President Hollande – There’s a Hole in your Trustworthiness

The latest scandal in France with President Hollande, regarding his First Lady-cum-Second-Girlfriend-cum-Three’s a Party, has brought to the forefront the divide between personal and professional life. In France, the refrain is frequent: what’s personal is private. It’s considered the French touch, a cultural heritage. In an environment where trust is lacking and in a technologically enabled era where transparency is basically a conduit to trust, President Hollande’s secret tryst has made a mockery of the Office of the President.

Trustworthiness in leadership

In evaluating President Hollande’s management of his personal relationship, I think it absolutely matters in terms of gauging his trustworthiness. Not that ‘cheating’ is criminal, but it is certainly not encouraged at school, nor is it admirable or the basis for any solid long-term relationship. Moreover, for his team, it unquestionably has an impact on how they must view him and his sense of fidelity. In an ‘All Boy’s Club,’ maybe that type of behavior will be hammed up in the locker room. But, for a team including women, that has a sense of pride and from whom the leader is looking for total heart and soul commitment, this type of cheating will inevitably have a bearing. Even if it is not officially said to be important, the behavior speaks volumes.


I can only believe that this video above is not legitimate. Surely, with so few views, it’s a fake. But it certainly feels the part!

A Hole in Hollande’s Trustworthiness

I do make parallels between how Hollande managed this affair and what attitudes business leaders need to adopt in order to garner greater trust and to inspire and motivate the workers (or citizens) to follow the vision. In the army, if a soldier doesn’t trust his commander, he won’t feel good about taking the boss’ orders. I tend to believe the same is true of any leader. Sure, one might execute obediently, but the extra step, the extra energy will not be there. I would argue that the President of France has a gaping hole in his trustworthiness. It was there before the Gayet scandal erupted. Now, he has the trust of his very own team to recuperate before even thinking about the trust the population might have put in him.

Trust is intangible but relies on actions

Similarly, in business, engaged employees who live and work around their leader, for at least 8 up to 12 hours a day, need to feel that their leader is trustworthy. In such close quarters, I would also argue that employees will — at least subconsciously — also take note of his/her personal ethics. It’s not possible to separate the two, especially as it regards trustworthiness. If France has made a conscious decision to want to separate private and professional, it comes — at least in part — from its heritage of not wanting the King’s riches and decadence to be generally known by the masses. The French upper crust invoke the code “to live happily, it is better to live hidden.” This is just not a way to garner trust; especially in an era of widening transparency.

Voting for Whollande

For François Hollande, he has shown us throughout his career an inability to commit. What is true in his private life is also true in his public (political) life. Is it not obviously consistent? The natural extrapolation would be that if he treats his First Ladyfriend with such trickery and arctic coldness that he might operate the same way at times with his own team? And, for the electorate, it’s all very well “saying” you don’t care about his private life; then, why did Closer, the magazine that revealed the affair, sell out in the first day? Why has television been galavanting on about the ongoing tryst? Is it not because what is personal is the singular backbone of personality? Politicians, much like CEOs, are mediatic figures. They must accept to live in the limelight. I would argue that they must bring their whole person with them. And, it so happens in a world where digital media helps reveal and spread news, being transparent and demonstrating consistent integrity are the right way to go to build trust, a trust which in polls around the world is so lacking for politicians, business executives and marketers alike.

Ironically, now that Hollande is shifting from Socialist to Social Democrat, personally I am grateful for this latest switch; but will it last?

Daft Punk, The Myndset Digital Marketing & Brand StrategyBTW, is it not beautifully coincidental that the helmeted Daft Punk is a French band that just scooped the Grammy Award for its album? They clearly have the wind in the backs….

P.S. I participated in a “debate” on France 24 television following the press conference at which Hollande was grilled about the Closer revelations.  In case you are interested, here are the YouTube recordings (in two parts): Part 1 and Part 2.

Your thoughts?

Sense of Balance – Astounding criminal justice inconsistencies

I love Eddie Izzard. Do you?

