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MOBY-DICK'S LEADERSHIP LESSONS FOR A FRANCHISE OWNER
Maybe it's a sign of getting old but works of literature that speak about tragedy and redemption resonate well with me. It has taken me a couple of decades of adult life to re-discover the great American novel, Moby-Dick.
It is a quintessential American tale that takes place around the whaling ship Pequod. The MBA graduate in me, the Starbuck in me, warms to to the Americanness of community being a business -- not a castle with vassals, not a warring ship -- and the lessons learned of a failed business and the weaknesses of its stakeholders in being able to stop a boss run amuck.
The ship Pequod, which Ahab captained, was a business within a business, much like a franchise that operates within the business of a franchiser. Likewise, at the time Melville wrote Moby-Dick, America was at the height of its world's leadership position in whaling for oil, much like the bulk of the world's major franchisers are centered in America today.
Yet, despite all the ships coming back to New England laden with lucrative whale oil that fueled the economy, the Pequod met with disastrous results. Ahab ignored the operations manual and system standards. He thought he knew better. Instead, he set out on a different path than the franchiser (the brand investors back in HQ).
There is something hypnotic about Ahab and the White Whale. We understand Ahab's desire not to accept the status quo, to tame the very whale that had maimed him and so many others. How many of us would like to be able to control a nature that destroys blindly or a market that also can bring low rich men? Ahab is such an individual. If God does not want us to build a tower of Babel or travel to the moon, Ahab is someone that takes no heed of such things. He doesn't seem to know the meaning of "don't rock the boat" as others might and pushes that ship to its limit. As he hunts the unattainable Moby Dick, one cannot help but admire his chutzpah and his leadership skills in rallying the crew to this "unholy" act.
And poor Starbuck, the family man. He knows if Ahab does not change his course, all of them are on a one-way trip to the bottom of the ocean. He tries in vain to use his business analytic skills to persuade the stubborn captain to focus back on the company mission and to comply with system standards. He even has an opportunity to terminate Ahab the hard way (by bullet), but he has no stomach to pull the trigger.
And in the end, the Pequod and most of its crew are destroyed.
Favorite Moby-Dick Quotes By Topic:
On Making Do With What We Get (Ishmael)
"And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
GRAND CONTESTED ELECTION FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES
Whaling voyage by one Ishmael
BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN
On Diversity & the Ability to Step Into Another's Shoes (Ishmael)
"Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed."