Archive for March, 2018

When someone is hired or elected to lead your company, organization or nation what do you expect? Would you hire someone with a record like this?

Past business behavior. Often failed to honor contract labor obligations. Blamed others for his business failures and bankruptcies. Has an overly pompous and self-righteous reputation. Did not always pay back loans. Investigative journalists have written about the criminal and autocratic background of some associates.

Past personal behavior.  A record of numerous sexual harassment and assault charges. Bragged on tape about groping women. Attacks and bullies adversaries. Lies and exaggerates about accomplishments. Always claims that “only I can do it,” rejecting the value of teamwork. Uses “funny names” to intimidate people.

Current leadership behavior. Attacks the press as fake news while generating fake news himself. Uses Tweets to divert attention from serious issues, or to simply create chaos. Agrees to reasonable solutions in meetings and later abruptly changes his mind. Fails to show respect for predecessors and traditional allies. Pulls out of international agreements with no consultation. Arbitrarily ends regulations without regard for the impact on clean air, the environment, or public safety. Makes statements that create divisions. Often sounds racist. Shows no concern for the hostility that his rhetoric encourages. And craves flattery… making himself vulnerable to manipulation by other heads of state.

Morality and the U.S. Constitution. It has been assumed from the very beginning that our nation’s leaders will affirm a belief in individual freedom, equal justice, opportunity for all, and the pursuit of the greater good… and thus will make personal behavior and governance decisions based on those values. No president has been perfect. But this is the measure by which their place in history will always be determined.

The constitution simply puts forth a set of uniquely American values. It certainly never suggests that a president’s ends can justify any means. The “means” are those positive and opportunity enabling spaces where the American dream can come true for everyone. Thus, our country can return to greatness only when those uniquely American values once again shape the means by which it is led.

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“Out of control” is picking up steam in Washington, and it’s worse than reality TV. It’s using social media to confuse, not communicate. It’s about a president who believes that keeping people guessing is a legitimate leadership strategy. And it’s turning out to be the best example yet of how communication and media chaos can destroy any sense of social order and well-being. Make no mistake. Words really do matter. And the words of top leaders matter a lot.

Just think about it. Periodic bi-partisan White House meetings repeatedly turn out to be no more than reality TV. Twitter feeds always follow to disrupt and create chaos. Then more surprise pronouncements add to the chaos. And in the midst of this mess cabinet members and staff are doing high security work without clearances and squandering taxpayer money on luxury travel and purchases. And this is a White House where complete loyalty is demanded by the person who is creating the mess. No wonder resignations are rapidly mounting up. Constant turmoil eventually becomes unbearable.

Sometime around mid-career I found myself teaching management communication in banks, manufacturing companies, public utilities, and all manner of institutions. We frequently talked about crisis management. But I must admit it was always in the context of a rational CEO with a team of experienced managers developing responses so that the organization would be legitimately seen as knowing what it’s doing! When the purpose of the leader, however, is to create chaos… all rational bets are off!

Ethical leadership and honest teamwork “earn” loyalty. No need to demand it. But when loyalty is demanded and communication is in disarray everyone ends up focusing on their own survival. In private business, trustees can fix such situations. In today’s Washington, there are no rational fixes

In the past, I wrote that city leaders usually become bipartisan and pragmatic because their citizens are right there in their face demanding action. When all is said and done, immigration, homegrown terrorism, police-community relations, drug problems, air pollution, clean water, healthcare, election districts, industry closings, and unemployment, all end up playing themselves out locally.

In the end, maybe the bottom-up pragmatism of cities and NOT the top-down chaos of Washington is our best way forward. If so, when cities show they can produce results, we should pressure Washington into giving them the resources they need.

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