Eddie Izzard, on The Myndset Brand StrategyIn one of his absolutely best skits, dressed in his executive transvestite garb, in Dressed to Kill, Izzard says that we all know how to name and punish someone who murders one or several people.  We have monikers such as a serial killer and mass murderer.  However, Izzard points out that we come up blank when it comes to labelling individuals who murder over a hundred thousand people (read: Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot…).

Murder and the penal system is a tricky and sensitive topic. Not an easy dinner table conversation, by any standard. It is not a topic that leaves one neutral.  Perhaps because of the level of sensitivity, it seems that the world has no sense of balance or center of gravity in the affair.

Around the world, it is astounding to see the range of standards for dealing with criminals. There is the autocratic, unmerciful, unsupervised version in certain radical states (China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen are purportedly the top 4 in meting out the death penalty, followed unceremoniously by the US)*.  As of May 2012, the death penalty is legal in 33 states in the US. Then, according to various laws, some countries will hand out sentences of “life imprisonment” – with life being some fanciful number, well below 100 years.

It seems curious when you can have, in the “developed” world, such discrepancies in sentences.  Murder can be far less punishable than financial embezzlement.  Here are a sampling of different cases:

  • The 74-year-old Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years (and $17B in forfeiture) after his titanic Ponzi scheme came apart. [USA]
  • The 31-year-old Jerome Kerviel was sentenced to pay $6.7B in fines and 5 years in prison (plus 2 years suspended) for his derivatives trading errors at Société Générale, despite the fact that the gains were not his personally to realize. [France]
  • A death sentence (that was successful only on the second electrocution attempt) for the apparently falsely accused 18-year-old Willie Francis (see my friend, Gilbert King’s book, The Execution of Willie Francis).  [USA]  Of course, there are many more such cases around the world – see Wikipedia’s entry for wrongful executions.
  • An elaborate 11-year stalemate in Guantánamo for the 5 masterminds of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Only recently, the Pentagon has declared that the charges “could carry the death penalty.”  [USA]
  • In the UK, this week, an armed robber, Yohan Clarke, 33, was jailed for 22 years for shooting, but not killing, someone in the stomach.  Source: Evening Standard.  [UK]
  • And now, there is a pending punishment for Anders Breivik in Norway, for killing 77 people in two separate attacks: 21 years in prison with possible five-year extensions for as long as he is considered a danger to society.  21 years, really? That is, basically, 4 months per victim.  Source: Telegraph [Norway]
Eddie Izzard Executive Transvestite, The Myndset Brand Strategy

Dressed To Kill

Of course, as Izzard points out, there was house arrest for Pol Pot (aged 72), responsible for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia, during a 3-year stint.

What is a life worth?  What is life imprisonment, if it is not until the end of your life?

I am beginning to doubt that their system is any less crazy than any Western so-called civilized system?  Who has it right?

It is all rather confusing, if not demoralizing, when you start to see such discrepancies in terms of punishment.  You almost think there must be some form of arbitrage going on among criminal circles.  Better to kill in certain countries and not get caught doing financial misdeeds in others.  What are your thoughts?  Please drop in your opinion!

*The list’s top 10 is rounded out by Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria and Somalia — not very good company, eh?

The unfair weather knell of democratic politics

Water rain - The Myndset Brand StrategyWe are in changing times (once again) and I must say that the picture reminds me of the grey and rainy may day (ie. help!) we are having in London (au Secours #RadioLondres), on this Monday, May 7, 2012.

As of today, we now have:

  • Hollande in France, voted in by 51.7%
  • Samaris of the New Democracy party in Greece with 18.9% vote, introducing  a very new form of democracy
  • Putin of United Russia with 64% of the vote as the returning President in Russia, ushering back in an echo of Russian democracy
  • …not to mention the weekend’s local/regional elections in the UK, Germany and Italy, where the incumbents were regularly whipped or wiped out of office.

A major year for elections

These elections alone have been rather momentous.  And, ahead, there are many more parliamentary and presidential elections to which to look forward including Egypt in end of May, India (in July) and USA (in November)… [You can view the entire list of elections in the world in this Wikipedia entry.]

