Posted 21 December 2009
Again the season of pious
words and dirty deeds is upon us. Why is it always in the run-up
to Christmas that business leaders go to great lengths to
pretend that they are not remotely arrogant, ruthless and almost
monomanically selfish, but knowledgeable, caring, inclusive …
indeed terribly good with people, cuddly pets, colour
coordination and ikebana?
Why do they, year after year,
force that hypocritical spiel upon their underlings? Don’t they
know that they know? Even as the lower ranks get drunk on eggnog
and snog behind the filing cabinet at Christmas parties, the
selfsame lower ranks know only too well that task forces are
already at work drawing up lists which jobs will be axed after
It amazes me that business
leaders seem to believe that people are too thick to distinguish
between their words and their deeds. Actually, people tend to
learn very quickly that every time their bosses tell them “be
realistic” they are asking them to compromise their ideals.
That’s why people do not buy
into their leaders’ pious words. Just watching telly in the
evening has made them realise that actions and responsibility
have been separated. Leaders cock up and still walk away with a
golden handshake, while investors lose their money and employees
It’s the disconnection of
actions from responsibility that has contributed to our current
Yet, without a realignment of
the two, there will be no respect. Without respect no trust. And
without trust no sense of community.
Societies, like companies,
aren’t held together because people share a common destiny as
frustrated unmotivated cynics waiting to get out at the next
opportunity. People do not want to be kept on their toes or
like to feel stretched. If they did, they would not have donned
a suit and joined a company but would have auditioned for a
corps de ballet and run around as men in tights.
Philosophers say that what
binds us to each other is our shared belief that there is a
moral purpose to it all, that our behaviour should be governed
by what is right rather than by the consideration “can I get
away with it”?
There are no guarantees that
the gap between actions and responsibility, between what is and
what ought to be, can be closed. But it is up to us to try.
Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General
Electric, said recently: “Leaders do share a common
responsibility to narrow the gap between the weak and the
strong. The residue of the past was a more individualistic
"win-lose" game. The 21st century is about building bigger and
diverse teams: teams that accomplish tough measures with a
culture of respect."
He said it all: respect,
trust, responsibility are at the heart of progress.
february 09 ·