Chapter 12. Getting Together

Gene Dixon

A charming consequence of being an engineer is a unique propensity to make everything into a literal graphic mental image. Having accepted my first organizational leadership position, this became very discomfiting when my new boss said to me, "So, are you ready to take names and kick ass?" in more of a command tone than as a question. I immediately created two mental images of a manager's role in industry: the first of the grammar school student who always got assigned to write down the names of students who misbehaved while the teacher "stepped to the office" (when, of course, she was off to smoke a cigarette). The second image was one of my fellow workers bending over and grabbing their ankles while a supervisor walked by kicking their behinds, no exceptions, no excuses, no explanations. Yes, that was old-school "leadership."

I had another reminder of my frailty when shortly after the shocking events of 9/11, I read the following in an editorial in Government Executive magazine: "We knew, here in Washington, that danger was at hand long before 9/11. We knew that our government was not prepared. We knew that preparation would entail hard work and more money and politics beyond the partisan. But in our deep suspicion of government, in our determination to shrink it, not to spend a penny more of our money on it than absolutely necessary, in our reluctance to tackle political obstacles, we overlooked the warnings and did too little."[128] My mental ...

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