There is something about leaders of old that may set them apart from many of the leaders that we encounter today.  Simply put, a sense of vision or purpose.  Let me break this down into six specific concepts.

  1. Desire to make a difference
  2. vision that transcends the “bottom line”
  3. A purpose greater than the individual
  4. A pride in results that demands accountability
  5. A love for reason
  6. In it for the long haul

1.  A desire to make a difference

When each of these leaders embarked upon their journey to greatness, they were driven by something more than greed.  They believed they could make a difference in the world with the products or services they were providing.  They believed they had something to offer to the world, not just to stockholders.  Tom Watson Sr. believed he could make companies run more efficiently through the use of his tabulating equipment.  Walt Disney believed he could make people’s lives brighter by providing them with different forms of entertainment that were uplifting.

2.  A vision that transcended the “Bottom Line”.

While these guys were clearly in it to make a profit, they were first driven by a vision that was far greater than a price/earnings ratio.  Today the world is far more technologically complex than during the industrial era.  This can sometimes cause vision to be a bit more elusive.  For that reason alone, the leader has a more difficult task today in communicating, and getting buy-in to that vision.  For that reason, I will devote an entire section of this book on communicating vision.

So what is the “Bottom Line”?

In order for a leader’s organization to achieve greatness, there needs to be a strong sense of purpose that is; easily communicated, something that the entire organization can relate to, and is bigger than any one individual.  In other words, it cannot be the “bottom line”!    The “bottom line” or financial strength of an organization is only a symptom of the organization’s strength.  Making a strong balance sheet the purpose or objective of the organization is about as effective as trying to maintain a body temperature of 98.6 degrees.

It is quite possible that an individual could make it their personal goal to ensure that their body temperature remains at 98.6 degrees.  After all, we know that if the human body moves away from that temperature for long it can be fatal.  What is interesting about that objective or purpose is that you could go for some time thinking that it is working just fine.  In fact, as long as there is no extended fever or hypothermia, you could be convinced that the purpose is serving you quite well.  However, if the body becomes diseased in some way that causes the body temperature to rise, things would get interesting.  You might be able to bring it back to normal through specific intervention for some period of time, but unless you treat the condition that is causing it to deviate, the body will eventually fail. The financial health of an organization is nothing more than an indicator of its overall health, yet many corporate executives today would tell you that at least one of their primary purposes, goals or objectives is profitability.  It is no wonder they are having difficulty inspiring a shared vision among their people! This realization came to me after many years in the computer technology industry as a financial executive.  While many of my colleagues still consider my point of view flawed and possibly heretical, I have seen many organizations wither and die by believing that financial health was a sufficient objective or purpose to ensure a thriving and growing business.  I have witnessed first hand that this approach will work only for a short period of time.  Ultimately an organization must have a purpose that transcends the financial results, and you can take that to the bank!  Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to corporate America.  We are seeing it in government leaders, church leaders and families.  It is a disease that is reaching epidemic proportions.  It is a disease I refer to it as the no growth syndrome.

The No Growth Syndrome

The no growth syndrome is the antithesis of “build it and they will come”.  In the 1980s movie “Field of Dreams”, the main character, played by actor Kevin Costner, hears a voice that keeps telling him that if he will just build it they will come.  After a series of humorous events, our hero realizes that he is supposed to build a baseball park in the middle of his rural Iowa farm.  Inspired by that still small voice, he ignores a level of criticism from the town folk and family members similar to what Noah endured when he built the Ark, and destroys his primary source of income (his cornfield) to build the ballpark.  If he had followed conventional wisdom, listened to his peers and focused on protecting his investments, he would have rationalized the voice in his head as stemming from the result of a previous head injury.  After all, should not his primary objective be to “make a living”?  Not this guy.  His objective was to MAKE A DIFFERENCE!  The minute an organization shifts their focus from striving to “make a difference” to trying to “making a living” they are assured of experiencing the no growth syndrome.  If this sounds unlikely to you, think back to the example you selected as your great leader and ask yourself if their driving motivation was to make a living or to make a difference.  Ask yourself the following question: when I hear someone say, “I’m just trying to make a living” does it inspire in you a sense that you are in the presence of a great leader?  I think not.  In fact, it conjures in my mind someone who takes little pride in his or her work, which brings me to the fourth characteristic of a great leader.

