Monday AM October 1st, 2007

Houstonian delivers another business book in "The Truth About..." series...TXDOT warns about lack of funding for new highway projects...New Braunfels gears up for Wurstfest...

The Truth About Being a LeaderHouston-based writer and consultant Dr. Karen Otazo Hofmeister has written another book for the business community in the Prentice Hall "Truth About..." series called The Truth About Being a Leader. She's the wife of Shell Oil President John Hofmeister.

"After you work with a thousand leaders, you say 'here are the patterns,' and these patterns are powerful. Plus I live with a leader that I'm always observing and thinking about! I am so lucky to be able to just talk things over with him all the time. 'There's an issue going on, and let's talk about this.' And then, so I give my ideas, and he, it's a wonderful partnership. It's so much fun that we're actually writing a book together. And the book is 'a leader is a needle sewing thread.' Because he loves to sew together disparate ideas from different people, pull together lots of input and pull parts of his company together so they work more faithfully together. He loves to do that, and I love it. And so we're writing this together 'cause it's so much fun to talk about all these things. He's a big thinker. He has wonderful ideas I'm a very punchy, 'make-it-simple' kind of author. So we talk, he writes up his big ideas and then I go in and distill it and make it readable and real."

Is a leader born, or made?

"(laughs) Well, I'd say a little of both! But, you're born with certain tendencies and abilities, so yes, experiences can change you. Yes, it's easier if you're an extrovert—let me put it quite bluntly—it's easier. But you know what? It's not necessary."

Otazo's book is written for leaders everywhere—leaders of corporations, leaders of nations.

"I would like leaders around the world to take away the things that make a difference to them. I want people to look at this and say 'Wow! I now understand why it's so important to be careful about how I brainstorm, because some people will be put off—people like engineers and accountants. This brainstorming stuff that marketers love to use, that actually sounds like BS to them! And so it's important to lay out the parameters."

Otazo says female leaders can have a harder time, such as Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard.

"We have an expectation in most cultures that women will be warm and nurturing and motherly. Actually, she's not. She's a very smart, cold, focused exec. We do not tolerate that as well in women as we do in men. People disliked her, not because she didn't make the right decisions, but because she didn't connect enough with people so that they felt that they were included.."

Otazo says one trait that leaders all over the world have is that they connect with people. Hofmeister has also written The Truth About Managing Your Career.

Don't expect any new road projects in Texas after fiscal 2008--unless there's a change in state policy. The update came from Texas Department of Transportation officials in Austin. The 2007 legislature cut off most private toll road contracts with TXDOT, while declining to raise gas tax. Commissioner Ned Holmes, during a panel meeting, said that within a very short period of time, there will be no money for "mobility projects.'' Officials also cited cutbacks in federal funding and use of transportation money for other state spending. By fiscal 2011, TXDOT will have only enough money to maintain roads and pay debt service on bonds sold in the past couple of years that are backed by gas tax money. Most projects take three years or more to complete. So officials say fiscal 2008--which began September 1st--is the last in which new projects would begin.

A federal court has ordered an October 18th auction for the bankrupt Lajitas Resort. The 25,000-acre west Texas development near Big Bend has yet to fulfill its owner's vision as a popular exclusive desert getaway. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ronald King ordered the sale to satisfy more than $16 million owed to creditors. The auction will be held in San Antonio. Austin multimillionaire Steve Smith bought the property at auction in 2000 for about $4.5 million. He filed for bankruptcy protection in July. The 92-room resort and surrounding property--called the ultimate hideout resort--have been appraised by the Brewster County Appraisal District at about $16 million. The property also includes a jet strip and is home to a famous beer-drinking goat named Clay Henry III that serves as the town's mayor.

Any old town can have its own Oktoberfest. But the German-settled central Texas city of New Braunfels waits till a little later in the fall to honor a specific piece of its Deutsch heritage--the sausage. The city has been holding "Wurstfest: the 10-day salute to sausage,'' for 46 years. A large, lush park near a spring-fed river transforms every fall into the international center of Gemutlichkeit--that is, fun and fellowship, German style. The fest kicks off with the traditional "biting of the sausage'' and always begins on the Friday before the first Monday in November. This year, that's November 2nd. But why Wurst, the German word for sausage? The town began the event in 1961 as a one-day "sausage festival.'' Since then, the festival has evolved into the longer event that draws as many as 200,000 revelers. The main attraction is the Wursthalle. The cavernous, table-lined former cottonseed warehouse is where people eat and drink the delectables they bought at the marktplatz. It's also one of several places to catch the entertainment, which this year will include bands from both Germany and Austria. Two nearby tents offer other German-themed entertainment. There's also a traditional outdoor biergarten, waltz and polka contests, and a spasshaus or "fun house,'' a bar whose windows are lined with thousands of old beer bottles.

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