Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan (The Power of One)

Dear Obama, Reid and Pelosi,

I’ve been thinking about writing y’all for a couple of months now.  Because I thought the Democrats won the Presidency and control of Congress last November.  But since then, I’ve not seen much evidence of that.  All that talk in November hasn’t been followed by much walk.

And seeing as how the health care bill squeaked by the House by just a few votes, it seems to me there’s a lack of leadership.  Or is it cajones?  After all, with a single exception, those Republicans voted in lock step.  But 39 Democrats voted with them, and one of those “dogs” was the representative from my district.  WTF was that all about?

As an anarchist, I really don’t care what the heck happens.  But seeing y’all flop around like a fish out of water, instead of acting like the Great White sharks you should be, does offend my sense of…propriety. Y’all shouldn’t be acting like beggars.  Or wussies.

Now I know what y’all are thinking: what the heck does an aging anarchist think he has to pass along to the big fish like you?  A fair question.  While it is true I’ve never been in the big ocean of national politics, that doesn’t mean I’m completely bereft of any leadership experience.

Admittedly, I was in a very small pond – a college campus of 1,000.  But in that pond I was a Great White and devoured anyone in my way.

It’s been said that war is the extension of politics by other means.  A corollary to that is that politics is a form of war.  And in war, there is no substitute for victory….by any means necessary.  Capice?

I’ll relate just two “war stories” from my college days. They illustrate the mindset you need to achieve a “take no prisoners” victory.  Because if you don’t kick some ass soon, the rank and file troops will be demoralized and go home.  And the bad guys will win the next election.  Which they’d deserve to.  It is not about how you play the game; losers say that.  Winning is everything;  otherwise, why even be in the game?

So read on and take notes….

In the Spring of ’72, my college roommate and about two dozen other black students walked into the Student Union, ordered everyone out and then locked themselves in.  When I heard about it, I was elated – a gen-you-wine radical action! Yee-ha!

Ostensibly, the occupation was because they wanted a Student Union employee who repeatedly made racist remarks to be transferred to a job where he’d not have contact with students.  Despite repeated complaints, nothing had been done.  Time for some direct action.  And by the way, increasing the number of black students, increasing financial aid for them, hiring some black faculty, and setting up a black studies program sure would be nice.  What do you say?

Now you’d think that a campus overflowing with Volvo liberals in the faculty and administration would have said: “You’re absolutely right! How can a progressive campus not have these things? We’re on it!”

But noooooo….  Seems even Volvo liberals can get a bit territorial.  I guess it’s one thing to be charitable to make partial amends for a good two hundred years of racism, but if the beneficiaries are ungrateful and start getting uppity….

So the administration’s response was the same knee-jerk one we saw at other campuses:  “We’ll be happy to discuss these issues but not while you occupy the Student Union.”  Our heroes were given 24 hours to leave the building or the police would be called to evict them for trespassing, after which they’d all be expelled.  Even I was surprised; but surprise quickly turned to anger, which is a powerful motivator.

The administration’s ultimatum was a typical reaction by those who believe they have the upper hand.  Might makes right.  The question is: how do you determine who has the greater power?  Proper perspective is critical.  Otherwise, your ass is the one whupped, not the other guy’s.  And you certainly don’t want that embarrassment.

The administration completely misjudged who had the power that could be used, and that error provided a strategic opening which I exploited.  Tactically, they had all the advantages.  But they failed to think strategically.

I recognized that bringing in the police was a scare tactic, a bluff they could not follow through on.  Also, they had set a deadline; that deadline, designed to pressure our heroes, could be used to reverse the pressure.  So, I set about employing my own scare tactic and using that deadline as pressure against them.

I advised my roommate to wait a few hours and then advise the administration that during those hours I had rounded up 40 sympathizers prepared to defend their fellow students.  (I think it was actually only about a dozen, but that‘s the “fog of war.”)  If the police arrived, they would have to fight their way through us before they entered the Student Union.

There’d only be a few of us outside at any one time, in shifts throughout the night.  If the police arrived, spotters would see them and we’d get the rest there quickly….after calling the TV and news media to come film and photograph a bloody campus riot.  But of course that wasn’t the real message.

The real message: yes, we’d certainly lose that battle and all be expelled.  But the college would lose how many millions in donations from the statewide publicity?  We all knew the college was on shaky financial ground. I was offering a potential death sentence for the college.  Did they want to take me up on that?

