I was reading a couple of articles the other day on China. One was from the perspective of Xi Jinping and whether his actions would eventually bring us to war. Sufficiently depressed I turned the pages to an interview with Henry Kissinger who has been in and out of our foreign policy for the last fifty years and at the age of 93 still holds some sway..at least with His Hairness.
Both have represented history. The former Secretary of State has been of counsel to several presidents from the whacky Dick Nixon to the more conventional Bushes. Interestingly he noted that Obama had never sought his counsel. I wasn’t sure if this was puzzlement or pique. President Xi is part of a 70 year actualization of the writings of Chairman Mao. There have been some interesting twists and turns.
I couldn’t help but muse on the whole concept of leadership. So many movements in history have been created and furthered by one man or one woman. We are not talking about this or that radical sect but entire nations with sometimes billions of people uniting behind one person. Why do we follow at all and often with such reckless abandon?
From all visible signs people want to be led. I am not sure if this is a human failing or if it is baked into our DNA. From birth we love being nurtured and shown the path. It is easier that way and you are not subject to criticism. Someone said man’s three primal needs are to be safe, to belong and to matter. A good leader could fulfill all of those.
But why does someone step out in front of the crowd? He or she has an idea or a creed and by sheer will and charisma is able to effectively convey that and generate enthusiasm for their cause. It makes sense to people. They like what they hear and bang you are off to the races. This can be true in business, Washington or cathedrals, temples and mosques. The election of Trump typifies this. For better or worse people were willing to follow and the supposed pros were caught flatfooted.
That firebrand, management guru or disciple has a choice. They can remember where they from or they can start believing their own press releases. The opiate of power is a strong one. Sensing the popularity of their ideas, they surround themselves with sycophants. The crowds get larger but their inner circle becomes smaller. They reap enormous benefits be they economic or psychological. The largesse and praise heaped upon them only serve to inflate their egos more. Then it is not the cause but themselves that becomes the reason for being.
It’s funny because most do not set out to amass personal benefit. Clergy do not strive to be archbishops and popes. A politico doesn’t eye the Oval Office from the onset. People feel something in their hearts but that falls prey to personal aggrandizement. Principals and morals are compromised and family, friends and decency fall by the wayside. An article in the Harvard business Review noted “The once great, have stopped listening and being open to input from others” The symptoms were:
▪ Lack of humility
▪ Not listening to others
▪ Withdrawing and becoming reclusive
▪ Justifying your position
▪ Lack of openness and objectivity
▪ Not allowing your decisions to be questioned or challenged
Oh ye in higher echelons, does this sound like someone you might know?
The ideal of service enters stage right as the counter to this. You are here because you want to give. You devote your life to helping make people better. You try to make yourself better. You develop leaders everywhere in your organization. They are not a threat but an enhancement. You seek not only value to the shareholders but to the entire entity. You understand the failure or success of your endeavor is the result of the whole team not your prowess as El Supremo. This is of course idealistic and from all sides in the recent election not necessarily in vogue but we have to start somewhere.
Further there is an omnipresent vision of who we are now and where we want to be in the future. There is an enthusiasm and passion to your message. Optimism abounds but is tempered by pragmatism. To this perfect organization there has to be a responsibility taken down to the least employee. They are not only a cog in the wheel they are an integral part subject to both reward and criticism. When they see the product they understand they had a hand in its design or manufacture. They feel empowered and that is an incredible force for innovation as well as ongoing pursuit..
Do these places exist? Of course they do. The top 50 best places to work compiled by Business Insider cover the spectrum from technology to energy to pharmaceuticals to consumer products. In perusing the list there seems to be a combination of factors ranging from a reasonable balance of work and private life to philanthropy and wellness. 3M has for many years fostered the ability among its workers to come up with new and different ideas. Leadership has been creative and practical and their stock price represents inherent value rather than squeezing every last drop of blood from the stone.
Leadership takes many forms from the management suites to the shop floors. You can see it in school boards to neighborhood associations. Enthusiasm in contagious and the results become all the more phenomenal if the majority jumps in rather than letting someone else do it. Get out of your seat and take part. As the saying goes, “If you ain’t the lead dog the view is always the same”.
Ted The Great
Leaders are not necessarily born. They rise in response to certain occasions.This is where some lead and some follow. In other words, to really become a good leader, one must be put in the position of having to step up to the plate.
Several Leaders of sorts had interesting starting assignments:
Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic was a record producer
Dmitri Medvedev of Russia was a street cleaner.
Pope Francis was a nightclub bouncer
Angela Merkel of Germany was a barmaid
Mark Cuban was a disco dance instructor
Adolf Hitler was a wallpaper hanger
Mao Tse Tung was an assistant librarian at the Univ of Peking
As per Mark Twain,”We are all perfect just at different things.”
As Per Groucho Marx,”Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.
Speaking of women: A detailed study by the Harvard Business Review of some 7800 superiors,peers and subordinates ranked executives in 16 different categories of leadership. Women surpassed men in 12 of the 16. Today’s workforce starts at 50/50 men vs women but winnows to where women make up only 3-4% of CEO positions. Sorry guys but their effectiveness rate is far superior to men. Almost four in ten businesses in G7 countries have no women in senior management positions. Globally, the proportion of senior business roles held by women stands at 24% Not good. I guess all this will get me a one way ticket out of the fraternity house.