Willing to Risk “Everything” for the Vision

Leaders are often so captivated by their vision, they are willing to risk everything to see it fulfilled.  In some cases these people are not, by nature, risk-takers.  In fact, many effective leaders I know are risk adverse in other areas of their lives.  The same individual who is willing to mortgage his home to invest in a vision he or she believes in is not willing to gamble in a casino.  How can this be?  It is simple.  When the vision is big enough, mortgaging the house to see it come to fruition is a small risk to take.  In fact, if a leader believes strongly enough in the vision, she becomes so convinced of its success that it is viewed as no risk at all.  Earlier in this book I gave the example of Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader who had a vision.  His vision was so strong that we were willing to risk everything—even his life—to communicate it and see it come about.

3.  A purpose greater than the individual.

This is an area that requires special attention, because I truly believe it is one of the main ingredients of a successful leader.  Earlier in this book we talked about Mother Teresa.  No matter how impressed you are with her, she is merely one person.  If that one person had defined a purpose that she alone could accomplish, the world would not know who she is.  Mother Teresa was able to describe a purpose simple enough, yet global enough to inspire many people to want to follow her.  Even though she, like many great leaders, started small, her vision was anything but small.  Her purpose extended beyond Calcutta to all of humankind, and it was a purpose with which people could relate no matter where they lived, or their station in life.  It was a purpose bigger than Mother Teresa.  In an interview with Edward Desmond from Time Magazine Mother Teresa had this to say when asked if she had special qualities.

“I don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It is his work. I am like a little pencil in his hand. That is all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.”[1]

Many contemporary business consultants would tell Mother Teresa that her objective was far too broad, and that she needed to target her purpose to a specific “niche” opportunity.  They would tell her that with this broad objective she and all those around her would become overwhelmed and quickly discouraged.  The first order of advice would be to “more clearly define your target opportunity, lay out a specific set of goals by quarter, and do not over-extend.”

The fundamental flaw in this logic is that it assumes that the leader executing the plan is more significant and influential than the purpose. It is a very common pitfall and it is as old as humankind is.  Jewish history tells us that when God gave Moses the assignment to lead the Israelites from captivity, Moses had the same reaction that contemporary leaders have today.  Moses was able to come up with an entire litany of reasons why the objective was bigger than he was.  What Moses was saying is that he believed that the success of the mission was solely dependent on Moses.  He neglected to recognize that God’s purpose was greater than any one individual.  An individual that believes that the purpose is no greater than his or her self is doomed to failure!  One of the best examples of this in this recent history is Adolph Hitler.

Regardless of his hideous actions, Adolph Hitler had many attributes of a great leader.  He was able to communicate a vision of hope and prosperity for Germany at a time in their history when they felt hopelessness and despair.  He had a passion for a New World order that extended far beyond the boundaries of Germany, and he was able to inspire a shared vision among his immediate followers, and a large part of an entire nation.  However, he had his flaws, and fortunately one proved fatal to his objective.  He began to believe that he was bigger than the purpose!  Once that occurred, the purpose became severely curtailed.  Said differently, instead of the purpose becoming bigger than life, Hitler fell under the illusion that he was bigger than life.  Truly great leaders are able to recognize that they are insignificant when compared to the purpose they were called to carry out.  That conjures a word that is not often associated with leaders in the 1990’s—humility!  As I am writing this book, Mother Teresa has passed on.  As she approached death, I would assert that she did not despair because she knew that her ministry would continue long after she is gone.  Why?  Because she never lost her perspective regarding the significance of her self versus that of her purpose.

4. A Pride that Demands Accountability

This characteristic is often misunderstood on two counts—pride and accountability.  In fact many of us view pride as something that is in direct conflict with humility.  I am not referring to the kind of “chest pounding” pride that comes from a sense that we are somehow better than our neighbor, opponent, or competitor.  That is a false self-centered pride that is often associated with folks who start believing some of their own “press”.  Instead, I am referring to the deep sense of personal pride that comes from hard-earned accomplishment.  With leaders, that deep sense of pride is more often directed toward their team than toward themselves.

