Science

Primal Leadership

I’ve read some of Daniel Goleman’s work regarding Primal Leadership, and the over-riding thought seems to be, “The fundamental task of leaders is to prime good feeling in those they lead.”

One of the reviewers of Goleman’s book on Amazon wrote, “You may find yourself jumping up and down screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!,” to the book’s persuasive demand for better leaders, but you’re inevitably left whimpering, “Now what?””

So, the question is, how do you prime good feeling in those you lead? In other words, how do you inspire trust?

What I’ve discovered in 40 years of management, most of those being an avid student of Dr. Peter Drucker, is that the quickest way to “establish good feeling” with those on your team is occaisionally spend time with them, one on one, ask a few direct questions, and then “listen” to what they have to say. By letting them know that they, and their ideas, are important to you, does a great deal to promote a healthy relationship. (By the way… the same things applies to a healthy marriage.)

My favorite question, that I call the “magical 5 words” is: “What needs to be done?” When asked it can have amazing results. But don’t be surprised that when the first time it is asked, you get the “deer in the headlights” look. Because it is rarely asked, most of the time people are told what to do. But when they realize that what they think actually matters, and that somebody on the other end is listening, it engages their thinking on a higher level and has a synergistic effect on the entire team.

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Attack of the Zombies – How America is Vulnerable to Cyber Attack

Hackers from China launched a massive attack on several large network operations centers at 8:00am CST March 8, 2011.  As many as 1.5 million packets per second paralyzed the networks.  The perpetrators used malware to invade servers all over the Internet that have weak security. It’s called a distributed denial of service attack or DDoS for short. 

After the poorly protected servers were infected, they became zombies, listening for instructions from their remote mastermind.  When the command was given the army of zombie servers began attacking networks carrying an opposing political point of view.  Blogging sites such as WordPress and others have experienced such an attack in the past week.

So how much damage can an army of zombies do?  It is not so dissimilar to a zombie movie.  You know, the one where someone is talking to a friend and they don’t realize they’ve been infected and suddenly they turn on them and begin chewing on their necks.  You might think that these zombie servers are off in some third world country.  Not so.  Many are right here in our midst.  It is not as simple as AT&T cutting the cable to disconnect the threat.  The attackers come from everywhere.  It’s a zombie fest where you have to deal with blocking many zombies coming from different directions.  They can literally stop all communication dead in its tracks.

How much trouble can zombies cause?  Basically, when zombie servers attack, your network can become as isolated as those folks caught in the local shopping mall trying to fend off the zombies coming in through the doors, windows and breaking through walls.  We have become so dependent on the Internet that everything is subject to failure.  Even the phones can die because many now use voice over IP (VoIP) and transmit over the Internet.  It is a critical problem and a vulnerability for America.

Are there any weapons that will kill the zombies?  The answer to that question is yes.  Cisco makes a product that detects a potential attack and takes corrective action – as do other companies.  The problem is that many large network companies don’t use them.  In the case of large Internet companies like AT&T, they don’t discriminate and send packets through regardless of their nature.  They make no attempt to distinguish zombies.  It is left up to the network operation center to fend for themselves.  An operation with a big budget can afford this kind of equipment but it is still out of reach for a small operation.

The bottom line is that we know this is a problem for national security.  We even have a technical solution.  The question is what is the plan to protect American infrastructure?  I feel like the professor shouting Buehler, Buehler – it’s an ‘80’s thing.

References:

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/security-threats/2011/03/09/web-hosting-firm-hit-by-china-based-ddos-attack-40092070/

http://www.pingzine.com/codero-taken-down-by-ddos-attack/

Windows XP and 2003 at Risk

If you are the owner of Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 you are at risk of a pretty significant hack – at least for the time being. 

It’s an attack on the “Windows Help Center”.  The bad news about this attack is that some unwitting, or perhaps witting, genius at Google published how someone can execute the attack without considering the risk he was exposing all XP users to.  The fellow’s name is Tavis Ormondy, a Google security researcher.  Come on Tavis – use some common sense and do the right thing.  As a result of his error in judgement systems in Europe are experiencing a significant peak in hacks.  The U.S. may be next.

So, right now, as of today, if you are using Windows XP or running a Windows Server 2003 for your business you are at risk.  If you visit a web site that is exploiting the security hole your machine could be in big trouble – which is why I’m writing this article – to get the word out.  

The vulnerability exists in the Windows “Help Center”.  Yes – the same one that provides automated updates.  I won’t bore you with the details but you can download a temporary fix that will protect you from attack but it is not a permanent fix.  My understanding is that the download will also disable some help center functionality.  But I recommend you do it as soon as possible.  You can download the fix at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS10-042.mspx.

This is probably a pretty good time to upgrade to Windows 7 if you’ve been thinking about it.  My understanding is that a permanent fix could be as long as 2 months away – due to testing and all of the other stuff involved in a release.

Here is an informative Computer World article on the subject: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9178084/Hackers_exploit_Windows_XP_zero_day_Microsoft_confirms

Who’s Winning – Alternative Energy or the Environment?

I wrote this blog as a response to a technical discussion started by Bob Brothers of MTBC…

There is no doubt that the need for energy is a degenerating situation that will not resolve itself.  Every person who will be driving a car 16 years from now in the year 2026 is already born.  There is no question when it comes to calculating the demand for energy. While the situation is degenerating it is not at the point of being life threatening – yet. However, the scarcity of oil in 1970’s and the recent high prices were clearly warning signs that it could become a life threatening situation for our economy in a very short period of time.

The solutions for providing alternative sources of energy already exist. The problem has been solved. We have the technology to become an energy independent nation.

The real problem that we face is a transition from a system that relies heavily on oil which is provided largely by nations who are not motivated by our best interests to a system of alternative energies where we can become energy independent. The transition is problematic for a number of reasons. If we were to adopt electric vehicles the current power grid would not be capable of supporting the demand. One electic car consumes the power of three homes. Can you imagine the impact on the power grid if three homes were added to every home on your street?  Brown outs and black outs would be common place. So there are steps that need to be taken before we can achieve that solution.

Using an alternative fuel like natural gas might be a temporary solution since it too has a limited supply and would not be sustainable for hundreds of years. There is currently no distribution system for natural gas and the political or economic will does not seem to be there.

The real problem is that our leaders at the state and national level have failed to take action. The Department of Energy was established with the mission of America becoming energy independent. How has the DOE done over the past 30 years?  Their focus has been on energy efficiency such as replacing incandescent bulbs or more efficient vehicles. For 30 years they have failed to provide a comprehensive energy plan. As recently as October 7, 2009, they admit that there is no long term plan in place. http://www.energy.gov/8112.htm.

In a recent posting on the DOE web site, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke are calling for a comprehensive energy plan. But the thinking on this matter is far from comprehensive. They said, “If we create the right incentives on energy, it will drive the demand for clean energy and efficiency…”  What if they were successful and everyone bought an electric car?  The results would be disasterous because the energy grid cannot handle the load.

A comprehensive energy plan needs to be written, supported and implemented.  The role of the Department of Energy should be to pave the way by unleashing innovation and eliminating onerous regulations that are currently in place and improving our power grid.  It is the job of our elected officials to provide the legislation that puts the plan into action. I believe that free markets can solve this problem.  I think that meaningless incentives won’t do much to change things and it is likely to be life threatening to the economy of the United States.  We have already seen our economy threatened twice in the past 50 years and have failed to take action.

So – who’s winning when it comes to alternative energy and the environment?  Nobody – but what do I know?