Archive for the ‘Management’ Category
Most of our clients and subscribers have a keen interest in leadership. As investors, you must judge leaders – their abilities, skills, character and performance. As leaders in your firms, you must motivate your teams, make critical decisions and find ways to differentiate your firm and services in a crowded, competitive industry.
At Chiefist, we primarily serve clients in that first role. With our analytical tools, executive profiles and searches, and actionable trading ideas, we support the appraisal of corporate leadership as a key element of investment due diligence. But more broadly, we aid clients by offering unique ideas. And when we find a good leadership idea, we would be remiss not to share it — in this case, a book of fascinating ideas.
In Leading & Leadership, editor Timothy Fuller surveys some of history’s greatest thinking on the subject of leadership. He includes writings from Confucius, Homer, Plato, Machiavelli, Aquinas, Washington, Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass and Woodrow Wilson. It also contains important contributions from modern writers, including Ronald Glassman and Abraham Zaleznik. (Future editions would benefit from adding William Deresiewicz’s excellent speech, “Solitude and Leadership”.)
The book contains much wisdom about the characteristics and ethos of leadership. Every executive should read Zaleznik on “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” Washington’s “Farewell Address” should serve as a model for thoughtful succession transitions. The tension between Machiavelli’s and Aquinas’s conceptions of leadership are played out in organizations every day.
Individual readers will of course find their favorites among the chapters. Taken as a whole, the book offers a useful and needed counterweight to today’s often vacuous prattle on the subject. Our study of leadership needs practical advice, analysis of hard numbers and modern examples. But it also requires philosophical reflection, reasoned and dispassionate consideration, and a historical perspective. What emerges is a powerful reminder of the complexities and nuances of leadership. That reminder can only help us both to better evaluate the leaders in investments we’re considering, and to more effectively lead our own organizations.
As it usually does, David Brooks’ column caught my attention this week. Examining the nature of democracy, Brooks concludes that the most recent battles over the debt and deficit in Washington will not yield fruitful outcomes absent a reversion to republican (small-r) politics. Brooks expounds upon this by labeling our current democracy the “politics of solipsism.” “The [current] political culture encourages politicians and activists to imagine that the country’s problems would be solved if other people’s interests and values magically disappeared.” Instead, he says, we need a true leadership class, of the kind that existed “as late as the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations,” to balance interests and passions. Read the rest of this entry »
Normally I do not put much stock in political polling, especially on deep policy issues after politicians on both sides of the aisle demagogue political talking points with the American people. However, this recent poll on the front page of The New York Times certainly caught my attention. Although the poll includes policy-oriented questions, it also includes emotive questions and shows that nearly 70% of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track; meanwhile, disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy has never been higher—57% of Americans. The poll concludes: “Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Guest Blogger Ryan Berg
In light of my recent post about Leo Strauss, an education in political philosophy, and the liberal arts, I found a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about recruitment trends at America’s top colleges quite disconcerting. Companies recruiting new hires have recently moved the preponderance of their recruitment efforts to state universities. Recruiter’s top five favorite universities are all public, and the list is comprised mostly of top public universities.
Scott Thurm has a fascinating look at CEO pay in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. I will have much more to say about CEO pay in the coming months. For now, suffice it to say that CEO pay has become an exercise in opaqueness and deliberate misdirection. While I fully support top pay for top performance, hundreds of extremely well-paid CEOs deliver mediocre results year after year. That is an abomination.
My company approached me about taking the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification test in November. I had wanted to take it anyway, so I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry »
After the Super Bowl last night, CBS debuted its new reality series “Undercover Boss.” The show follows corporate leaders who disguise themselves as they perform some frontline work. In last night’s show, Larry O’Donnell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Waste Management, spent a week among frontline staff. He picked up trash, cleaned portable toilets, sorted recyclables and other jobs that his company performs every day. Read the rest of this entry »
I have revised the About page, to more fully explain what Capitolism is, er, about. I have elucidated upon the goals of Capitolism and the issues in view. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am in the process of drafting a strategic plan for Capitolism in 2010, and will share that on the blog when I complete the plan.
Capitolism addresses, explores and focuses on issues concerning business, trade, leadership, management, economics and small business. Issues at the intersection of these topics will attract Capitolism’s particular interest. In probing these matters, Capitolism will rely on lessons from philosophy, history, literature, current events, great speeches, newspapers, magazines, sports, academia, science, theology, military history, poetry and the authors’ own experiences, as appropriate. The aims of Capitolism are threefold:
1. To explore challenging and even subterranean issues pertaining to business, economics and leadership
2. To offer a hopefully interesting and unique perspective on these issues to readers
3. To create a venue for wide-ranging, thoughtful, penetrating discussion on these issues
You, the reader, will judge how well or poorly Capitolism achieves these aims. We encourage your comments, whether you agree, disagree or violently disagree with our writings.
Last month, Gary Hamel wrote a fantastic blog post for the Wall Street Journal. In it, he decries the ‘sterility’ of business language, and by implication, the lack of imagination in business. Manager can become so enamored with thoughts of improving performance – as dictated by lines on a graph, no doubt – that they neglect to link improved performance to nobler aspirations. They forget to make those linkages in communications with their employees.
In fact, many managers fail to understand what will inspire their staff members. This is often a hiring failure. Jim Collins reported an incident in one of his books about Gillette not hiring an MBA graduate because he was insufficiently enthusiastic about razors. Now, razors may not inspire you, but good on Gillette for screening for those people who do find inspiration in razors. Even the most mundane business purpose to you or me might be the most fascinating for someone else. Entrepreneurs prove this fact every day.
This lack of inspiration is often, as I alluded to, a failure of imagination by business leaders. Why does this dearth of imagination exist? Is it due to training or education in business? Is it simply a reflection of a broader human lack of imagination? Do business leaders wear down over time and lose their ability to inspire? None of these answers seems right to me. Indeed, this lack of imagination in business perplexes me, because so often business drives such dynamism and innovation in the world. In addition, business leaders read ad nauseum about the need to inspire, uplift and connect employees with the broader organizational mission. Nonetheless, Mr. Hamel’s makes a true observation, and one worth pondering further.