Now even though I was just a sophomore, the college administration was aware of me.  At the end of my freshman year, I had organized opposition to an announcement that the college’s name would be changed the next year.  And I looked pretty dangerous because of my “big hair.” (But the women loved it!)

Since the administration’s interaction with me had been limited, they could not be sure of what I was willing to do.  I cultivated an image that suggested SDS, not Quaker.  At the start of my sophomore year, I had helped resurrect the campus newspaper and wrote a column in the editorial section called “Gadfly.”  My writing style was intentionally inflammatory but those were the days of  “burn, baby, burn” and I was popular.

In a situation with many unknowns, “rational” persons often act conservatively.  That’s what I was counting on the administration to do; after all, all these folks had Ph.D.s and so were very rational.  I was only 20 and very impassioned, so they could not assume I’d act rationally.  I was, in fact, engaging in cold calculation while appearing, for tactical effect, to be irrational and unpredictable.

So I wasn’t too surprised when my roommate and the other black students walked out of the Student Union the next day just before the deadline expired.  The administration could not roll the dice on a “riot”; they had folded and agreed to every one of the…”requests.”   (I thought they’d split the difference, so complete victory was a surprise.)  As a face-saving gesture for the administration, it was agreed that they, not the students, would announce the “new initiatives” and there’d be a week’s delay so it would not be too blatant that the administration had caved.  No disciplinary action was taken against any student.  It was as if the incident never happened.

A few weeks later, with my role in the incident known campus wide, I won a landslide victory to a Student Government executive officer position.  As did my roommate.  And also my next year’s roommate.  The three of us now held half of the executive officer positions on the powerful Executive Committee.  Our allies had run as dormitory representatives and I appeared in their dorms to endorse them.  Almost all of them won.

The radicals now had a majority in the Student Government.  And I was their leader.  I did not feign to be a statesman, but instead took the role of Robespierre: there would be (political) blood!  (A friend of mine had the role of “good cop.”)

There was one small problem.  It appeared the new SG members would not take office until next school year.  I was already a dormitory representative, so I was already in the SG as that.  Also, my next year’s roommate was the sitting Chairman of the SG.  He had been appointed to fill that vacancy earlier in the Spring and had now been elected to the position for next year. (He had been appointed to neutralize his vote since the Chairman doesn’t vote except to break ties;  but I was elected as his replacement, probably thanks to my “Gadfly” notoriety.)

If you’re going to be in the game, you need to know the rules.  I was very familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order.  I now decided to closely read the SG Constitution to see how I might use it to my advantage.

And guess what? I found nothing there about when newly elected officers are seated.  I just assumed it was there.  Then, I checked the by-laws; they were also silent.  Ka-ching!  Knowledge is power….

I met with the Chairman to plan a procedural coup.  When the election results were brought to the SG the week after the election for perfunctory ratification, the Chairman made sure it was the first agenda item.  All of my allies who had been elected were at the meeting. That raised no suspicion; the others assumed they just wanted to see the ratification and observe how SG worked.

There was a unanimous vote to ratify the results. I immediately rose on a point of order: “Mr. Chairman, since the election results have been ratified, the new officers and representatives are entitled to be seated immediately.”  Defeated representatives who did not share my agenda looked at me with incredulity.  One rose and matter-of-factly advised me that the new SG is not seated until the next school year. The trap was closing….

Prepared, I walked over to him with the Constitution and by-laws and asked him to read to us from either document where it said what he had just told me.  After reviewing both documents, he conceded they were silent on that point.  He then said that seating the new SG in the next school year was the tradition.

I enjoy theater, so I decided to savor the moment since I was “on stage.”  I slowly walked away from him to the center of the room, turned to face everyone, and said in a measured, firm tone: “the election was about trashing traditions that hold back progress; it was about creating new traditions to further the mandate the students gave the new SG, and this is the first tradition we’re changing because lame ducks have no right to one more second of power. You lost, we won.”  My allies cheered.

I turned to the Chairman and asked for a ruling.  He played along and “considered it” for about a minute, stroking his goatee for effect, and then ruled: the new SG would be seated immediately. There was some pandemonium but after it quieted down one of the conservatives jumped up and appealed the Chairman’s ruling.  This meant the SG would vote to uphold or reverse his ruling.

