The bank CEO’s and the Senate: a little rant.

Managers do things right.  Leaders do the right things.

In the business of business, the business of politics, religious organizations, the military, becoming “a leader” depends in part, on spending time and expertise at being “a manager” in the system.  That makes sense.

Yet sometimes the skills, beliefs, and habits that make successful managers and help them through the ranks of their organizations are not “leadership” skills.

Large organizations are usually “political” to some extent, if not highly politically charged.  In political systems, movement, ANY movement, has meaning.  Working “the system” well, means “doing things right” and seeming to get things done.  Following protocol has as much “meaning” as the actual results of the effort.  It’s the doing and selling that matters most in that culture.  The actual goals or results of the efforts are actually less scrutinized.

So what happens when something “systemic” is the problem? What happens when desired results can’t be delivered by the status quo?  What happens when real change is necessary?  That’s a big part of the role of leadership.

I want to trust the leadership of bank presidents and senate committee members, but …

Every one of those “leaders”, CEO’s and Senators, knew of the sub prime credit problem long before it was an irreversible crisis.  All the bankers and all the senators were aware of the long-term risk that was being taken, and the level of effect it might have on the general health of our economy.  But no meaningful steps were taken to reduce the risk.

Our leaders have known of our precarious dependence on foreign oil at least since the oil embargo of the early 70’s.  Our leaders have predicted the inevitable short falls in Social Security over the same period.  There has been lots of political talk and action, with no meaningful results.  This is not a junior or senior management problem.  It’s not liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.  It’s leadership.

Problems often can’t be solved at the level of thinking that created them.

I believe that for most successful managers it becomes very difficult to change habits or lead change in any meaningful way, and certainly not at the “expense” of legacy systems.

Where are the leaders who do the right thing?


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