If you have worked in an organization or been a part of a team or organization that has possessed this type of pride, you know exactly what I am talking about.  Another lesson I have learned in over 30 years of business experience is that there are really only two ways to effectively motivate good people over time.  One of those ways is through money and many would argue that money alone is ineffective.  One of the great baseball pitchers in modern times is Nolan Ryan.  In his book Miracle Man: Nolan Ryan the Autobiography, Ryan recounts his experience when playing for the Houston Astros, after leaving the California Angels.  Even though he was making more money and was very successful at Houston he left and went back to California for a very simple reason.  He felt that he was not being appreciated at Houston, and that he was being treated as a commodity rather than an athlete.  In his book he described how many of the owners and fans believe that since the ball players are making so much money to play a game, they should not require anything else to continue to be productive.  Ryan argues that money alone is not enough to motivate good people to continue to produce excellent results over the long run.  The second and more effective way to motivate people to continually produce excellent results is to make them believe they are a part of something very important, and that there is something very unique and special about them and the team to which they belong.  It is no wonder why the United States military refers to some of their organizations as Special Forces or elite teams.  In those organizations the leaders continually ask ordinary individuals from “Small Town” America to do extraordinary things, and they repeatedly do them because they believe in themselves and their teammates.  I cannot over-emphasize the significance of being part of a very unique team.

Stop for a moment and reflect on the images that are conjured in your mind when you hear the following phrases:

  • The Marines
  • Navy Seals
  • Green Beret
  • Special Forces

Does it conjure up images of something special?  Do you think of highly trained, highly talented teams with very specialized skills that are in some ways bigger than life?  Most people will answer yes to those questions, and for some it even evokes an emotional response—a pride.  In reality, the teams that I have mentioned are mostly made up of young men, still below the legal drinking age from “Small Town” USA.  If we note the contrast between the two images it helps to answer the frequently asked question, “what’s in a name”?  However, the reason these names conjure a sense of pride is because they have repeatedly demonstrated results—a sense of accomplishment.  In order for this sense of accomplishment to be genuine, there must be accountability for the results throughout the entire organization.

Accountability must start with the leader and flow throughout the entire organization.  While it may be noble for a leader to accept total accountability for the results of the organization, it is ineffective.  Leaders do not need to be martyrs.  Many leaders feel that an effective way to instill loyalty and trust in their organization is to be “crucified” on their behalf.  It shows that the leader is one of them—willing to “take the bullet”.  There are two problems with this approach to leadership.  The first problem is painfully obvious only after it is too late; dead leaders are virtually useless!  Unless you think you will be risen from the dead, crucifixion has a certain finality to it. If you do happen to survive the crucifixion it can work to your benefit, by making you a hero, and meeting the desired objective of instilling loyalty and trust.   However, there is a major risk in this logic.  While you may be able to survive one of these events you will unlikely survive two.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Above all else, people follow those who demonstrate power and influence.  If you play the martyr too often, you become viewed as a victim.  While people may pity victims, and possibly even identify with them, they seldom want them as their leaders.  Victims are viewed as weak and helpless.  Would you want to follow someone like that?  Take a moment and try to think of a great leader in history that was a victim.  You might say that about people like Nelson Mandela or Lech Walesa.  After all the governments of their countries imprisoned them.  Their followers might describe them as courageous or defiant but never victims. Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa stood strong in their leadership—even while imprisoned.  They were willing to be held accountable for their actions, but they also demanded responsibility and accountability from their followers.  The key then is that accountability can never hold a double standard.  It must be felt by the entire organization.  The minute it is not, it becomes nothing more than a search for a scapegoat. In order for accountability throughout the entire organization to be effective, it requires clearly communicated and understood objectives by everyone involved.  If the definition of success is not clearly understood by every member of the organization, it becomes impossible for team members to objectively evaluate their contribution to the results.  It is precisely this type of “disconnect” that often creates morale problems within the organization, resulting in the well-known, tongue-in-cheek, definition for the evaluation phase of a project—promote the guilty and punish the innocent.

5.  A Love for Reason

Leaders draw on an arsenal of cognitive tools to lead, which include instincts, passion, emotion, pride and reason.  Great leaders have a sense for when to utilize each of these tools.  However, the one tool that must be ever-present is reason.  One of the credos that I adopted early in my career is the following:  “reason rules”, and therefore it is important to persevere until you get to the “court of reason”.  In addition to believing in that principle, a leader must also clearly communicate that belief throughout his organization.  It is that belief that provides hope to individuals within the organization when things get caught up in bureaucracy, and things will inevitably get caught up in bureaucracy!  It is equally important that the leader, wherever possible, ensure that he or she is the “court of reason”.  A heavy dose of reason in a leader develops a consistency of style, logic and approach.  Leadership consistency helps to develop trust within the organization.  Said differently, leaders who do not rely primarily on reason and logic are often viewed as volatile.