Of course, I expected the appeal and was prepared.  I rose on a point of order: “Mr. Chairman, as we all know, until the SG votes to reverse the ruling, it stands.  Since there has been no vote to reverse it, the ruling is still in effect. That means the new SG will vote on the ruling, not the old SG.”  Dead silence as what I said sank in.  I waited about 10 seconds for effect and then asked: “Is there any point in proceeding with a vote on the appeal?”

After a few seconds, one or two of the defeated SG members got up and left the room. They were followed by all the other defeated members. The new members took their seats.  We were now in control.  And for the next two years, I was the Great White in that sea.  Resistance was futile.

At the end of my junior year, I faced a dilemma: SG President or Editor of the newspaper? Both were elective offices, so I had to choose one.  I decided I’d be more effective controlling the newspaper because it was widely read but few students attended SG meetings.  And, I could “advise” the SG from the Editor’s office.  One of my friends ran for SG and everyone knew that a vote for him was a vote for me.  (By that time, I was also Editor of the Editorials section and principal editorial writer.  Guess who the student newspaper endorsed?)

No one would challenge me for the Editor’s position but I did not want anyone saying I held the office by default.  I “requested” the SG to allow a “yes” or “no” vote so I would have legitimacy.  And of course they indulged me.  The election results surprised even me:  I received more “yes” votes than the total number of votes cast in the Presidential election for those two candidates.

So now I was unofficially the SG President too.  You can imagine my senior year: I was the singular, ruling philosopher-king.  Nothing happened unless I approved it.  The power of one….

So here’s my advice to y‘all:

1.  Ms. Pelosi needs to sit down with the 39 “dogs” who abandoned her and advise them that if they ever do that again, then they can expect, and will receive, no favors from her.  Their bills will be buried. Their projects will not be funded.  No favors granted.  Nothing.  You are with the Speaker or you are not, and if you are not…. I can’t believe this discussion didn’t take place before the vote.  If it did, then those 39 “dogs” need to be euthanized, politically speaking.

2. Mr. Reid needs to sit the Senate Republican leaders down and remind them that when they were in control a few years back, and felt the Democrats were being “obstructionist” on judicial confirmations, they threatened a rules change (which only needs a majority vote) to disallow a filibuster if the Democrats did not allow a straight “up or down” vote.  Since the Republicans unsheathed that sword, Mr. Reid should tell the Republicans that he will use it to decapitate them if they suddenly take a liking to a filibuster on any bill.  All bills shall have a straight “up or down” vote.  The filibuster is not in the Constitution and is little more than an anachronistic, anti-democratic example of self-indulgence by narcissistic Senators that belongs in the dustbin of history.  (That last sentence is an example of my speaking style back then.)

3.  Thankfully, Mr. President, you appear to have junked that “bi-partisanship” talk and should never speak of it again. The Republicans are not bi-partisan; nor has that been the tradition for most of this country’s history.  The Democrats won the election at all three levels, and to the victor go the spoils. As  President, you also have a lot of favors you can dispense. None of them should go to any Republican unless there is a favor in return.

4. Mr. President, I know you are intelligent.  Keep it in the Oval Office, OK? The people do not respond to analysis.  Take a cue from the Republicans.  They seek to invoke fear and all sorts of negative emotions.  What’s good for the Republican goose is good for the Democratic gander.  Speak on an emotional level, but on a positive one.  Just like during the campaign.

I was (and still am) an excellent public speaker.  My technique then was about 1/3 facts and 2/3 emotions.  I got the desired results.  And given the economy, I’d say emotions are pretty high.  Take advantage of that.

Time to play political ball…hardball!.  Yes, you can!  You have just one goal: victory…by any means necessary.



9 responses to “Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan (The Power of One)

  1. Well PT, with this post I’ve finally fulfilled a promise to you from way, way back to address “the power of one.” That was often your comment when I wrote something that seemed despairing to you. (I never felt I despaired; I saw it as being realistic.)

    I noted then that I was personally familiar with the “power of one” and that one day I’d elaborate. But for all these months, I was stymied about how to squeeze four years into a post that could be read in this lifetime. 😉

    While thinking about a post on the health care vote, I stumbled upon the idea of addressing the “power of one” in this “advice” post. Detailing four years would be overkill. You could project my point with just a few examples.

    So why have I disengaged? Probably because by the time I entered my thirties I realized that those four years were not about what I thought they were about, no matter how much I believed in those “causes” then.

