Rants and Raves

Rant number one goes to dishonesty in the immigration debate, an issue that affects everyone so much that no one can adequately address, much less do anything about. Terms such as “amnesty” and “illegal alien” have been spun out of control. Business leaders would be wise to step up with a stronger voice. But they’re in the back seat. Perhaps it’s a La Katrina giving hangover?

Rant number two goes to executive pay. This issue registers off the charts on opinion surveys, yet no one has a credible viewpoint on what can be done. Vanguard founder J. Bogel comes close, but isn’t he a big money man? Someone from within the governance complex, preferably not a shareholder shill, needs to shed light on how to find more balance between pay for performance and pay for failure. It’s difficult to see how self governing boards can address the issue adequately on their own.

Now the good stuff. Here are several raves that exemplify effective leadership:

Warren Buffett for stepping off the Coke board while proposing that director pay be strictly based on the company’s performance. Odd nod since members are already multi-millionaires. But solid move nonetheless. We will hold off on questions about his purchase of Russell Athletic…

CNN’s Lou Dobbs. Like or loathe him, Dobbs has unmasked hypocrisy in the immigration debate. Steam comes out of his ears some nights. Off-the-charts point of view…

Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan Chase. Wall Street dudes haven’t made many most admired lists in recent years, but this guy looks and sounds real. Anyone who could put his dukes up in a cover shot for Fortune magazine (April 3, p. 54) gets a rave on hubris alone…

Charles Brewer, original Mindspring founder now chairman of Green Street Properties and leader of New Urbanism. Leadership, transformation, values-driven. Need we say more?

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Who are YOU?!?

In deference to the legendary rock band with similar lyrics, the question isn’t, WHO are You? It’s more about that dreaded first impression remark from someone who doesn’t know you: Who are YOU?!?

Personal and professional journeys are pre-occupied with trying to instill a sense of who we are, both within ourselves and others. We all want the same thing: To be recognized, known and/or recalled for what we want others to know us by.

But there’s a catch. We never fully get to answer Who are You? The audience does.

Comedian/actor Albert Brooks, not to be confused with Mel Brooks, says that even after 25+ years of performing comedy, he doesn’t know what makes people laugh other than the unexpected. Brooks’ newest work, “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” cuts through the seriousness of global politics with biting humor to connect with everyday hearts and minds in India.

Howard Stern, the new king of satellite radio, personifies the saying, “true geniuses are misunderstood.” After his latest deal with Sirius, it may need to read ‘performing geniuses are misunderstood all the way to the bank.’ Say what you want about Stern, FCC standards and the chimp- like state of radio. Fact remains that he has created one of the largest, most loyal followings ever achieved by a single individual in any field.

Even the Godfather movie series has its own special stamp called The Code of Silence. Good or evil, pale or bloody, you knew where the family stood at all times. There wasn’t anything morally upright about what transpired, yet clarity was always achieved.

Corporate and business leaders cling to the notion that influence is determined strictly by pulling their own chosen control levers. But that’s simply not true, and it may never have been. Throw in a crisis and this axiom moves even further away from reality.

Similar to performing artists, business leaders are only as good as their audience. If no one believes what you’re saying, nothing of lasting value will be created. It’s true in Hollywood, and it’s true in business despite heavy denial to the contrary.

Know your audience on multiple levels: professionally, personally and otherwise. Identify their needs and offer valid, valuable insights. Dare to break through the conventional norms. Speak and act clearly and candidly.

When it’s all said and done, being at one with yourself and audience may be the only leadership attribute worth trying to fulfill.

Extra! Extra!

Sorry, no pithy content here. Just shameless self promotion.

If you haven’t already visited the new Point of View, LLC web site, please click here www.pointofviewllc.com. Bookmark and visit often. Send the link to a friend, preferably one that’s an aspiring leader with career and/or business issues.

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Diamonds in the Rough

Pick up any business publication, and you’ll be treated to corporate leaders doing great (or bad) works. Some come out better than others. The business press loves to fawn over whoever is in vogue or next in line.

But what about the emerging class, or digging deeper, next generation leaders? Sorry Fortune, execs. right next to power don’t constitute ’emerging’ in the modern sense.

Chances are the next gen. group will never adorn cover stories or recruiters’ short lists. Yet if change in the Over-Abundance Age is real, which it is, then isn’t it time for this class to be heard?

There’s only one slight problem. Very few inside the complex — boards, advisors or the existing rulers themselves — have enough courage to act collectively on what’s right under their noses. And why should they? Executive salaries and bonuses are granted no matter what. No reward, financial or otherwise, is large enough to justify the risk of doing something new. Therein lies the rub. Without any change or incentive to try a different path — or vice versa, penalty for not doing so — everyone can expect the same old outcome.

Those trying to lead within a industry with over-abundant product — cars, money, books/magazines, lumber, soda water, labor, etc. — would be wise to consider more diverse sources of leadership. These diamonds in the rough could be the key to unlocking whatever value remains.

New Year’s Blah-blah

Anyone had enough of New Year’s resolutions yet?

Here’s one that every executive-level leader should observe: Throw everything out (within reason) and start over.

Another calendar year means an entirely new set of possibilities, challenges and successes/failures.

The job or task at hand may remain the same, but chances are the external and internal environments have changed considerably.

Old thinking about old ideas will not propel growth or advancement. Until previous suppositions are challenged from every angle, nothing new and energizing is likely to emerge.

That goes for organizations and individuals.

Trends and Truths

Executive leadership implications abound within the following post. Since readers are accomplished, intelligent minds, we’ll let you decide how each “trend and truth” applies to your situation.

Mammon vs. Chicken Little — “Stay alive until ’05,” a phrase coined during the last recession, will give way to “Let’s get rich in ’06.” Judging from what we’ve seen over the past two quarters, this attitude is beginning to prevail. The only deterrent may be Chicken Little types who remain convinced that the economic sky is falling despite evidence to the contrary. Incredibly, some polls indicate that 43 percent of the general public thinks the economy is in recession, up from 36 percent last year during the presidential campaign. Here’s a clear message: Step up, business leaders and show confidence. Simply rolling over in your own selfish interest is no longer an option.

Stay ahead of the money — Unprecedented amounts of capital, mainly cash from corporate income sheets and private investors, will continue to be deployed at dizzying rates across new markets that few even thought existed. Look for relatively unknown enterprises to step out and make even more impact in the coming year. Those who stay ahead of versus following the money will enjoy competitive advantage.

Here today, gone tomorrow — The adage, “go where the business is” will become even more predominant. Stable and long-term business sources will continue to give way to reinvention. Volatility and rapid change aren’t going away anytime soon.

The Corner Office myth — In a recent profile titled, “The Corner Office,” The New York Times reported at length about how major corporate leaders are no longer solely products of elite universities and institutions. Valid point, flawed premise. If you run across a CEO who hides in a corner office, then please report him or her to the nearest governance authority. Chances are they’re not real and may be missing the biggest point of all: The position isn’t about entirely about THEM. It’s about unlocking the potential of others to achieve great things. Same goes for those who purportedly serve them despite evidence to the contrary. The ones that continue to believe in the Corner Office are the same individuals who cling to the notion that there’s a “seat at the table” waiting for them one day.

One last point: For those who continue to lack courage with adopting point of view on issues beyond what’s directly in front of them, please take a moment to expand your universe. Your constituencies have had enough with platitudes, slang, clichés, B-school babble and other self serving nonsense that tells them nothing beyond what they already know or hear from other sources. Heed the call. Leave the comfort zone. It’s time to lead in a personally genuine and authentic manner.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Leaders & Laggards

“Leaders & Laggards” is a periodic series that examines the best and worst of business leadership.


Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google. The newly public company wants to offer more access to published works using its famous Internet search technology. Schmidt publicly defended the company’s motives in a Wall Street Journal Op-ed (“Books of Revelation,” October 18), and after reading his piece and others, it’s hard not to give a big leadership nod. This stand isn’t without controversy. But at least it’s a stand. That’s more than what can be said for a majority of businesses.

Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas investor and developer. Adelson is an entrepreneur for the ages. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Fortune (“The Man with the Golden Gut,” October 17) profile: “Businesses are like buses. You stand on a corner and you don’t like where that one is going? Wait…take another. There’s no end to buses or businesses.” It’s too bad more can’t heed this call. There’s immense insight into this simple rule.

Lee Scott, CEO, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Ok, so the big box retailer hasn’t won many fans or friends alike in the corporate reputation category. No argument there. But what a difference a few months make. Between Katrina hurricane response and Scott’s latest request to boost the minimum wage, it looks as though the point-of-view gods have finally found where America shops. Next test: Standing up to the obesity crowd over hiring practices.


Joe Galli, outgoing CEO, Newell Rubbermaid. For anyone that had to suffer through one of his presentations or direct interactions, it’s no surprise that Galli is the latest CEO casualty. His track record boils down to this key fact: 10 quarters of sales declines despite some of the world’s greatest brands, including Sharpie. How do you manage that? Where was the board?

Phillip R. Bennett, former chairman and CEO, Refco. This individual, with help from his own funny loans and greedy investors, managed to lead the commodity trading giant right into bankruptcy. Our only question: Wasn’t there a good reason why we had never heard of Bennett outside Wall Street? Here’s hoping we won’t hear anymore soon. Refco sounds too much like the former Revco, which now operates as CVS.

Brand Atlanta. Since we don’t know whom to single out, the entire status quo complex will have to do. Branding may give rise to brand in some cases, but in the end, logos, jingles and ads don’t replace a unique promise or commitment. And while it pains us to say, the three O-rings – Opportunity, Optimism and Openness– don’t deliver anything concrete. As to the pre-game performance on Monday Night Football that no one outside Atlanta saw, well… Here’s a suggested slogan: “Atlanta, the City Too Busy to Change.”

The Pointe is produced by Point of View, LLC, an executive leadership brand consultancy based in Atlanta. For related background, please contact Jeremy Garlington, 404-606-0637, garlingtons@msn.com or visit http://www.povblogger.blogspot.com/.

Leadership and Pornography

The head of executive coaching at a renowned leadership development center recently conveyed: “Leadership is a lot like pornography — you just know it when you see it.” Ok, 10 points for honesty.

However, this experience and other recent ones have shed light on an unfortunate truth: Leadership is often left to subjective opinion of those who don’t have a solid grasp of the term – sometimes through no fault of their own. There is no governing body or institution that grants leadership status, nor is there any widely held standard. Particularly not in corporate or business circles.

Some may say, “hey, wait a second, doesn’t that represent an opportunity for coaches and consultants touting themselves as leadership experts (present company included?)”

Well, yes and no. Yes, ambiguity always represents opportunity. But no, that doesn’t mean the same opportunity always affords unique status.

We prefer to think of leadership as “unlocking the potential success of others and helping others realize their own success no matter what shape or form.”

Apply this definition to the recently benched head of FEMA emergency operations in Louisiana, and you’ll see quite clearly that Michael Brown didn’t put anyone in position to succeed, much less answer the immediate call either visibly or forcefully. If this is too political for your taste, then consider self-acclaimed corporate leaders active within your sector. What do you look for that defines leadership? If it’s not something that resembles the previous definition, then chances are it’s not leadership.

Considering what we’re currently living through at home and abroad, we may want to expand the definition of leadership to include “instilling a certainty of hope” that success can be achieved despite what may seem like insurmountable odds.

