This time I’d like to try and find an answer to questions that have been on my mind for quite some time, and rise to the top when I look at the news. They relate to leadership and specifically so called leaders in the top of the corporate or political world that only seem to be out to enrich themselves. What drives these people, what are they looking for. As I write this, there are new stories breaking about managers granting themselves enormous amounts of money – even in this day and age and even after the government has had to bail them out with billions of government/taxpayer’s money. The latest example is the private jet that Citi is buying – yes, they say it was on order for a long time and they would lose millions by cancelling on delivery now – but hey, they have to pay much more then a few millions if they DO take delivery! And yes, they say they’ll pay for it with other money then the government support – but again, they would not have had that money if the government had not bailed them out…And their first responsibility should be to help their customers, not themselves. What do all these people do to deserve the massive amounts of money they claim as a salary, why do they deserve to be, or remain in the position they are in. Self reflection clearly does not come into their thinking – the mirror they see is only meant to check how good they look on the outside.
The most recent example of political leaders that seem to have lost all sense of reality is the Governor of Illinois, Blagojevich, who – despite taped discussions by the FBI – continued to claim he had done nothing wrong and used every single media channel he could find to tell the people that Illinois needed him. Or take Poetin changing the law of his country because he feels he is irreplaceable and necessary for his country, perhaps even the world. And I get the same feeling when I hear that New York is considering changing it regulations in order to allow Bloomberg to go for another term.
Who is responsible for giving these people a sense of reality? Ensure that they see life as it is. What have they done to rise to the top – displayed creativity and entrepreneurship or simply done everything everyone asked of them and kept out of trouble long enough to remain standing (I will grant exception here to Bloomberg who started out by founding a great company). What remains of the ideals and enthusiasm these people had at the outset? After four years or so – it often simply becomes a matter of preserving and consolidating their power, rather then wanting to help others. By gathering people around them that tell them how great they are, instead of finding those that are open and honest enough to tell them why they are not. They all start believing in their own greatness, instead of holding on to a sense of humility towards the people who got them to the position they are in.
The same is often seen in family businesses – where the founding CEO holds on to power until his son or daughter is ready. Irrespective of whether his or her offspring is actually capable of being a good leader or not. In this way, they limit the future potential of the company itself and block every other talent in the company that might have meant great things. Talent leaves as it knows it has no chance of proving its worth in a situation like this.
I put to you that it isn’t good for any leader, whatever scenario, to remain in power for too long. The saying that Power Corrupts is based on truth, I strongly believe that after about 7 years it is time for new blood, new ideas, new energy and motivation. Unfortunately, people at the top rarely have or exercise the (self) knowledge to allow this to happen.
In this day and age of Personal Branding (another great term to hide behind) does not always bring out the best in people. In my opinion it is about the company and its people first and only much further down about its leaders. How do we ensure that leaders continue to look at themselves with honesty and make way for new ideas and creativity in time. No dynasties of leaders, but choices made on creativity, innovation and true entrepreneurship. Someone will have to tell them that it is time to go….but who?