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George Kohlrieser on Great Leaders

Question: How do influential leaders build bonds in their organizations?

Kohlrieser: If you look at some of the great top leaders now, they are able to inspire. They are able to create bonding relationships. They’re able to take a whole organization and bring them through a transformation to see what is possible when you build relationship. Look, I know you met at the World Business Forum, Muhammad Yunus. Look at what he’s done with the social bonding there. Being a secure base, it is a revolutionary idea that is able to bring about change. So that, no, I am optimistic about leaders and it’s very clear now, the system through self-regulation is sorting out those who can build collaborative relationships and, yeah, there are some there that remain. But by and large, those people who are overfocused on professionality, IT, finance, law, whatever it is, and their focus on the professionality is in the way of leading, they’re either getting the feedback or the help or the coaching to see that professional training doesn’t automatically make you a leader. And in the past, people were promoted more for technical competence or competence in driving numbers rather than competence in being able to drive human relationships. And when you inspire people, then you’re going to get the greatest numbers. And, again, we know choose the right people is the key to any successful organization. And I think, here, we have to understand that this is fundamentally what leaders do. Leaders must, first of all, number 1, understand how to focus from their own mind’s eye, leading from the mind’s eye. Number 2, be able to create these bonds, these relationships. It’s the foundation to resilient inspiration. Even if you don’t like somebody, you have to bond to them. Number 3, be able to talk. Use language in a way that inspires, uplifts, doesn’t demotivate, even if you have to put the issues of problems on the table. And then from the talking, go to the dialog and the negotiation. Number 4, be able to deal with conflict. If you cannot put those fish on the table, go through the bloody mess of cleaning it. It’s simple. You will not be able to truly build a high performing team. And from there, go into negotiation, which is essentially a high impact negotiation is around the art of concession making, how do we use the law of reciprocity, the give and take. And, finally, how to be a secure base, to build trust. And these are fundamentally the basic chapters in the book, “Hostage at the Table” which, again, takes the idea of what we know from hostage negotiation to the idea that we can all be metaphorically, psychologically a hostage. And what can we learn from hostage negotiators that, as leaders, we can deal with conflict, raise performance, and never be a hostage to anyone, anything or even to yourself. Question: How will leadership paradigms change in the future? Kohlrieser: Look, we are a global world. We have to build collaborative relationships. Organizations must be learning how to drive processes that bring people together. And how to separate quickly, I mean, look at the number of organizations who in mergers and acquisitions disappear. We have to be prepared that change is coming so quickly, faster than we have ever anticipated. And that uncertainty is all around. And in this global world and in organizations, we need leaders who can give that sense of safety so that we’re not all driven by fear. The more the world is driven by fear and over fear, you see, the more the negative behavior comes on to that. The reality is change is happening fast and there’s a lot of uncertainty out there. But leaders can guide and direct. And it may be that in organizations where we have the flow, moving from one generation to another or the flow of one leader to another is a better way to lead an organizational system over time. In the political world, we don’t have that. We have the change of abrupt difference. And, normally, what happens is the leaders are not effective in being able to help people understand the change that’s necessary and bring a whole country, a whole culture towards a new mindset. And that takes a very, very inspiring and effective leader. And when you don’t have this consistency of going from generation or in [this recession] planning, it disrupts that whole process. I think the other thing that’s happening is we are far more knowledge now about how talent is developed. It’s clear, leadership is a talent. You’re not born leaders, it’s developed. It’s really clear. And, so now we have so many ways for people to learn how they can develop these talents of leadership, by watching others and getting coaching. Being authentically you but at the same time being impactful, not being a hostage. I get so concerned when I see so many leaders taken hostage. They have the right intention, they have the right goal, but they’re taken hostage because of… they somehow, they lack the courage to go that next step.

George Kohlrieser mentions Muhammad Yunus as someone who makes him optimistic about the state of leadership today.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
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  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
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NASA releases first sounds ever captured on Mars

On Friday, NASA's InSight Mars lander captured and transmitted historic audio from the red planet.

NASA
Surprising Science
  • The audio captured by the lander is of Martian winds blowing at an estimated 10 to 15 mph.
  • It was taken by the InSight Mars lander, which is designed to help scientists learn more about the formation of rocky planets, and possibly discover liquid water on Mars.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."

Or...

A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."

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