So if you want to be a leader, help others succeed with tangible deeds, not just words or clichés. And while you do, give candid advice and direction, which if the context allows, provides a certainty of hope. The results may surprise you.

Be Who You Are

A refrain from executives struggling with leadership issues has become all too common: “This position isn’t connecting my personal and business purpose. In fact, it’s doing quite the opposite.”

Self-reflection can be felt everywhere, which is probably typical during summer when business activity slows, and executives have too much extra time on their hands.

However, before anyone dismisses this condition due to only seasonality, it’s worth a closer look.

We all work hard to achieve what we think is success. Salary, status, position, and for the lucky few, making a difference. It’s what business thrives upon and for good measure. Profits have a way of funding dreams and ambitions as well as creating immense wealth for individuals and local communities.

Yet the fact remains that much of what business depends on eats away at our inner core over time. CEOs who become CEOs because that’s all they ever wanted suddenly realize that the position isn’t always what it’s stacked up to be. This realization is compounded by heavy demands, which we read about at ad nauseam in the press.

So what’s an aspiring leader to do? Well, the first step is to quit spitting out clichés or “pie in the sky” anecdotes from business books. Jack Welch may have a great point of view, but the fact is it may not apply to you or your organization’s situation. A far better use of time is to adapt your own situation to what the current environment demands. It may mean giving up a distinguished role or control over time to go a different route. For others it may mean adding interests or activities outside of work that complement the current range of motivations, desires and time demands. Some may even decide their calling is to make others better in their organizations vs. only advancing themselves.

What shouldn’t you do? Quit something proven without having a related capacity formed, both in your mind and in real practice. Try to be someone who you aren’t, or worse yet, focus on things that don’t come naturally to the point where it’s obvious.

If you’re a self-promotional genius who wants to be a rock star, then don’t try to come across as a benevolent leader. Transparency will unwind your act. Vice versa, if you’re an unassuming type who feels called to lead, then use those traits to your advantage. In short, dare to be who you are.

In Position to Win

Watching the U.S. Open unfold recently first-hand, my mind couldn’t help but race to leadership, brand, etc. It had nothing to do with Donald Trump, although he was strangely just another face in the crowd during the first round. Nor did it have much to do with Tiger Woods’ golf ball, which, on an errant drive, rolled to our feet, flashing the famous Nike Swoosh.

No, actually, the point is much simpler. And while it pertains to Tiger, it’s not about branding symbols despite what many continue to believe at their own peril.

Anyone who watched the U.S. Open from start to finish could never have predicted the outcome. But they could predict with relative certainty that Tiger would be in a position to win no matter what the circumstances. That’s what makes him great.

How many business leaders or companies can say the same thing? It’s not entirely about winning, with respect to Jack Welch’s recent book, “Winning.” It’s more about being in a position to win without being self-consumed at all costs. Wins will always come when you’re in a position to win, yet the vice versa doesn’t always hold true.

The sports world is literally filled with examples to make this point. George Steinbrenner, who has experienced his fair share of winning as owner of the New York Yankees, will never go down as a highly selfless figure when it’s all said and done. Perhaps admired from afar but never selfless, or the opposite of self-consumed.

Bobby Cox, manager of the Atlanta Braves, will leave an indelible mark, mainly because he always tries to put others in a position to win (ok, not always in the post-season but that’s not pertinent here.) So will Joe Torre, Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken, Jr. Not Pete Rose, Kobe Bryant or any other selfish overpaid star unwilling to sacrifice their own ego for the greater whole.

Please don’t mistake this as an excuse to lose or lack the “eye of the tiger” to win (no pun intended.) To the contrary, it’s more about putting yourself in more situations where you can win versus winning at all times and costs.

The position that you occupy in other people’s minds and how you use that position defines your leadership brand. And while we all can’t be Tiger Woods, if more business leaders put themselves in better position to win, then everyone’s interests would be much better served.