Mintzberg: Who Will Fix the US Economy?

The place to start is America’s executive suites, which should be cleared of mercenaries in order to encourage real leadership. That is the easy part: get rid of the obscene compensation packages and watch the mercenaries disappear. People who care about building and sustaining decent enterprises – and who understand that doing so is a team exercise ­– can then take over. (…)

Public support should be shifted from protecting large established corporations to encouraging the growth of newer enterprises. And startups should be discouraged from rushing into the embrace of the stock market’s short-sighted analysts and many an established corporation should be encouraged to escape that embrace. At the same time, regulation and taxation should be used to rein in disruptive day trading and other exploitative speculation that crowds out sustainable investment and disrupts regular business activities.

Above all, what the American economy needs now are managers who know and care about their businesses. Armies of MBAs who have been trained to manage everything in general but nothing in particular are part of the problem, not the solution.

via Project Syndicate.

Life lessons delivered on sidelines

Besides coach, he’s also a de facto dad. A builder of character. A shoulder on which to cry. And, when necessary, a kick in the pants.

There is what you do in the position.

And there is who you choose to be in the position.

via Bloomberg.

When “a perfect storm” is actually a failure of leadership

A bit of unsolicited advice to business executives trying to explain why their company or their industry is suddenly in the soup:

Please spare us the “perfect storm” metaphor.

It’s hackneyed, for starters. It doesn’t square with the facts. And for people who fancy themselves leaders, it’s downright unbecoming.

The reason the perfect storm is such an appealing metaphor for these shipwrecked captains of industry is that it appears to let them off the hook. After all, who can blame you if the ship goes down in one of those freak, once-in-a-century storms that result when three weather systems collide? It’s an act of nature that nobody could have predicted — or so the story goes. (…)

The first thing to understand about the perfect-storm defense is that these guys actually buy into this nonsense. (…)  The second thing to understand is that, fundamentally, they’re wrong. (…)

What capsized the economy was not a perfect storm but a widespread failure of business leadership — a failure that is only compounded when executives refuse to take responsibility for their misjudgments and apologize.

via Steven Pearlstein at The Washington Post.

Wall Street’s lack of leadership

If Wall Street were truly serious about convincing Main Street that we’re all in this together, its top executives would have stepped before the cameras yesterday and promised not to cut lines of credits to long-standing business customers who have never missed a payment.

They would have committed themselves not to foreclose on any homeowner who is willing and able to refinance into a new, government-guaranteed, fixed-rate mortgage set at 85 percent of the current value of the property.

They would have offered to suspend dividend payments until capital levels had been restored to pre-crisis levels.

They would have given us their solemn promise not to advise clients to hold on to their own investments while quietly dumping whatever they can from their own portfolios and shorting every security in sight.

With the Treasury now desperate for help in managing its new rescue efforts, they would have volunteered, at no cost to taxpayers, the services of some of those investment bankers and financial wizards who now don’t have much else to do.

And the maharajas of finance could have set a wonderful example if they had all gotten together and agreed to work for a dollar a year until the crisis has passed.

More at Steven Pearlstein – washingtonpost.com

Developmental levels of leadership

My friend Maureen recently published a short article that discusses:

What is a “Level 5” Leader? How many levels are there? How would I measure developmental levels including “Level 5”? How will understanding “Level 5” leadership impact my organization’s success? How can I use this information to become more successful?

A worthy source for developmental levels of leadership in general and Level 5 leadership in particular.

Do you understand what I’m doing?

For six years, it was a perquisite that the Home Depot chief executive, Robert Nardelli, could not do without: a catered lunch for his top deputies, served daily on the 22nd floor of the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.

But several days into his tenure as Nardelli’s successor, Frank Blake quietly abolished the free meal, telling senior executives to take the elevator down to the first floor and buy their own lunches with the rank and file in the cafeteria, according to an employee.

It is the kind of symbolic gesture that has come to define Blake’s short time as head of the largest U.S. home improvement retailer as he tries to distance himself from the tumultuous reign of Nardelli, who was ousted several weeks ago over his sky-high pay package and authoritarian style.

Blake’s message could not be any less subtle: the era of the imperial chief executive at Home Depot is over.

To underscore the point, Blake has distributed an old company icon, called the Inverted Pyramid, that lays out the retailer’s hierarchy, with customers and employees above the chief executive on the bottom. (IHT).

See also a NYT article.

How do you set people on fire?

[from a blog that I am closing] Why is persuasion so difficult, and what can you do to set people on fire? A master storyteller believes that executives can engage listeners on a whole new level if they toss their PowerPoint slides and learn to tell good stories instead.

In his best-selling book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, published in 1997 by HarperCollins, Robert McKee (the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer) argues that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living—not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.” A digest of thoughts appeared in a HBS Working Knowledge interview.

The book is almost 10 years old but the message remains relevant because it addresses a “profound human need”.

Related entries:
Speaking is NOT writing

Presentations and that creature called PowerPoint