Leadership News

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pointless Tasks and Leadership

Anna Maria Maiolino, from her exhibit at LACMA

Anna Maria Maiolino is an Italian born Brazilian artist.  As a “modern” artist her works tend to concentrate on minimalism.  Currently, the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art is running an exhibit on her work.  One of her performance art pieces involves the game of solitaire. 

Her twist is to randomly remove two cards before beginning.  Of course, without two cards you can neither finish nor win the game.  As she quietly sits and plays the game, you can’t help but think that it is pointless.  Playing a game you can never win, nor properly finish seems pointless.  But, if you reflect a little deeper, solitaire is inherently pointless; win, lose or missing two cards. 

Having used card playing in general and poker specifically as a metaphor to examine leadership in our book Leadership:  Texas Hold ‘em Style, I thought about leadership and the pointless tasks we ask people to do.  Not just those tasks that have no deeper meaning.  Lots of stuff we have to do must be done. It has no deep meaning.  It is just necessary work to do.  I thought about the “busy work” we give people.  The busy work we do. 

The next time you assign a task (or undertake a task), think about leaving out a step that makes doing the task unfinishable.  Does it matter if it can be finished?  If not, maybe we shouldn’t do it at all.

By the way, I enjoy solitaire, as a Zen like activity that clears my mind and focuses my subconscious.  That’s not pointless.

About the Author
Raymond E Foster is the author of nine books, including Police Technology (Prentice Hall, 2004) and Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style.  You can read more about Raymond at www.police-lieutenant.com