It was a busy week of voting for me, too.  I voted in the mayoral election in London as well as the Presidential election in France (via “procuration”).  I will also cast my vote in the US elections.

For what purpose?

But, with all these elections, it leads me to pose two questions:

  1. how much do people expect the world to change thanks to politicians?
  2. how much productivity is negatively impacted in a country during the year of elections?
On the first point, I have long been a proponent of the Ayn Rand determinist school of thought, so I would much rather take matters into my own hands, whenever possible.  If you are in business, then I think there is no better state of mind.  I am more likely to believe that democratically elected politicians can negatively impact business, rather than positively.
On the second question, if voters spent their time on constructive debate and pundits (and the media) provided more reasoned and well-researched arguments, perhaps an election would be grounds for real debate and progress.  But, between media airwaves that are spent on unsightly negative political (and personal) attacks, flaring emotions in bar rooms and pubs and vapid political debates, there seems to be too much wasted breath (and time) during political campaigns.

The political cycle

The problem with democratically elected officials is that, by definition, they must over promise to get elected.  Yet, with clockwork predictability, unexpected events occur and plans are derailed.  By mid term, the electorate systematically becomes impatient and sanctions their elected leader, making the last half of the term a lame duck.  The arc of democracy consists of high expectations and dashed hopes.  Would that we all got down to the business of taking responsibility for ourselves rather than waiting for Godot.

Wave that [French] flag!

Is France doing some media marketing?

It seems that this week, France has managed to capture the bulk of the headlines in the press in the international section.  And there is a captivating, if not liberating theme!

  1. The liberation of the two French France Television journalists, cameraman Stéphane Taponier and reporter Hervé Ghesquière, after 18 months (547 days) in captivity at the hands of the Taliban
  2. The captivation of the world’s media with DSK scandal in NYC and his potential incarceration
  3. The nomination of Mrs. Christine Lagarde (N.B. her name = The Keeper), current Minister of Economy, as the first woman at the head of the IMF {BRAVA!}
  4. And, finally, Tsonga’s cuffing of the Feds in SW19.  A brilliant come from behind.  Roger looks like a prisoner of ghost’s past!

Is it just because I live here in France that I think that the French marketing machine was on overdrive?  If France were a brand, is this a good way to be top of mind on the world’s stage?  Your thoughts?

Coincidence or Purposeful Juxtaposition?

Sometimes, you do have to wonder if IT is on purpose.  I opened the Herald Tribune yesterday (Sept 15, 2010) and, as is my wont, turned to the world news section (page 4).  Below is the spread of the top of the page.

Take a look and see if you see what I saw!

International Herabld Tribune - International News

Continue reading

Funny Video: Have Glass, Will Squash. Remi Gaillard the prankster

Mario Kart a la Remi Gaillard

Not heard of Rémi Gaillard? If so, the chances are that is because you still only believe in mainstream media (MSM), i.e. you watch television, read newspapers and surf only the established sources on line.

Rémi happens to be the most watched humorist in the world — and that is ONLY on line. A comedian-hooligan-prankster from Montpellier, France, Rémi is a rampantly anti-mainstream media comedian.   But, he definitely has the internet working for him. Continue reading

Cricket Twenty20 : Afghanistan versus United States in 2010 WCQ

Cricket Team USA on front of WCQ Brochure

Cricket Team USA on front of WCQ Brochure

Cricket: Afghanistan versus United States in 2010” Who would have ever thought that these words could be strung together? I was alerted to this potentially potent sporting event coming up next week via an article in the London Times, entitled, “Afghanistan get ready to take on US and insist that it’s ‘just another match’ (from the TIMES on Friday February 5 2010).

Over time, many people have written about the diplomatic, assuaging qualities of a dignified cricket match between rival nations. All you need to do is google “cricket diplomacy” and you will 26K+ hits.

So, in the fine heritage of cricket diplomacy, Afghanistan will confront the US cricket team in the 2010 World Twenty20 qualifying tournament in Dubai on Thursday, Feburary 11.

