Shareholders vs. stakeholders
November 1, 2008 | Galynn Nordstrom
As I write this, it’s election day 2008, and like almost everyone I’ve talked to this week, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything other than what will happen when the polls close tonight. Will I be opening that special bottle of French champagne and frolicking on the lawn with the neighbors until the wee hours, or will I screw off the cap of that unfortunate plonk somebody left here six months ago and glower at sitcom re-runs until I get a headache and go to bed?
Last issue, I wrote about the need to think about the equal importance of policy, leadership, and individual effort when it comes to a coherent strategy on energy independence. This month, with the presidential election looming, I’ve been thinking more about the leadership part of things, and wondering just how much any one person can really change the way a government—or an economy—operates. And just how much should our increasingly corporate culture translate to government? A president is not some uber-CEO, and citizens are not employees.
I was thinking about this as I attended the keynote speech of Doris Kearns Goodwin at IFAI Expo in October. Ms. Goodwin, author of the book Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, turned the discussion in the other direction, and talked about how President Lincoln’s political—and also very personal—strategies might translate into today’s business world. Abraham Lincoln appointed his chief rivals for the presidency to his cabinet, in order to harness their talents in a period of intense crisis. Ms. Goodwin laid out ten overarching principles for effective leadership:
1. Accept disagreement. Cultivate the capacity to listen to different points of view.
2. Know when to end the discussion and make a decision.
3. Learn from your mistakes.
4. It’s the task that’s important, not who gets the credit for it.
5. Support those who work for you; accept blame.
6. Be aware of your own weaknesses.
7. Control your emotions, and channel that energy in positive directions.
8. Know how to relax, and let the stress go.
9. Visit the battlefield personally; talk to people, and manage by walking around.
10. Communicate your goals to those who work for you and with you—in human terms.
Manufacturers in the specialty fabrics industry still produce products, not just mission statements, and they still need leaders as well as managers. As for the election, what is demanded from the next administration is simple: focus on what needs to be done. People that I talked to IFAI Expo were understandably worried about the global economy, but it only seemed to increase their focus on making things work, whatever it takes. In our December issue show coverage, you’ll hear more about their issues, trends and lessons learned.
As for me, whether it’s champagne or plonk tonight, I’ll still be at work tomorrow.
Maybe a little late.