By Pete Rivard I've known sales managers who thought Glengarry Glen Ross was a motivational video. October 11, 2005 -- I've worked for executive management who bought the idea that flinging fish at each other like wahoos in a Seattle fish market was the road to workplace satisfaction. I've known sales managers who thought Glengarry Glen Ross was a motivational video. Over the years, I've been handed stacks of corporate self-help best-sellers by top management that, taken together, could lead one straight to the conclusion that book burning is not always a bad idea. If I were to draw up a list of leadership required reading it would be topped by Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes. That story should be handed out at every management seminar and leadership retreat, read, discussed and revisited as often as it takes for the lessons of the story to sink in. Anyone paying attention to current events can clearly see they haven't. Andersen's "fairy tale" features a clueless leader, flattered by and in thrall to a pair of profiteering suck-ups posing as tailors, a trade which they are in fact wholly incompetent. The emperor ends up parading buck naked down his kingdom's main street, declaring himself to be resplendently attired in a most expensive, rare ensemble. His large retinue either need their jobs so badly they don't raise a word in protest, or actually buy into the emperor's dementia that he is wearing magic threads. It takes a no nonsense pre-adolescent to cry out, "Hey everyone! Look at the naked guy." Only then does the foolishness end. Imagine the pain and embarrassment of the emperor's subjects as they witness their leader making a public ass of himself instead of attending to the business of real leadership. Those are emotions many of us feel acutely--and that many more should. We struggle every day to survive and succeed as providers of print services by increasing and refining our own competencies while witnessing catastrophic incompetence on a national and global scale. We struggle every day to survive and succeed as providers of print services by increasing and refining our own competencies A common trait of weak leadership is the way that its members will take care of each other before they take care of their charges. Hurricane Katrina blotted out the sun for days while shining a ferocious light on local, regional and national failure to respond. This culminated in the resignation of the FEMA director, installed in his leadership position by cronyism, and boasting a resume so inflated that half of New Orleans' submerged 9th ward could have floated to safety on it. So the guy who resigned to escape being fired for incompetence has now been rehired as a "consultant" to the very agency he mismanaged. Nice. In Iraq, our matchless military and its superb leadership are bogged down in a calamitous stalemate, orchestrated by a demonstrably unqualified crew who couldn't plan a picnic, but originally assured us this adventure would be one. Cue the fire ants, wasps and rain. Illusions of reality Imagine a prepress service or printer with a crack production team and experienced line supervision led by management who believe they can create their own reality merely by declaring that the prevailing wisdom is wrong. I can. I once worked for such a place, where top management took an oppositional stance to the desktop revolution and lectured our customers every step of the way out the door. That place is no longer in business. There are still commercial printers out there resisting the evolution of digital print There are still commercial printers out there resisting the evolution of digital print, lecturing their customers on how offset printing is the only quality print solution. Surrounded by an ever increasing array of ever improving digital imaging products, they draw their line in the dirt, and we'll watch them fall one by one like Custer's troops. Remember the halcyon days of the dot com bubble, some eight to ten years ago? It was a period of fiscal nuttiness in the form of a host of high tech start ups whose business plans boiled down to market share at any cost, for whatever cool things they claimed they were good at. The dot com leadership slathered their unsustainable business models with the language of belief systems, like so much honey butter scraped over burnt toast. You just had to believe, you had to have faith. It was the new economic model. They understood it, even if you didn't. Sure, they were losing money, but they were losing it for good reasons. The metric that matters most is demonstrated competence within a real business model In the end, the metric that matters most is demonstrated competence within a real business model or a real world view. Everything else is secondary. Can we do something useful and do it well? Does our position make sense, and can we prove it? Are we building respect or losing it? Do we deserve our customer's business? If not, we should be dismissed and replaced by someone who does. Hey, everyone. Look at the naked guy.