Nowroz Mangal, the Afghani captain said about the game with the US that “this is just another game.” But, I would think this might be a good game to consider as encompassing a bigger cause. “Every sport should be about peace” said Kabir Khan, Afghanistan’s head coach and a Pakistani born former Test cricketer. For Afghanistan, it is an opportunity for the country to get back some national pride on a playing field. It should be noted that all sports had been banned in Afghanistan by the Taliban up until 2000 when cricket was allowed “because it had intervals for prayer breaks,” Kabir said.

Obama's drive a little hesitant!

Obama's drive a little hesitant!

There are 8 teams in all in the WCQ 2010 tournament. Two teams will graduate from this qualifier to the bigger World Cup tournament. Afghanistan (#6), USA (#8), Ireland (#1) and Scotland (#3) are pooled together in Group A. Here is the official USA cricket team site, announcing their arrival in the UAE.

The US team, which lies third in World Cricket League Division 5 (down in the basement basically speaking) is managed by Imran Khan, not to be mistaken as the mega cricket personality; it is Saratoga resident, Imran Khan Suddahazai. After having gone through many rough patches, the US currently has 2 million registered cricket players, a national stadium in Florida and developing structure. You can find out something about the history of cricket in the US here on their own site or on wikipedia, where you can see how important Philadelphia has been for sustaining cricket in the States.

Predictions for the outcome of the tournament? Predictions for the match between Afghanistan and USA? I’d rather not see a draw, but who knows, that might also be the closest equivalent to a peaceful resolution!

V for Victory or V for V Painful? Obama and Michelle see things differently….

Obama and Michelle watching Judo at White House 2009

This photograph from the UK’s Guardian newspaper (17 Sept 2009) caught my attention initially for the curious position, in the foreground, of the unfortunate person on the receiving end of a flip in a judo exhibition. Then I zeroed in on President Obama and Michelle Obama’s expressions, framed between the outstretched legs.

The photo is a jewel for those of us observing the difference between the archetypal feminine and masculine reaction to an event. You have Obama’s smile juxtaposed against his wife’s aghast expression. On the one hand, you have a man appreciating the athletic effort of the ‘victor,’ while, on the other, the woman is feeling the effects of the loser landing on his head. Is it V for Victory or V for Very Painful? In either case, watching sports brings out our emotions and, per this photo at least, the experience is very different according to your point of view (and I’m not just talking the team you support).

Do you have another view on this photo? And how different is the experience for men and women (or the masculine and feminine viewpoint) when observing the same sporting event?

Lech Walesa at the MEDEF Universite d’Ete 2009

Lech Walesa, ex-President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, gave a resounding speech at the MEDEF Universite d’Ete 2009. Walesa retraced the history behind the Solidarnosc movement he led in Poland and then presented his case for progressing the European cause. Here are a few sound bytes (translated from the Polish into French and again into English by me).

Lech Walesa, ex-President of Poland, 2009

Walesa spoke about the extraordinarily peaceful times we live in, saying that “no generation has ever had as great a period of peace and we have a great chance to make a unified Europe, without the use of force.”
–Commentary: Of course, the ‘peaceful era’ doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case for the Americans.

He continued by asking whether today’s generation will be capable of taking advantage of this worldwide truce? Walesa called for more action to create a unified Europe. “I believe that this generation, via democratic debate, will understand what is missing… what is needed…”

“If the individual’s wishes continue to be privileged, we cannot do much … we will continue to have the crises…. such as the economic crisis we are experiencing today” — meaning that there needs to be more solidarity…

“I am just a revolutionary, and I don’t have all the answers…” including to the question “what economy, what economic system is needed for a unified Europe?” A second question: “Which Democracy, which liberty [for Europe]?”

“If I could tell my [dead] father that there are no frontiers in Europe and that there are no soldiers between Germany & Poland, he’d have a heart attack.”