Volatile leaders will create a sense of uncertainty within the organization regarding the definition of success.  Once that occurs the majority of the organizations energies are spent trying to read how the boss will react to a recommendation or action, rather than on whether it is the right thing to do.  The rest of the energy is spent covering your bases.  Anyone who has ever worked for a volatile leader knows that, at best, it can be humorous, and at worse fatal.  Unfortunately, many leaders feel it is to their advantage to maintain a certain level of unpredictability.  The argument they make is that it keeps people on their toes—keeps them from getting too comfortable or complacent.  While it is true that inconsistent and sometimes irrational behavior will keep people “on their toes”, that is not where a good leader wants their people.  Have you ever noticed how hard it is to do anything while on your toes?  On the other hand, leaders who exhibit a sense of logic, reason and consistency are bound to create loyalty within the organization.  This is because everyone in the organization understands the agenda, or game plan.

The best way to prepare anyone for success is to make it very clear to him or her what is required for success.  Being predictable about your expectations and logical in your approach does this.  Most professional athletes will tell you that they can only be successful when they are not flat-footed or on their toes, but on the balls of their feet ready for anything that comes their way.  While a great leader does not allow her folks to stand flat-footed, it is a myth to think she must keep them on their toes.  With a love for reason, a predictable response system, and an inspired sense of purpose, she will keep them on the balls of their feet.

6)  In it for the Long Haul

There is a phenomenon that is occurring within the United States that is starting to permeate every aspect of our society.  We see it in our homes, our churches, our schools and our businesses.  I call this phenomenon shortermitis.  There are many theories surrounding the cause of this disease, and I will address them later in the book.  First allow me to describe for you some of the more common symptoms associated with shortermitis.

High levels of personal bankruptcies

According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, there were 1,074,225 personal bankruptcies declared in 2008.[2] With the exception of the stock market crash in 1939 personal bankruptcy was virtually non-existent prior to WW II.  Can you guess what might have caused this changing dynamic?  If you guessed “the War” you would be half-right.  Prior to W.W.II the concept of personal credit was virtually non-existent.  There were situations where people would buy items “on account” at the local hardware, grocery or general store, it was an accommodation until the end of the week, or for those whose income was somewhat seasonal (waiting for the harvest).  However, if you needed a new refrigerator or washing machine, you waited until you had saved enough funds to buy one.  This all started to change when we brought “our boys” back from “over there”.  Since they gave of themselves so unselfishly and sacrificed so much, we felt that we owed them more than just a “thank you”.  As a result, the GI bill was enacted, which allowed many of them to get college degrees, preparing them to become productive, successful members of society.  In addition, we did not want to make them have to wait for the necessities in life until after they graduated, so we extended them credit to buy cars, appliances and housing.  Although this was the start of consumer credit in the US, it did not really start to take off until the advent of the credit card.  Once the credit card was introduced virtually anyone could buy virtually anything “on account”.

When I was about 7 years of age I used to spend my entire summers at the local swim club.  One Monday I approach the snack bar with my buddy, Troy.  I was surprised when he ordered a cheeseburger and no cash changed hands.  He used two simple words, “charge it”.  I was taken aback, and asked Troy about this new concept, and he explained it to me in detail.     On Friday evening I learned that Troy left out a few minor details when my father received a call from the owner of the club.  As he got off the phone he confronted me with the fact that I had charged incredible quantities of cheeseburgers, French Chews and Ice Cream Sandwiches during the week.  My response was “Yeah dad, isn’t it great?  All you have to is say charge it and it is free.”  Now you might think that I was very naive as a 7-year-old, but in 1961 the concept of credit was still somewhat new.  The sad truth is that many adults today, still believe that it is free if they just say, “charge it”.

The introduction of the credit card has allowed people to get what they want, when they want it, whether they have the money or not.  There is still a very small portion of the population that will hold off buying a new appliance or even an automobile until they have saved enough money to afford it, but they are a dying breed.  As a result of all of this we have seen a steady decline in savings in the US and an increase in bankruptcies.  In the October 5, 1998 issue of Forbes Magazine, Peter Drucker commented on this phenomenon.  In an article entitled Management’s New Paradigms, Drucker asserts the following:

“Now the fastest growing source of commercial credit is neither the commercial bank nor the investment bank.  It is the credit card.  A still fairly small but rapidly growing number of credit card customers have multiple credit cards – some as many as 25 to 30.  They use these cards to obtain and to maintain a level of credit far beyond their creditworthiness.

