By Randy Luckie, 8/24/2018
Leadership, what is it really?
This is a very interesting question that many, may, immediately grasp onto, especially if they are seeking to climb up the corporate ladder. If you could just open up the right book, or take the right class, then that next CEO job could be yours for the taking. And, to be sure, there are those out there claiming they can give you just that… for the right price.
Leadership is the skill set that any person, or group of people, in charge of getting persons or groups to a specific result. They may be a CEO, or a project manager, a manager, head of household or any of a whole host of other conditions that require the skills. They may be hired for the role, they may be appointed, promoted or elected for the role. It could be that they just have that personality that everyone else just recognizes and responds to by natural instinct.
But it isn’t just for business either. For all of us, most likely, there will be times we need these skills. And, also true is that it is a set of skills needed, depending on the result needed, some of which might require some forms of education. It could be as complicated as getting man to the moon, where teams and teams of people are needed to reach the goal, or as simple as Mom, or Dad, getting three kids bathed and in the bed at night. It could be just you needing to get your creative-self into gear to complete your project.
However, there is an underlying plank to the whole idea of leadership that can’t be bought at any price. It is a simple question of moral ethics. Without that foundation, good leadership can never really be obtained, from Harvard, Yale, Cambridge or any other educational facility. I might even argue that the higher you go in formal education in today’s environments, the less likely you are to be a really good leader, unless you have that moral, ethical underpinning to begin with. In your creative world, it will determine if you have an real, honest work of your own.
What did the man say?
Here is a quote from Peter Drucker, a man who is the inventor of Management by Objectives and Self Control…
Here, the father of modern corporate structure, among many other things, is saying that a leader has to do the right thing. He even included self-control as part of the formula cited above. This certainly points to the need of a moral ethic in leading a business. The Oxford Dictionaries defines self-control as:
Noun-the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.
Next, here is a quote by Nelson Mandela. Consider for a moment, if the Shepard he speaks of below is a wolf, or a liar, or a cheater, or, otherwise less than morally ethical. Then, how could this quote have any validity? If leader is any of these things, the flock has very little hope of making it to the next green pasture….
“A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”- Nelson Mandela
…Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred
Here are a few notable military quotes on the subject. When it comes to military matters, with life and death in the mix, it seems the stakes are much higher than if your stock went up or down. These people had a great deal of responsibility resting on their leadership.Notice how each of these quotes point in the same directions about the role of leadership.
“The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.”
– General Colin Powell
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
– General Dwight D. Eisenhower
What’s wrong with ‘I got mine’?
In today’s world, which is moving by so fast, we are faced with all types of situations that require us to lead, be it our own decisions, our family’s decisions, or giant mega-corporate decisions that affects thousands of folks. Good results will have to have this moral and ethical underpinning, otherwise, disaster awaits with loving arms.
Consider this excerpt from an article by Max de Haldevang from Oct. 24, 2017. It appeared on Quartz at Work website. For me, what can be seen, in the big picture way, though Tim Sloan, CEO of Wells Fargo, in an article on Fox Business News, seemed to push the responsibility down the chain, is that the leadership was the responsibility in this, as it always is. I come away with the distinct feeling that if they hadn’t been caught and called out on it, it would still be going on. Ultimately, it seems you would have to ask, who set the goals and who were the examples of behavior for the down-chain workers (like, “our retail group”) he pushes at in this excerpt below? I still can’t see a commercial for the organization today without thinking of these woefully unethical behaviors.
Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan didn’t mince his words last month when reflecting on why the biggest banking scandal of 2016 was caused by his firm: ”We had an incentive plan in our retail banking group that drove inappropriate behavior,” he said.
The bank held employees to quotas for the number of new customers they signed up and the number of accounts they had to open each day and paid a big chunk of wages in bonuses linked to how well they did according to those goals. Perhaps unsurprisingly, workers ended up creating as many as 3.5 million fraudulent accounts, on which the bank then charged fees to real customers.
It isn’t just a US thing, either, here is another example, Jeff Fairburn, of Persimmon Homes in the UK. This guy got a 1,000,000 pound bonus in a single year as the company rose in stock price, largely based on a government program for low income home buyers (sound familiar?)
Excerpt from article on Independent.co.uk by Ben Chapman:
Mr Fairburn was initially awarded shares worth more than £100m in 2017 but after public outcry he agreed to reduce it to £75m… The £75m bonus is equivalent to the annual earnings of 4,100 staff on the Real Living Wage.
The wages of four thousand people! When Jeff was interviewed, he walked off and ended the interview when asked about this. Here is the point though, his view was (paraphrased by me) … it was available, and the company grew, so he deserved it by the rules/incentives in place. However, the bricklayers, sheet-rock guys, roofers, and all the other real money makers of the business got nothing of that and the company is having financial difficulties only a year later. But hey, who got hurt, right? The answer is the homeowner who got foreclosed and the labored who built the home, both. It isn’t a victimless crime at work here.
I can’t help but conclude this points to a serious lack of moral and ethical underpinning. It seems to me had those values I am speaking of had been in place, 75,000,000 pounds could have been used by the company in much more helpful ways for the company, right down to the bricklayer, including real help for low income buyers. If you were to pay top wages to the craft people, you would have the best skills available for your product and your reputation would insure your future. Funny how that works. Instead, this guy walks with a ton of money, and the brick layer is looking for work.
Right and Wrong, Right?
If a guy wrote a book, say, and sold so many copies he made seventy-five million, I would applaud the accomplishment, full of admiration of the feat. If a leader of a company did it, and the general welfare of the entire organization reaped the benefits, again, I would applaud the effort and point to the brilliant leadership. But if you make it off the backs of others, as a leader of those others, and claim you did it by your own tenacity, or simply by using rules you knew were wrong, all the while, seeing the craft people’s lives unchanged, or worse, out of work, and seeing the company in financial ruin, then there is no glory in that feat by any accounting.
This brings us back to leadership and the main requirement needed for success in any venture. A true leader will inspire those around them to strive for excellence by example. If the leader exhibits rightful actions and decisions, and weeds out all others, then the organization will flourish in most cases. This sort of leader will have the ability to see that reputation and quality will ensure long term success and sustainability while never considering jacking the stock price up so you can jump out of the plane with a golden parachute just before the fatal impact.
In the world of creativity, even with just you, these keys can be applied, too. It is true that we copy general ideas and structures from others, because, there is nothing new under the sun, but if we craft them with our own voice and vision, they become ours in the process. We can’t write the first book or paint the first portrait, those have been done a long time ago. But we can say, I read a book, and I want to write one, or I saw a painting and I want to paint one. If we employ good leadership in the effort, we end up with something that is ours. If we do that time and time again, we might be the one to inspire someone else to do it, too!