Hidden Lessons in Leadership #11

Dan Rosensweig, in a recent New York Times interview with Adam Bryant, says he is influenced by entrepreneurs—company founders like Jerry Yang and David Filo of Yahoo—he has worked with who developed companies with cultures reflective of “energy, enthusiasm and unbridled passion for what’s possible.”  As Dan explains, “founders simply ask what needs to be done and what’s the best way to do it.” Continue reading

Revenue Falls But Profits Soar

The headline in the July 26, 2010 New York Times read “Industries Find Surging Profits in Deeper Cuts.”   The article, using Harley-Davidson as illustration of cost cutting practices at many corporations, reports that although sales revenues are falling profits are soaring.  For example, Harley-Davidson experienced $71 million profit in the second quarter which is three-times what it had in the previous year.

So what are the practices of many corporations that produce soaring profits from falling sales? Continue reading

Awaken Self-Leadership

There seems to be quite a bit of banter about leadership on social networks, blogs, and popular business books.  I suspect it is all in an effort to satisfy a huge unmet need. This need has been unmet for a very long time and it will likely remain so, assured by an almost epidemic absence of critical thinking. Wishing for someone to step up to extract us from the mess we’ve created, and continue to perpetuate, is just fanciful thinking.

We each must awaken to the fact that our future is decided (by each of us) now, not sometime later. Continue reading

Innovation Requires Being Creative

A 2008 New York Times article told of how G.M. sacrificed innovation for profits.  The article stated “G.M.’s biggest failing, reflected in a clear pattern over recent decades, has been its inability to strike a balance between those inside the company who pushed for innovation ahead of the curve, and the finance executives who worried more about returns on investment.”   Realizing that continued failure to innovate is the path to extinction, how has G.M. responded? Continue reading

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #10

In saying, “I believe that it is not about me…it’s very much about the team”, Linda Heasley, President and CEO of The Limited, concisely expresses her philosophy of leadership.  Underlying this position on leadership is the fact that leadership involves We and not Me. Continue reading

Crisis of Will

In light of the recent difficulties we’ve been experiencing  (e.g. Big Bank Failure, Big Oil Spill) there can be little doubt that we live in very interesting times.  Though we may have experienced similar challenges in the past, today’s challenges are surely bigger and more far-reaching than ever before.  Our technology has afforded us far-reaching capability, but unfortunately the development of our system of orientation and corresponding sense of responsibility has not kept pace. Continue reading

Leading for Greatness

Assuming that personal greatness is greatness of ‘self’, the pursuit of greatness necessarily begins with an understanding of who we are. Most people will choose to define him/her self by his/her role (or position) in society; a father, a mother, a vice-president, a CEO, an accountant, a lawyer, a consultant, a businessperson, a basketball player or a farmer. In a society where material wealth and competitive individualism are honored, we are led to translate the concept of personal greatness into winning within and among these various roles.  So by defining one’s self in relation to the roles we assume we can’t help but to focus attention externally—outwardly and not inwardly—we actually lose sight of who we are.

In our society, amassing material wealth and personal greatness have become correlates if not synonyms.  In effect, we spend our lives striving to play the more socially revered roles; we yearn to have a career, to be something, to have more. But is this really synonymous with being a great person?

As long as we define our self by externalities—by position or possessions—we will never be secure.  Not only will we likely never know our true self—the human being we truly are—our sense of self will be quite precarious.  An externally referenced self-identity will always be in question, for whatever career we choose, rank we attain, and wealth we acquire can be lost or taken away.  With this threat ever present we are tossed about in a sea of fear and doubt, forever feeling compelled to have more and to be something more.  We can never have enough.

As we believe our main purpose is to excel in a career, we neglect greatness in living, and thus never realize our fullest potential; we never achieve true personal greatness.  We never quite get to being and becoming what we potentially are.

Why is this distinction between socially conditioned superiority and greatness in living important?  Our life, no matter how we choose to live, affects the lives of others; it affects those not only near us but those who will come after us.

The history of humankind is an accounting of the consequences from the choices individuals have made in their journey along the path toward either greatness or superiority.  Greatness requires choosing to seek to enhance the living of life in and through our existence and to not be led to seek to enhance the existence of things in life.  Achieving personal greatness in life requires letting go of the irrational desire to define life by things external to life.  To add value through our very being—to lead in life—we must begin to value life itself.  Perhaps if those in positions of authority had this understanding—and we cooperated with only those who had—conditions in society might support far more greatness.

Responsible Business

What is the ethical, social or environmental responsibility of business?   The answer to this question rests on whether or not organizations are machines of commerce, profit-producing instruments. The law of corporations says they are run primarily in the interest of stockholders, the responsibility is fiduciary. Let’s assume that this is indeed the case; that they are profit-producing instruments.

A hammer—a tool for driving a nail—has no ethical, social or environmental responsibility.  Neither does an automobile, an instrument for transportation.  It seems then the organization has no more of a responsibility than any other instrument or tool.  However the one employing the instrument does! Continue reading