London in London and Londonstani in Southmead
My dad read me Jack London's The Call of the Wild when I was nine. I graduated from high school in a city that makes a big deal of its Jack London Square. Still, my ignorance is such that I didn't know until last week that London once chose to live among England's poor, document the experience, and write a first chapter about how the trickiest place to be a Global Pedestrian is sometimes just on the other side of town.
London was in London. This coincidence is a menace to clarity, a nuisance to blogger and blog-reader alike. The only way I see around it is to get specific. Let's forget London, the city, and note that London, the writer, wanted to immerse himself in a swath of England's capital city known as the East End — a place, the writer is warned in 1902, "where a man's life isn't worth tu'pence."
London writes that nobody knew how he might manage the epic voyage across town. So he visited a renowned travel agency:
But O Cook, O Thomas Cook & Son, pathfinders and trail-clearers, living sign-posts to all the world and bestowers of first aid to bewildered travellers — unhesitatingly and instantly, with ease and celerity, could you send me to Darkest Africa or Innermost Thibet [sic], but to the East End of London, barely a stone's throw distant from Ludgate Circus, you know not the way!
"You can't do it, you know," said the human emporium of routes and fares at Cook's Cheapside branch. "It is so — ahem — so unusual.'
"Consult the police," he concluded authoritatively, when I persisted. "We are not accustomed to taking travellers to the East End; we receive no call to take them there, and we know nothing whatsoever about the place at all."
London perseveres, makes it to the East End, swaps his own clothes for wrecked rags, and suddenly feels he's seeing the world as it is:
My frayed and out-at-elbows jacket was the badge and advertisement of my class, which was their class. It made me of like kind, and in place of the fawning and too-respectful attention I had hitherto received, I now shared with them a comradeship. The man in corduroy and dirty neckerchief no longer addressed me as "sir" or "governor." It was "mate," now — and a fine and hearty word, with a tingle to it, and a warmth and gladness, which the other term does not possess. Governor! It smacks of mastery, and power, and high authority — the tribute of the man who is under to the man on top, delivered in the hope that he will let up a bit and ease his weight.
This dynamic may be familiar to you if you've ever flown to the other side of the globe, craved the truth of an unfamiliar place, and experienced — in place of the truth — a series of inauthentic, deferential encounters with merchants, bellhops, beggars.
Consider, too, London's experience with the travel agent. Think of your own city. Would it be easier to book flights to Calcutta than a guided tour of your town's version of the East End? Would you rather fly to Calcutta than drive those few miles across town? If so, that's worth knowing about yourself. It's not that you need to follow London's example and dress in rags among the destitute. Rather, remembering that parts of even your own city are foreign and incomprehensible to you might inoculate you against all kinds of misplaced certainty — like, say, if you're a U.S. president and a handful of Iraqi exiles assure you that typical Iraqis will greet American troops as liberators.
I see something of Jack London's East End experience in a post the blogger "Londonstani" wrote last week about living the harassed life of a typical Pakistani immigrant as part of a documentary about Southmead.
Londonstani called the post "Preventing Terrorism at Home" and wrote, "I often thought of British Pakistani and Somali boys growing up thinking their experiences were an accurate portrayal of what Britain was about. I imagined growing up with such a view of Britain would make the idea of fighting UK forces in Muslim lands seem righteous."
Despite the high stakes, according to Londonstani, "people in Britain's more affluent areas are unaware of what happens in neighbourhoods literally on their doorsteps."
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According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.
Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.
By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:
Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.
Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.
McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.
It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.
But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.
Read more at LinkedIn.
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