    Those four years were really all about me: about proving myself to myself. I did that in a way that I still find hard to believe. I was a walking god on that campus and, as you may know, it was one of the most academically selective colleges in Florida (in the top three I believe). It transformed my life.

    Since then, there’s never been a need to prove myself to anyone ever again. My self esteem cannot ever be undermined by anyone for any reason. Because I know what I can do. I did it. No need for a re-run. I already know the ending.

    That’s why I don’t care much for discussing so-called “important” topics. Talk is cheap; everyone has an opinion. So what?

    The sword, or the threat of the sword, and I speak metaphorically here, is what matters. Action, not talk. But I don’t unsheath the sword unless I’m ready to fight to the death. And I’m tired of fighting. The victory is short-lived; there’s always a new threat, a new cause. So I’ve retired from the world’s problems.

    I won the most important victory in my life by the time I turned 22. The battle for myself. I’m now on permanent vacation. And I’m fine with that.

    You can understand, after those four years in college, why I don’t care what others think. Only my opinion of myself is important. I have no need for anyone’s approval.

    Those who want to fight for whatever cause thy believe in will have no argument from me. But I am impervious to any suggestion that my choice is “wrong.” That is arrogance.

    Typically, two types of people are arrogant: those who have had great success and those who have had no success. The former are usually in the minority; their success is evident and so they have no need of arrogance because they are often humbled by the sacrifice required to achieve success. The latter are in the majority because they need arrogance to cover up their lack of success and lack of self-esteem.

    Some 40 years ago, I sought to impose my values on others. Now, I reject any attempt by anyone to impose their values on me. Especially government, because it has the most power to impose values on others.

    That’s what the “fight” in politics is all about: whose values will be imposed on others. I’ve chosen to leave that fight for another option.

    Because you know what my position on the origin of “values” is and that they are not at all objective or susceptible to “proof.” Any more than faith is. Values are a form of faith.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

  2. And yet…and yet…Anarchist (aka Mr. Modesty), what you have done is advised the Dems to impose their values on others. Not that I mind. I could not agree with you more in your advice to Obama, Reid, and Pelosi.
    And whoever said “It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”…probably lost the game. However. Here’s a question for your philosophical consideration: is it okay to cheat to win a game/fight? If you stick by your contention, you would have to say yes. And what about this: some games/fights you are forced into involuntarily. It’s easy to say, don’t play if you aren’t playing to win. But take this for example: in the fight against terrorism, is it okay for us to torture people? Actually I will answer that for you since there is an easy out 🙂 Torture doesn’t work, therefore it is not a winning strategy. But you get my point.
    I recall that you long ago said you would have much to say about “the power of one”, and it was worth waiting for! I loved the stories. And that is amazing hair! If you let your hair grow, would it look like that again?

    • > advised the Dems to impose their values

      No I’ve not. They’re in the game so that’s what *they* want and all I’m doing is advising is *how* to do that. Not *whether* to do it.

      > is it okay to cheat to win a game/fight

      I reject the premise of the question. There is no such thing as “cheating”, because there are *no* rules. Victory by any means necessary.

      > Torture doesn’t work

      Not sure if I agree with that. I think it can work
      in some cases but not likely with ideologically-committed folks. If something isn’t likely to work, why waste time on it?

      What I don’t like is the “they did X and so are evil” if we also have dome X but say it was “justified” for us but not “them.” That is sheer hypocrisy. But they say that to appease their sense of morality, uncognizant that in some situations morality is irrelevant. Of course, that is my opinion…lol!

      I like facing opponents who want to play “fair”; it is to my advantage. I have a dagger behind my back that I will slit their throat with if I get the chance.

      Don’t say it. I already know it: I admit to psychological traits of a sociopath. So am I one if I know it? Or am I just taking rationalism to its extreme, logical conclusion?

      I am safer to the world by being in retirement…. 😉

  3. I’ve said before that if a fight breaks out, I want to be the one standing right behind you 🙂 Which reminds me that I am presently engaged in a fight at work–could you loan me a dagger? Just kidding. I will win, but with words. Might take me a little longer.
    Now let’s examine your stance. You deny the concept of morality, or that there is any objective “right” or “wrong”. Winning is everything. In that scenario, what is wrong with hypocrisy?

  4. > what is wrong with hypocrisy?

