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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Some of the Right Stuff

Monday, November 15, 2004

I had an amazing opportunity last week to hear a informal post-dinner speech from a very senior level executive -- one of the top 20 execs at Fortune 50 company.

His company, like so many at the top of the corporate food chain, has been facing some internal and external turmoil, some pretty serious stuff. In listening to him talk to this group of 20 or so upper-level managers for the company, he spoke of expansion and contraction, shifts in the company, and the possibility of big-time mergers. But none of that really struck a unique chord, neither for me nor anyone else in the group.

When he moved to some of the less Wall St. Journal talk to the more intangible elements of the character of business, the heads came up and leaned in, while the eyes of each person in the group focused in on this leader a bit more sharply.

"We need to move away from this orientation toward making decisions in business according to the rules and the laws, and move more closely to the position of operating from principles." He said that American businesses have seen their reputation in the world market tarnished because other countries and other markets know that if an American company can do something that is technically legal, they will do it, regardless of how hard it smacks in the fact of good business values or principles.

Some people say that behind every bad business decision is a good loophole. In plenty of circles of American business execs, there is the unspoken knowledge -- arrogance and cockiness, really -- that if people are stupid enough to put up their cash and there is a loophole to jump through at the point of legal collapse, then shame on the sucker who just lost his life savings.

Eventually, one would like to think that time will catch up to those who are gaining at the expense of others. But before that happens, what meaning is sent out to the people -- sometimes the thousands of people -- who go to work for that leader every day?

I think about the people who work for the companies that show up on the cover of the New York Times or the Journal and have to face the embarrassment of their leaders' bad or self-serving judgment. What would it look like if these leaders operated from a place of principles versus what they could get away with? We can only wait to see if this leader I saw speak -- or any other leaders in corporate America -- start working from this place of Principles. It would be amazing to see what would happen.
posted by Michael Berger, 7:24 PM | link | 0 comments |
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