The fact that the interest rated is very high does not seem to bother them, since they do not have any intention of paying off these loans.  They regard their minimum monthly payments as the cost of maintaining a sizable credit they could not obtain by other means.  The credit card has become what the economists call Money One (M1), that is, what used to be called legal tender.”[3]

This may be one of the more significant events to occur in the 20th century, and will have far-reaching impacts on our lives, our economy and the lives of our children’s children.

High divorce rate

There have been a significant number of statistics quoted regarding the divorce rate in the United States, and the most recognized quote is that over 50% of marriages end in divorce.   Without understanding the way the data was captured, it can be somewhat misleading.  As an example these percentages represent the divorce rate within a particular age group, and do not take into consideration all living married couples.  As a result the information is somewhat biased toward the high side.  However, it probably is an accurate representation of the same population of individuals represented in the high personal bankruptcy rate; namely the “baby boomers” and “generation X” group.

There are a number of plausible explanations for this phenomenon.  Some believe that the increased mobility of our society and rapid changes in the job market have attributed to these staggering percentages.  They argue that the high degree of mobility have caused folks to lose their “root” system and support structure, therefore making it difficult to work through marital stresses.  In addition, the high turnover rate of jobs and careers only add to those marital stresses.  While it is difficult to reject these arguments, they are somewhat pompous and presumptuous, because they assume that this is the only generation that has suffered through such events.  Not so!  What about the Israelites that suffered through invasion of their land, exile into Babylon and slavery in 597 BC?  What about the Christian Church from its inception until about 313 AD? At that time an entire community of people were forced to be constantly on the move to survive.  What about the Russian Revolution, the American Revolution, Nazi Germany and others, where people’s lives were once again thrown into constant turmoil and uncertainty?  To think that this generation is going through more difficult and stressful times than those before us is absurd.  By its very nature, the argument depicts a philosophy that is narrow and self-centered.  However, there are a couple of things that the people in each of those eras had in common.  One was a deep sense of purpose that was bigger than the individual.  The second thing they had in common was a belief that they were in this thing for the long haul.  By contrast, we have developed a generation of adults that are of the opinion that if they do not like the way things are “going down”; they can just get out.  They are in essence saying, “if I don’t like what I am watching on TV, all I have to do is flick the remote control, and I can go to any one of hundreds of other channels.”  My wife, Jill, and I have had the good fortune of helping both of our parents celebrate a rare event – their 50th wedding anniversaries.  With the advances in modern medicine we would expect to see the incidences of 50th wedding anniversaries increase.  Given current course and speed, in which direction do you think that statistic will change?

High turnover of church memberships

Options, options and more options, best describe our nation today.  This is true in every aspect of our lives.  We have more options than ever in the history of humankind.  We have a wide variety of choices regarding the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the music we listen to, the entertainment we enjoy and the gadgets we buy.  For example, think back just a few decades ago to 1967.  Can you name for me how many choices of “sneakers” there were?  The two that come to mind immediately are Keds and Converse.  There were, in fact, one or two more choices available for the most serious of tennis players, but that was it.  Now think of the choices available to us today.  Aside from the multitude of brand names available, there is a different type of sneaker available for every conceivable physical activity known to humankind, except swimming and one other.  There are “sneakers” for walking, jogging, running, climbing, wrestling, tennis, basketball, racquetball, volleyball, soccer, “skateboarding”, weight lifting, boating, loafing, shopping and aerobics.  There is even a “sneaker” available for when we are totally confused about what we are or what we want to be.  It is called a “cross-trainer”.  It is no wonder that the word “choice” has become such a buzzword of politicians and others.  I personally think that the most historic and notable change has been the whole new array of Crayon colors now available!

Because of the multitude of options available to us today and because of our willingness to travel some distance to make our choice, more and more people are saying, “if this church does not meet my needs, I will just go to another one.”  On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this attitude, because it continues to force churches to ensure they are meeting the contemporary needs of individuals.  It also moves churches away from the Henry Ford motto of customer selection; “you can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black!”  However, under the surface there is something very insidious occurring.  It is causing each of us to become somewhat like the spoiled child that says, “I don’t like the way the game is turning out, so I am going to take my marbles and go home.”  Just thirty years ago if the average church member did not like the way things were being handled they tried to change it rather than walk away from it.  Today, people are “checking out” of churches by the droves because they want instant results and gratification.  I often wonder what would have happened if the forefathers of the major religions of the world had taken that attitude.

