Saturday, November 18, 2006


October was domestic violence awareness month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5.3 million incidents of intimate partner violence occur each year in the United States. You can witness, as filmed, domestic violence live, at 20/20 at and search for the October 27, 2006 video entitled “Abuse Behind Closed Doors.” I promise: it will sicken you.

Fargo/Moorhead has its proportional share of this abuse and violence.

I completed a 48 hour training program for volunteers at the Fargo-Moorhead Rape and Abuse crisis center recently. Volunteers serve as advocates who take crisis calls during off hours, court watchers who track cases in the legal system, and public speakers.

The training sessions were emotionally difficult. Speakers taught us about incest; stalking; cyber-sex; date rape; pedophilia; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; and the difficulties victims face personally, within families, and in the legal system. At times I felt ashamed to be a man.

I asked a counselor what one thing she would change in the make-up of the abusers if she could. She answered, “Empathy.” None of the abusers can feel for themselves what they do to others.

I see two challenges:

Hold abusers accountable.

I call on policemen, lawyers, and judges to learn about abuse and the dynamics of abusive men. Ignorant people in authority bear some measure of responsibility for the bad things that happen to women and children. Some of you are arrogant and think you don’t need to learn. Trust me, you do need to learn. I was a Secret Service agent, a senior business executive, and an organizational consultant. I needed to learn. So do you. The Rape and Abuse Crisis Center will be happy to help you.

Lundy Bancroft’s books: “Why Does He Do That” and “The Batterer as Parent” should be required reading for every attorney and judge who work in family law.

Our greatest mistake is to refuse to look abuse in the face; to not confront abuse is to cooperate with it.

Raise boys differently.

Joe Ehrmann, former NFL star and author of “Season of Life” wrote that our definition of masculinity and manhood must change before we can address other societal issues to make America a more just and fair society.


"Masculinity… ought to be defined in terms of relationships. If you look over your life at the end of it…life wouldn’t be measured in terms of success based on what you’ve acquired or achieved or what you own. The only thing that’s really going to matter is the relationships that you had. It’s gonna come down to this: What kind of father were you? What kind of husband were you? What kind of coach or teammate were you? What kind of son were you? What kind of brother were you? What kind of friend were you? Success comes in terms of relationships.

And I think of the second criterion—the only other criterion for masculinity—is that all of us ought to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in our lives that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams, wants, and desires. At the end of our life, we ought to be able to look back over it from our deathbed and know that somehow the world was a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered, other-focused."

We can also teach young girls to speak up about men’s violence. If we do these things, then we won’t have abusers who victimize others in this world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Wisdom Is In the System

I do not listen to conservative talk radio, but I felt compelled to tune in to Scott Hennen and Sean Hannity today (November 8, 2006) on WDAY radio to hear their post-mortems on yesterday’s election results. They struggled mightily to be gracious losers, but they seem constitutionally unable to hide their venom, and they whined as fast as they could talk.

Their defenses were high: blame, projection, minimization, rationalization, and explanation ad nauseam. They couldn’t expunge their angst fast enough in their frenetic efforts to make themselves and their faithful feel better.

On the surface the election results appeared to reflect the outrage of Americans with the war in Iraq. If we look deeper, the Democrats takeover of the House of Representatives and possible majority in the Senate, followed by the hasty firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, are about President Bush’s failure of leadership. Success or disappointment is always about leadership.

President Bush had the complete support of the American people and of the global community after 9/11. The war with Afghanistan was the right thing to do. Energy was high. The failure of leadership was the decision to invade Iraq—the wrong war, for the wrong reasons, done the wrong way--a fundamental misjudgment driven by the grandiose vision of neoconservatives for the Middle East, the unfulfilled past agendas of Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and President Bush’s understandable desire to strike out against an enemy he could see.

Fighting the wrong war depleted our energy and treasure, divided our people, and alienated our friends. We became bogged down fast--hastened by the incompetent arrogance that permeates the Bush administration. Corruption (much, I believe, yet to be exposed) and a stubborn and rigid determination to force reality to bend to their will followed naturally. We sit in quagmire unable to see options other than to fight against reality or to leave.

Had Mr. Bush focused on capturing Osama Bin Laden and renewing the Afghan nation, who knows what successes those choices would have led to and what yesterday’s results would have been?

The silver-lining in yesterday’s humiliations for Republicans, as Mr. Hannity stated, is that they have two years to renew their party with a new vision for the future, a dusting off of their values, and a long, hard look in the mirror.

The Democrats got what they wished for—a voice at the table and power. Now instead of being rebels against President Bush, they have to lead or the same thing will happen to them in 2008. To renew the Republican Party and for Democrats to provide leadership, we need creative leadership in both parties. The rock-star reactions to Illinois Senator Barack Obama express our national hunger for leadership.

We have a vacumn of leadership in the United States. President Bush lacked the talent, skills, and knowledge to lead us in this chaotic world. If he was fit to be President, he was fit for an earlier time. The American people neutralized him yesterday. They did the right thing. The leaders we yearn for will emerge and they won’t be who we think they will be today.

Fasten your seat belts; the ride will be fast, furious, and fascinating the next two years.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stand Up to People With Power

George Ellis was the sports information director at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota for 30 years. The school was moving from a lower athletic division to Division 1 status--big time competition. They decided that Mr. Ellis wasn't the person they wanted for the role of sports information director and fired him, citing poor job performance. Mr. Ellis sued for age discrimination and this week won his suit against the powerful North Dakota institution.

I am appalled at what athletic department executives did to Mr. Ellis. You simply do not fire an employee of 30 years unless that employee did something incredibly egregious, which Mr. Ellis did not do.

I’ve spent the past 30 years as a Secret Service Agent, an executive at the Star Tribune Newspaper, a Ph.D. student of leadership, and, for the past 13 years, a consultant to leaders. I am a prolific writer about leadership and will talk about leadership to anyone who will listen at any time. In my career I put people in prison, fired many people, and feel most organizations are in dire need of greater accountability; however, I believe that what they did to Mr. Ellis was wrong.

The corporate and institutional worlds are filled with George Ellis’s: the ordinary and everyday people who invest their lives in their schools or companies only to be tossed aside by men and women hungry for fame, money, victory, and the next step up the occupational ladder. I’ve felt the anguish of men and women whose careers were ended and their life’s work marginalized by “leaders” who lack empathy for other human beings. I only wish the leaders of the North Dakota State Athletic Department who testified in this case could feel for themselves 10% of the pain, anxiety, and disillusionment that Mr. Ellis and his family must have felt.

Who will be held accountable at NDSU? Why didn’t they offer Mr. Ellis a decent early retirement or another position until he retired out of respect for his age and 30 years of service and avoid looking like big bullies? Athletic Director Gene Taylor’s testimony was deemed “not credible” by the judge. Did he lie under oath? Women’s Athletic Director Lynn Dorn made comments about Ellis being too old to do the job if NDSU went to Division 1, which, the judge wrote, showed evidence of age discrimination. Her incredibly poor judgment in saying what she said cost NDSU hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs. Her mistake was immeasurably larger than anything they fired Mr. Ellis for.

NDSU says it will appeal this case. I urge NDSU to pay the settlement and move on. You have lost me as a ticket-buying fan, and I am sure you have lost others. Don’t make a bad situation worse for yourselves. The leaders of the athletic department who appear to be so full of themselves should remember that while they may think of themselves as ‘big fish,” they are still swimming in a tiny pond. Some humility is in order.

Congratulations to Mr. Ellis. It took courage for him to stand up to a large and powerful institution. His victory gives hope and inspiration to victims throughout our society and community who are abused by those with power.