Where have all the business leaders gone?

Posted on 04. Jan, 2010 by in Gary's Blog

The economic crisis has sent severe shockwaves through the world-wide business community. This has stimulated relentless reporting on job loss, foreclosures, rising unemployment, companies disappearing overnight, the fragile nature of the stock market, and bailouts of institutions too large to fail. Unthinkable events for a business world wired for positive news and continual growth.

Surprisingly, one of the root causes of the meltdown has received virtually no attention: the stunning absence of good corporate leadership.

Where have the good leaders gone?

Since last November there has been a continuous roll-call of companies announcing major personnel cuts. You don’t need a Harvard MBA to figure out that firing large numbers of people will make the balance sheet look much better.

It seems that individuals at the top of many organizations have lost sight of what leadership is about. They’ve become reactors, mired in day-to-day fire fighting and chasing Wall Street’s expectations (despite clear evidence that Wall Street is a deeply flawed institution).

When the financial picture looks grim they reflexively hit the lay-off button. They’re not spending a lot of effort looking for ways to move their companies forward.

Good leadership is often portrayed as talent that a few people are born with. But the truth is charisma isn’t what good leadership is about. As Herb Kelleher, former Chairman of Southwest Airlines, once told me, “Leadership isn’t brain surgery. It’s really about belief and tenacity. You must believe your employees really DO matter and you must have the personal tenacity to take actions that continually proves this to them particularly when times are tough.” More on this soon.

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