I’d like to be the world’s last revolutionary. I would like to have lots of monuments, but with due reason because I would have succeeded and you would have succeeded…” i.e. that there would be no more need to revolt.

I enjoyed his speech and his passion. I also believe that the questions he raised for Europe and the clear risks that are poised in not unifying Europe are indeed critical for today’s generation. Of course, on a few other points, I considered his thoughts unlikely to gain traction (especially that the way to avoid all crises lies in finding solutions to create general solidarity…). Nonetheless, if he’s not the most appreciated person in Poland, he certainly gathered a few [more] fans in France with this speech.

Here’s the video of his speech on MEDEF TV (translated into French only) and featuring Laurence Parisot’s introduction and a question from the floor.

Cherie Blair delivers opening speech at MEDEF Universite d’Ete 2009

Cherie Blair at MEDEF UE 2009If the plight of children and the role of women is the key issue for the  MEDEF Summer University [Universite d’Ete] 2009, Ms. Cherie Blair was a wonderful choice to open the conference. If her speech felt a little long, there were many interesting points raised in her 30 minute speech.  I captured below a few sound bytes that resonated for me:

The men among the 3000 people in attendance in the room (and in positions of power in general) will need to be, not only interested in, but, to play a critical role in solving the challenges of the 21st century facing our children.  As Ms. Blair suggested, most of the women in the room are probably already attuned to the issues… However, it is only when men and women work together as equals that “we can make a difference.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, is signed by all countries of the United Nations but two: Somalia and the United States.  Maybe President Obama will sign up the US?

There are 1 billion children in the world lacking proper sanitation.

All the research and studies show that an investment in educating a girl [in third world countries] is a better investment than investing in a boy.  Educated women have healthier, fewer and more educated children.  And, educated women are likely to have a stronger voice in their family and their economy….

“Educate a man, you educate an individual.
Educate a woman and you educate a family and a nation.”

Tony Blair was told by a patriarch of the backbench, back when he was serving as an opposition MP, that if he kept leaving the House of Commons promptly after the 7pm o’clock session (to take care of his children) without spending some time fraternising with “the boys” that he would never get anywhere in politics….

Ms. Blair described being a working mother as being an experiment in organized chaos… There is so much to do in managing and finding work-life balance.  In order for the concept of “flexible work” to get to the next level it will take concrete actions — not words — led by the top [and visible] executives.  On this point, I fully subscribe to the need to have role models, role models who can succeed to find that equilibrium all the while replying adequately to the pressures and needs of the company’s stakeholders.

France has a system that suits a society where fewer women work… i.e. Ms. Blair suggested that serious change needs to come to France.  She did not elaborate on this point, but one must assume she is referring, among other things, to the midweek break at schools in particular.  On the other side, France has an amazing crèche system that starts at the age of 3 years old…

As opposed to believing that the youth of today are aimless, shallow and uncultivated, Ms Blair insisted that today’s young people have incredible compassion, energy and depth.  Plus, they have a connectivity across the world…  It would seem that we, the parents, should be learning from our kids.

To a question from the floor about a good model to follow (outside of France) in terms of treating women and children, per Cherie Blair, there is no one best solution, but there is a range of models.  If she did not specify which countries were in that range, Ms Blair referred to the World Economic Forum which scales the countries of the world in terms of the gender gap across a number of criteria.  It’s true that the Nordic countries dominate the top 5, she said and that Europe has the best record among the regions.   However, “the Scandinavian model is too prescriptive in terms of childcare,” meaning that women may not even have the choice to stay at home with their children.  [I have written about the WEF Study previously on my blog .]

A woman who has taken a gap out of her career to have a child and take care of that child should be able to return to work under truly normal conditions.  Ms Blair said, “[T]here is too much subtle culture in business that says ‘we know we have to [give a woman maternity leave, etc]’… but, if you are going to do that, we know you are not really serious about your career…”  This is a problem for women, and an even bigger problem for men who are interested in parental leave and a share on the home front because of the persistent prejudice on the career.

Overall, a well presented case… Hopefully, it did not fall on deaf — largely male — ears.