Monday, May 25, 2015

Deception Point

It’s back to reading RA favorite books.  This has been one of the more busy years in my career as I begin to end my role as President of ACUHO-I, but all very worthwhile.  Just finished listening to Dan Brown’s Deception Point, a mystery thriller much like many of his other books.  Brown is a favorite author among many RAs as The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, Digital Fortress, and Inferno are on the list of books I have previously read.  This book’s setting is at the highest level of the political landscape possible, the White House.  President Zach Herney is in a fight for his political life for re-election for a second term against the powerhouse Sedgewick Sexton (no relation to the real-life Sexton at NYU, President John!). Sexton is a US Senator looking to take over as President.  Sexton’s chief assistant, a young woman (Gabriella), gives him some information that presents the continuing decline in output for the NASA expenditures of our nation, which propels Sexton upwards in the polls.  Simultaneously, President Herney is in the process of announcing earth-shattering news, NASA has found a meteor that contains living organisms!  We have found extra-terrestrial life in outer space!!   Of course, like all good Dan Brown stories, the characters are all intertwined and the race for truth, justice, and saving the lives of innocent people rue the day.  Both lead characters have lots of dangerous information that could mar their political futures.  President Herney has an evil chief of staff, Marjorie Tench, who works behind the President’s back to do anything to keep him in power, even if it means withholding the truth.  Gabriella, who regrets her one-night sex escapade with her boss (Sexton), works hard to gather more information on NASA’s new finding, which she learns is a fraud!  Of course the character that ties all this together is Rachel Sexton, the estranged daughter of the President who works for the National Reconnaissance Office, NRO, (which is similar to the CIA).  Papa Sexton and daughter Rachel have been pulled apart since her mother died in an accident while her father was having an affair on the side.  Rachel is lured into working for the President’s meteor finding by Marjorie Tench, who sees this as the best way to ruin Rachel’s father running for the Presidency.  Rachel becomes the pawn in this game of propelling her father’s enemy back to the White House.  Rachel gets flown to the site of the meteor to verify its existence.  All hell breaks loose when she and three scientists try to determine its authenticity, and find it is a fraud.  The rest of the story is a twisting-and turning tale of who knew it was fake, how does Sexton use this information for his own gain, who is trying to kill Rachel and the scientists as they attempt to escape governmental agency undercover marines…. Where will this all lead?  How will Sexton prosper to the Commander and Chief of the US, and who is behind the fake meteor?  So many stories-within-a-story!    As always, Brown is a master writer, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat with detailed moments of near-death endings for the heroine (in this case, Rachel Sexton) who in the end needs to choose between her father (whom she despises for his elicit affairs) and a President whom appears to be lying to his citizens.  I enjoyed reading and would recommend all thriller lovers to read this one.  I didn’t guess whom the villain was in this one, so was a bit surprised by the turn of events! 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It’s Your Ship (extra book)


It’s that time again, where I start reading the RA Favorite books.  I’ve met with over 35 students so far and have some new ones I am ordering already.  First, I received a recommendation from my good friend, Steve St. Onge, to read a leadership book called It’s Your Ship by Cpt. Michael Abrashoff.  The book chronicles Cpt. Abrashoff’s transformation of the USS Benfold (one of the Navy ships in the arsenal of combat ships).  Abrashoff notes taking over a very difficult group of staff on the ship of 310+ military personnel.  Here is the list of leadership traits that he is able to enhance (and suggests you can too) through his journey as leader:
Take Command – don’t sit around, look around and fill the void on the team, show you have real “skin in the game”
                Lead by Example – pretty self-explanatory
Listen aggressively – similar to Stephen Covey’s “seek to understand,” rather than being understood
Communicate purpose and meaning – totally important!  Know your values and live them through your actions
Create a climate of trust – you need people around you to be able to be honest with your actions and the ramifications of how they may turn out
Look for results, not salutes – you don’t need people to build you up, look at the end goal
Take calculated risks – weigh options and then act
Go beyond standard procedure – don’t just follow what you are told, sometimes you need to trust gut as well
Build up your people – that’s all you have, make the most of them
Generate unity – interesting strategy (that probably wouldn’t be accepted much in Higher Education), rather than speaking about difference, find commonality
And finally:
Improve your people’s quality of life – we often forget about the front-line people… don’t!
In many ways, a simplistic view on how to lead.  In the end, isn’t it the simple rules that usually work?  A quick read reinforcing much of what we know but with the spin of making it in in the most autocratic lines of work, ever!