    Nothing, so why do those pretending to be “moral” not just come clean? I know, I know – propaganda purposes. The government regularly lies and a good chunk of the population buys into it.

    So they are doing just what I advise – whatever works. The logic is: if you tell the truth and will get X knocked out of you but there’s a possibility that lying will result in escape, then why not lie? But, if you get caught lying and the cost is greater than X, then we are in the realm of probability.

    In poker, we call that “pot odds.” If I flop the best possible flush draw (I have the Ace), it is 4-1 odds *against* me that I will make it on one of the next two cards. If I only have to call a bet no more than 1/4 of the pot, then the math says I call. Over that, I am mathematically incorrect to call. But if I’m almost out anyway, then I call. Otherwise, fold.

    That is why on a flush draw which a player does *not* have, a smart player will bet enough to make it mathematically incorrect to call. The other player may call, but over the long run that behaviour will cost him moire than he wins.

    But it is not as easy to calculate probability in the realm of politics, compared to a closed system like poker where there are only 52 cards.

    BTW, do not presume that my first instinct is to go for the jugular. I believe in gradual escalation if possible. I prefer to co-opt the opposition if possible. Because no matter how good the odds are, there is no guarantee of success.

    If the administration had called my hand 35+ years ago, I’d have had no choice but to advance to the rear… 😉 But I read them correctly and they could not read me.

    As for your work situation…dirty tricks are my specialty. Start with a change of address form.
    You can do it online I think. Then, sign them up for every magazine in the library, using those postage-paid cards. lol!

    As for the hair, it was a lot of trouble to maintain and I don’t have as much time these days. besides, it was a “statement” then; now, I’d just look foolish.

  5. Well that’s a lot of writing. It’s an interesting story thanks for sharing. Takes me back a bit to campus days just before yours. The pool was bigger much bigger and we had some players like you who rolled the dice. One group took over the Presidents office and kept him hostage for a while. I don’t remember the issue.

    Your tone here is kinda Bruce Springteenish isn’t it?

    I came to the power of one theory and servant leadership rather late in life, after age 40. It grew significantly and exponentially. I have some stories too that would be fun to share, perhaps someday I will have the time and inclination. I can tell them with tangible results that exist near you today.

    I have had surprisingly little time for blogging since I retired, because of family events. Before, I delt with professionals on a collaborative basis, working towards doing the right things for community and improving the status quo. Now I work with them personally to maintain my own, it is not as much fun, but it is necessary.

    During the first 20 something years of my adult life I worked for money. Then I changed the paradigm and decided to work to help others. Funny thing is that I made more during the last 20 years of trying to do the right thing.

    But I will always believe that doing the right thing at the right time is obligation humanity has towards one another. It transcends space and time and is the necessary glue to perpetuate the species.

    While philosophy is interesting, purpose is necessary.

    • > took over the Presidents office and kept him
      > hostage for a while.

      We would *never* have done that! We loved the President! Let me tell you, there was some angst that day, at least on my part, because I knew we were putting him in a tight situation.

      If there had not been the ultimatum, I think there’d have been a different approach. I like to think the ultimatum originated from someone else: advisers whispering in his ear that the administration had to look ‘strong”, just as the hawks whispered in JFK’s ear to bomb Cuba.

      > doing the right thing

      If only there were agreement on what the “right thing” is.

      > Well that’s a lot of writing

      Tell me about it! And remember..it’s the *short* version…lol! Thank goodness I’m leaving on vacation Tuesday.

      I knew if I waited to try to write it after vacation, it’d never have gotten done any time soon because I’d bee both too laid back and also too busy organizing photos, etc.

  6. As for the content of your blog as it relates to leadership by congress, there is none at the moment. Zero. IMHO lol

    Obama is President at the right time in history (when there are great events occurring) to become a great President, but he is young and surrounded by incompetence at all levels. He may yet be challenged far beyond his capability to respond, only time will tell. I hope not! Without a strong Executive we are indeed in a real shit storm.

    • > leadership by congress, there is none at the
      > moment. Zero.

      On that we can agree…. I would go further and suggest that I am not at all confident that “leadership” can return to politics. I think the well has been poisoned and we need a new well. Which is not to say just new folks.

      A Newsweek columnist suggests that a large part of the problem is all the “safe” districts both the Dems and Repubs have created. Since they are safe, there is no incentive for anything but hard line stances. No need to compromise, etc.

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