"... and so we thought that you might like to attend this two-day workshop in effective leadership techniques," the Boss burbles, rounding off the professional goal-setting exercise that company policy obliges him to do with me and any other contractor with a contract that's rolled over for more than five years.
"Well to be honest Dave – may I call you Dave?"
"My name is Philip."
"Yes, but Dave's easier to remember. Anyway Dave, to be honest, thank you for your kind offer but I would rather have my scrotum set on fire and put out by stamping with a spiked golf shoe whilst slamming my fingers in a desk drawer repeatedly."
"You remember the scene in Driller Killer where the guy drills through each of the guy's finger and toe nails?"
"No, because it isn't in the movie – but I'd still rather have that happen to me than attend an effective leadership techniques workshop."
"It can't be that bad!"
"Oh, it will. It'll be some clapped out has-been with a 70cm waist and a 105cm drinkers' gut kicking off with a MBTI test then segueing into a discussion of effective leaders of the past 50 years. No wait! The past 10,000 years!"
"There'll be a discussion on the seven wonders of the ancient world and how they were achieved with effective leadership, as were the seven wonders of the modern world. There will be some theories of modern leadership which will segue into ethics of leadership, the desire of leaders to be loved, valued or held in awe, and then another exercise on where our personal strengths are and which leadership desire we mostly have."
"I'm not sure that we..."
"The first day will finish with some tired out variety act with a tenuous link to leadership – a magician or a hypnotist maybe, then an informal get together, at which point I will attempt to ply the has-been's administrative assistant with too many drinks. Finally, the night will probably finish – if the bar is serving top-shelf – with a fight."
"I really don't thi..."
"Day two will start with each attendee having to identify a leader from history that they aspire to be and what they think was special about that person, after which there will be a group discussion of each favoured leader's style, strengths and weaknesses."
A brief silence ensues.
"Oh yes. Then what happens," the Boss asks, dryly.
"No idea. As I usually choose Hitler or Mussolini – for the salutes – I get asked to leave around then."
The Boss is at a bit of an impasse. On one hand, he's obliged to offer me some sort of professional development every year, but on the other he doesn't want to agree to anything too technical because at my level that's almost certain to involve a week-long course which will only be offered at some overseas destination.
"So you've never completed a leadership course, then," the Boss asks, seeing an opportunity to bolster his suggestion.
"I've completed several – and have the attendance certificates to prove it," I say, seeing the disappointment in the Boss' eye as he realises my real reasons for plying administrative assistants with alcohol.
"And as a result, what you look for in your leadership role is..." he asks, hoping to trip me up with a trick question.
"Fear," I say. "See, some men lead from the front – inspiring their troops with their ability to 'muck-in' as it were. Others lead from the rear – with carefully thought-out strategies designed to promote victory at minimal cost. I favour the way-way-back-in-the-rear strategy, where accurate artillery shelling and friendly fire are just descriptions of the same thing.
"I'm not sure I follow, but as you know it's company policy to aid you in your professional development and so we'd like to be able to..." the Boss continues.
"What a coincidence you should mention that!" I interrupt. "I only this morning discovered an exciting development opportunity to get the most out of our Virtual Infrastructure by leveraging nearside optimised hybridised resource. It's right up my alley because as you know we're always looking for ways to get the most out of our Infrastructure and we have pantloads of hybridised resource..."
"Oh yes," the Boss says dubiously, but not wanting a technical explanation. "What's the course called?"
"'Getting the most out of your Virtual Infrastructure by Leveraging Nearside Optimised Hybridised resource'," I reply. "It's in Munich, 19th to 25th of September."
"Isn't... that when Oktoberfest is on?"
"Really, Dave? Pure coincidence!"
"Philip. In any case I don't see that we have the budge–"
"Hey, if it makes you feel better I'm sure you have a stack of money set aside for the PFY's professional development as well – and you'll never guess who's never been on a Leadership course. And it's so much better than hiding under your desk waiting for an artillery shell to land in your office."
By the end of a short discussion about the relative combustibility of common workplace items, I am fairly certain that about the time my Munich flight departs, the PFY will be setting his scrotum on fire and reaching for a size 10 Nike TW 15.
Good times. ®