John LockeWhenever the power that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the protection of our properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many.

John Locke
Second Treatise, Chapter 18

The Wit of the Staircase

And the Art of NOT Always Getting the Last Word

Wit of the Staircase-2

The French seem to always be in possession of le mot juste (the right word). They indeed have a phrase for the moment following a tense or embarrassing incident that happens to those who are not gifted with a quick wit:

“l’esprit de l’escalier”

Translated, it means “the wit of the staircase”. Or, more clearly as it relates to a situation where you only come up with a witty response to a verbal challenge or situation after you’ve turned on your heel and left the scene.

According to Wikipedia, it is the name for the phenomenon that comes from French philosopher Denis Diderot’s description of such an occurrence. At some point during a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, according to history, a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time. In French he says, “l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier.”

Translated into English it means, “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs”.

I can relate to that feeling, can’t you?

In this case, “the bottom of the stairs” refers only to the architecture of the kind of hôtel particulier or stately home to which Diderot had been invited. Obviously the reception rooms were located on an upper level or at least one floor above the ground floor. Therefore, to have reached the bottom of the stairs means definitively to have left the gathering and left the awkward or embarrassing exchange that had just occurred.

But I think that there is much more to this than just an architectural consideration.

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Are You Moving Fast Enough?

Wit and wisdom from Will Rogers

Don't Just Sit There

The great social commentator of the 1920s and 30s, Will Rogers was a man of great insights. Some of his thoughts on the human condition are on one level very humorous. And on another level they are incredibly deep for a guy who dropped out of school in the 10th grade.

But, he is credited with a quote that I am finding to be very descriptive of some of the things that I see around me these days. Will Rogers said:

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

I see so many folks in leadership that are truly on the right track. They are not fundamentally heading in the wrong direction. Actually, many time they are not heading in much of a direction. They seem to feel quite confident and assured that just being on the right track is sufficient. It is not.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have stumbled upon the “right track.” How you got there may be a mystery. But your instincts tell you that you are indeed on the right track.

What’s next? Where do you go from here?

Just sitting there is not a long term solution. Will Rogers tells us that if we just sit there, someone will run over us. But, who is going to run over us? Consider the following potential candidates to run over us:

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Wit & Wisdom from Midland County, TX


Gary Painter on Fox News

I love living in Texas.  I usually tell people that I was born in way extreme far east Texas. [better known as Alexandria, Louisiana].  And you get wit & wisdom out of folks in Texas that you don’t seem to find in or around the Capital Beltway.  I know, because I lived in that area for quite a while also.

I don’t often tackle politics in my writing.  And I really am not trying to tackle politics right now. Instead I think there is a leadership lesson to be learned here.  Consider if you will for just a moment Sheriff Gary Painter from Midland County in Texas.  Recently he was interviewed on Fox News about the ISIS threat to the United States.  Consistent with what he has been saying for at least 8 years he made the following statement.  I am providing it below with advance apologies for some of his language as I never want to offend our readers. But here is his quote:

“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell.
I think the United States needs to get busy and they need to bomb them.
They need to take them out. I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs.”

Contrast that with our President who calls them the “JV squad” and who doesn’t have a plan to deal with them.  And ask yourself for a moment,

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Bearded Leadership

Bearded Leadership - 1What does having a beard have to do with Leadership? Well, maybe nothing, but maybe everything. If you look back through history, have all of our great leaders been older? Have they all had beards? I think one of our best leaders in history had a pretty epic beard, Abraham Lincoln.

What is my point? My point is that it doesn’t really take age or facial hair to be a leader, although I think it should. My point is, however, that it takes maturity to both have facial hair and to be a leader.

“No one was ever born with a beard”



No one was ever born a leader. I think maturity, like leadership, is one of those things that is not inherent in life. You are not guaranteed or promised maturity, or leadership. Maturity is also different in all of us. It is found in different places, and different times and we discover our maturity for different reasons. Personally, it took a war, for me to discover mine. I will admit I have times of immaturity, and I think that is not only okay, but is healthy. I don’t think we should take ourselves too seriously.

Bearded Leadership - 2I think it is safe to say, while it doesn’t take a beard to be a leader is does take maturity. There are immature people in leadership positions, but their leadership is either poor or short lived. Remember maturity is several things. It is physical. It is mental. It is emotional and it is spiritual. All of these things contribute to the style and the effectiveness of your leadership.

A leader has a mission. A leader has a plan. A leader is going somewhere. There’s a reason for doing what you’re doing, and when anybody thinks about you, they think about a person with a plan.

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Holding the Helm

Holding the Helm - 1Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.
Publilius Syrus

We are living in difficult days. I am speaking globally. And I am speaking about our nation. And I am speaking about the great state of Texas. And I am speaking about my own little life.

Nobody panic. All is well in my home. I am very blessed. But here is the reality of life as I see it.

Holding the Helm - 2Globally – The Olympic flame was still burning and trouble was brewing on the Crimean Peninsula. The flame is now out and Russian troops are amassing. The world watches and waits.  How many times have we seen that play out in that part of the world in the last 150 years?

For those out there with better than a sub-standard education, does The Charge of the Light Brigade mean anything to you?

Holding the Helm - 4Nationally – Our nation is need of strong leadership. Perhaps more so now than even the days of the birth of our great Nation. The choice then was obvious. Freedom and liberty or tyranny and taxation. But today the choices are not as clear. At least it appears that way.

I think I see a clear delineation. But not everyone does and of those who do see a delineation, not everyone agrees how to address it.  And I am not sure that it is even possible to reach some with a message that we face big challenges and we need big leaders to take us through the challenges that are ahead.

Holding the Helm - 3Texas – Here in Texas we are engaged in a battle to see

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Wit & Wisdom – Gandhi and Yeltsin

W&W - Gandhi and Yeltsin - 1I have always been fascinated by Ghandi.  In fact, one of the most popular articles published on LeadershipVoices is an article about Gandhi and his leadership style.  And today I came across this quote.

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
Mohatma Gandhi

I have been doing a lot of research lately on the subject of Emotional Intelligence.  One of the factors in determining your level (identified as your “EQ”) is to measure the way that you get along with others.  The practitioners in this field of study generally recognize 4 areas with one of them being Relationship Management.  This area of study is rich with insights into the way we view ourselves and the way we view others.  And more importantly, how we relate to others.

Gandhi lived long before this area of study came about.  But I would submit to you that Gandhi must have had a very high EQ.  His leadership style and his personal and public life proclaims his understanding that leadership involves using our relationships and influence more than our physical presence as an advantage.

W&W - Gandhi and Yeltsin - 2Boris Yeltsin may have been expressing much the same understanding when he once said:

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