Increase in high school dropouts (both students and teachers)

One of the most startling phenomena taking place today in the United States is the alarming rate of high school dropouts in our major cities.[4] It is one thing to see a high level of high school dropout in an Agrarian society, where kids are leaving school to tend the farms.  It is even somewhat understandable in an industrial society to see teenagers opting for a seemingly high paying factory job over finishing school.  However, in a knowledge economy in which a higher, more complex skill set is required to compete, a high dropout rate makes absolutely no sense.  Once again, we have become a society of people who have been taught that we should not have to wait for anything.  That thought process also creates the attitude that it makes little sense to invest the time now for something that will only have a payoff later.

Some have argued that this “live for now” attitude came as a result of the threat of a nuclear war between the two super powers.  Interestingly enough, nations and civilizations have had their very existence threatened for time and memorial without losing sight of the long-term objective.   Even if you do subscribe to this theory it does not explain how the reduction in the threat of war between the two superpowers over recent decades has done little to change the “live for now” attitude.  So why is it that folks are not willing to stick it out to finish school?  Because they are not in it for the long haul.

High turnover of corporate employees and executives.

According to the United States Department of Labor, in December 2009 approximately 470,000 people each week entered the jobless ranks.[5] What makes that statistic even more interesting is the fact that in the last two decades a large percentage of those people losing their jobs are “white collar” workers.  For years we have been dealing with some amount of unemployment, which is quite natural in a free market economy.  In the 1970s and early 1980s the nation saw many factory workers lose their jobs as technology allowed for more production with fewer workers.  In addition to that, certain industries saw an increase in global competition that had previously been unparalleled.  As a result we saw “blue collar” workers losing their jobs in droves in steel mills, automobile plants, parts and subassembly plants, and in the manufacturing and process industry in general.

In the last two decades we have seen a significant increase in the number of layoffs of white-collar workers.  Global competition and technology improvements also cause this, but there are two other elements that are somewhat subtler, and seldom discussed.  The first is the increase in management and executive cuts that are often coming from the senior executives, boardrooms, and ultimately from the stakeholders of the company.  This may seem innocuous at first glance.  Management should certainly be held accountable for their actions, and if a manager is mismanaging, he or she should be taken out of that position.  However, that still does not explain why there has been such an increase in this behavior.  I contend that it is because the stakeholders of the company are looking for immediate results.  And if they do not get immediate results, they will just change the management team until they get one that will give them those results.

The second element that is driving the increase in management and executive turnover in the corporate world today is self-imposed.  Just check the business news on any given day and you will see an enormous number of executives exiting their company for bigger and better things.  It was not long ago that the average individual would retire from the company they started with many years before.  One or two job changes in a career were considered many.  Today, the average white-collar worker will change jobs several times in the period or their career.  Many of these folks are making these changes by choice, using the argument that the best way to maximize earnings in the short run is through “job hopping”.  Why?  Because they are looking for immediate gratification.

One Final Example

I will end this section with an example that was communicated to me.  A friend of mine has recently spent a good deal of his time on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.  While there, he observed a large population of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, with undergraduate and graduate degrees.  These people were holding jobs that were at or approaching minimum wage; jobs normally held by students or people without college education.  Curious, my friend began interviewing these people to find out why they were in such low paying jobs.  He expected to find that these folks were unable to find jobs in their areas of expertise.   Instead, he was surprised to find that these individuals selected these jobs because it provided them the time and freedom to enjoy life now, rather than wait until retirement.  This caused him to ask the obvious question of how they were going to manage financially during retirement.  Their answer – “we plan to live off the inheritance we receive from our parents!”

All of the situations described above indicate that there is a clear message being given by a large percentage of the population in the United States today.  That message is, “I’m not concerned or interested in the long haul.  I am suffering from shortermitis.  At this point you may think that I am under the delusion that the leaders of old were all wonderful, and the leaders today are not.  This is clearly not the case.  There were just as many poor leaders of old as there are today.  What I have tried to do is hold up examples of great leaders as a basis for us to learn.  I have also tried to describe some of the social and economic conditions that are facing leaders today, so we can begin to marry the two.

© Mark P. Loschiavo

[1] Time Interview:  A Pencil In God’s Hand, By Edward Desmond, December 4, 1989

[2] American Bankruptcy Institute | U.S. Bankruptcy Filings 1980-2008 (Business, Non-Business, Total)

[3] Management’s New Paradigms, Peter F. Drucker, Copyright Peter F. Drucker 1998

[4] Associated Press: Tuesday, April 1, 2008: High School Graduation Rates Plummet Below 50 Percent in Some U.S. Cities–,2933,344190,00.html

[5] ETA Press Release: Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report 12/26/09

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