have never met before, the friend they have in coming has, at best, disappeared, and after essentially running from Four Kings to Caemlyn, I'm sure the lads are in rough shape.  Why would Master Gill be so generous? 


    At the very core of leadership resides trust.  We're entrusted with people, projects, funds, equipment or any combination of those, and more.  It's not just doing the "right thing"; it's doing the right thing because it's the right thing.  It's not even considering any other option because it would violate a trust in some capacity.  It's not necessarily an action on the scale of Master Gill; simply arriving to a scheduled meeting on time builds and enhances trust.  Saying 'no' to projects that would divert your focus from the real priority is a gesture of trust: you've made a commitment to the larger good of the organization and intend on keeping to it.  Every interaction with a team member is an opportunity to continue to develop and refine the trust.  Doing so gets a team to the point where they can operate autonomously with the goals of the organization in mind, much like Master Gill takes in Rand and Mat.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 33 [#100Days, Day 24]

Somebody Should Do Something: Managing Expectations

  At least twice during this chapter, we get a glimpse of the collective expectation Andormen have of their Queen as Rand and Mat get closer to Caemlyn.  Crowded roads, low harvest, bad weather - mutterings of "The Queen should do something" are heard.  It's unclear what that something should be, but the perspective of the Andormen is that it's part of the Queen's responsibility.  Obviously, an all-powerful leader should be able to solve such mundane problems.

  Expectation management isn't glamorous.  In fact, it's probably one of the more frustrating lines of communication a leader engages in.  And it's one of the most important.  Whether it's publishing the integrated schedule for a complex construction project that shows an unpopular completion date or simply putting out ground rules for meetings; getting everyone on the same page is absolutely critical.  It helps drive down tensions, internal and external, and allows the team to push emotions aside and focus on breaking down barriers.

  Keeping everyone on the same page is equally as challenging.  It requires consistent communication, a detailed understanding of the overall processes in action, and a solid grasp of the overall systems interacting.  It's a constant cycle, and a leader is required to manage their own expectations in addition to everyone else's.  Managing your own expectations requires a significant amount of patience and emotional intelligence.  It's vital to keep an even emotional keel, especially in the processing of "bad news".  It's far more productive to focus energy on impacts and workarounds than to rage at the issue.  Do something: communicate!

The Eye of the World - Chapter 31 & 32 [#100Days, Day 23]

Of Risks and Strategies

    He had never realized before what a good trap an inn made.  Hake, Jak, and Strom did not even have to keep a close on eye on them; the crowd would let them know if he or Mat left the dais.  As long as the common room was full, Hake could not send Jak and Strom after them, but as long as the common room was full of people they could not get away without Hake knowing.  And Gode was watching their every move, too.  It was so funny he would have laughed if he had not been on the point of throwing up.  They would just have to be wary and wait their chance.

The Eye of the World, p. 402

    Prior to Four Kings, Mat and Rand figured out to use their meager skills as "apprentice gleemen" to barter for food and beds.  This plan worked well in their favor; with "every daylight hour [being] spent traveling."  At Hake's inn in Four Kings, previously unrecognized risks materialized: the same food and protection that an inn gives can be an effective jail.

    'Risk' and 'risk mitigation' are used ubiquitously these days.  While it may diminish the impact of the terms, assessing risks to the current plan are a leader's prerogative.  Risk assessment is a multi-variable equation that considers a leader's overall experience, experiences specific to that project type, the complexity of the project, the numbers of stakeholders, supply chain logistics, funding, etc.  Rand and Mat, having grown up in a tight knit community and still very naive in the game, never even considered that they had anything of value worth stealing, so they never considered any strategy to help minimize their risk.  Strategizing is inherent in the risk assessment and mitigation process; it's far easier to develop strategies before a project gets underway than to be like Rand and Mat, warily waiting for an opportune moment to break free.  In fact, with enough effort and consideration, leaders can turn the potential negative impacts of a risk into more favorable opportunities.  Doing this in the moment is being a "tactical genius"; doing this well in advance of the project is "solid planning".  Both are achievable, but having good planning practices is considerably more relatable than trying to pull off high risk/high reward gambles in the moment.

The Eye of the World - Chapter 29 & 30 [#100Days, Day 22]

Emotional Intelligence II: Perrin and his Axe

    "You'll use it, boy, and as long as you hate using it, you will use it more wisely than most men would.  Wait.  If ever you don't hate it any longer, then will be the time to throw it as far as you can and run the other way." 

    Perrin hefted the axe in his hands, still tempted to leave it in the pool.  Easy for him to say wait. What if I wait and then I can't throw it away?

Elyas and Perrin, The Eye of the World, p. 369

    Perrin's introspection about what his final intentions might have been during the flight through the plains surrounded by flocks of ravens drives him inwards.  Talking it over with Elyas doesn't help; in fact it seems to make Perrin feel more uncomfortable.  Perrin's methodical nature allows him to stay with the negative emotions and evaluate how they are impacting him.  The normal tendency, for the vast majority of us, is to shut it out, pretending that it doesn't exist.  Or distract ourselves.  Or desperately try to change the emotion.  This behavior inhibits us as people and as leaders.  Once we begin to associate a negative feeling with a particular person or situation, we'll then tend to avoid those interactions.  This means more focus is given to the people and situations that we associate with positive feelings, constraining them and putting them under pressure.  

    This behavior manifests with a concept I term as 'punishing the performers'.  Avoiding conflict (generally a negative emotion driver) and, by extension, avoiding the people that push us in that direction means that instead of using every team member, we overload the ones that we have significantly less negative emotions towards.  Staying with the emotion, in the moment if possible, but revisiting it as soon as possible after is a challenge.  It requires honesty towards the self, admitting the emotion, and evaluating how your body is reacting to it.  This isn't to say immediately rush out and start confronting everything that has a negative appeal to your emotions; acknowledgement of what's driving your emotional step is a solid first step.  Then start working with the entire team.