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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Curing The Leadership Crisis

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market CureWould the principles that make one an effective, successful and happy individual create those same results for a company, and for society as a whole? In this absolutely terrific book on leadership, the author says that yes, indeed they would.

The following is from John A. Allison’s introduction to his recently-released, The Leadership Crisis And The Free Market Cure:

“{T}here is a set of ethical principles that is consistent with the laws of nature and the nature of humans that is the foundation for individual success and happiness. These same principles are applicable to organizations and to society.”

“The ultimate goal in life is to achieve happiness {in terms of} a life well- lived.” … “In this overall context, this is a book about leadership in the pursuit of happiness, at the individual, organization, and societal level.

“The foundation for this concept is self-leadership, which is essential for organizational leadership. Most failures of leadership are failures of self-leadership. And, most organizational failures are caused by failed leadership.”

It’s safe to say that Mr. Allison knows from whence he speaks. The prestigious Harvard Business Review named him one of the decades top 100 most successful CEOs.

More importantly, for 20 years he served as Chairman and CEO of BB&T, one of the largest financial institutions in America, growing the bank from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets during his tenure. And, they were hugely successful during a time when many banks failed spectacularly.

But, perhaps the banks’ huge profits came as a result of cronyism and sub-prime loans?

Actually, no. BB&T was one of the few banks that did not involve itself in sub-prime lending, writing only conventional mortgages. Mr. Allison was very outspoken against sub-prime lending, as well as cronyism in all its forms, including that between Washington, D.C. and many of the major banks.

When the bubble burst and banks were going under, he and his bank were left standing tall; not only in reputation…but in profitability, as well.

How Was This accomplished? Through rational, long-term thinking combined with a desire to provide exceptional value to customers, employees and shareholders alike.

And…by acting from a base of uncompromising values.

Now CEO of the highly-regarded libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, Allison approaches life and leadership from a very practical, logical, and rational viewpoint. He also approaches his relationships with employees and customers with an extremely benevolent, win/win mindset (as he referred to it, “getting better together”) always at the forefront.

Like the vast majority of ultra-successful people I’ve known and in this case, studied (I’ve been a fan for quite a while), he understands that happiness is the ultimate goal; that financial success is just one aspect of overall success and happiness. And, that all leadership begins with self-leadership; mastering ourselves and our character traits.

Two Distinct, But Integrated Parts

Part One, “Values in the Pursuit of Happiness” includes a chapter on each value that he deems vital and necessary to one’s successful pursuit of happiness. They were also the principles he used to lead at the bank.

They include being Reality Grounded, Reason (Objectivity), Independent Thinking, Productivity (Profitability), Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Pride, Self-Esteem (Self-Motivation) and Teamwork (Mutual Supportiveness).

According to the author, “Not only are these values not contradictory but they are integrated. Failure to execute on one value will make it impossible for you to execute on another value.”

Part Two, “Leading for Personal, Organization, and Societal Greatness” is really a Masters Degree in business leadership. That it’s told from the personal experiences of a man who has been there, done that very successfully, and is willing to share exactly how, is truly a gift. Absolutely fascinating and enlightening.

While again, logic and reason are very important to the author, his writing is warm and thoughtful, and he certainly understands the dynamics of emotion and human nature; that most people make decisions based on their emotions being in control. Yet, as he says, “Emotions are not a valid means of knowledge.”

So, how does he suggest we don’t make counterproductive decisions based on this fact?

“The goal should be to train your emotions so they automatically support the conclusions that your rational mind determined.”

Powerful!

One of my favorite points had to do with the importance of understanding the relationship of value and money, and that a business only makes money to the degree they focus on bringing value to their customers. I loved this gem:

“In the 1960′s, the CEO of General Motors announced that the mission of GM was to ‘make money.’ Shortly thereafter GM’s earnings started to decline. GM was created to make cars in a variety of price ranges and quality categories. Its real purpose is to make ‘good’ cars, and when it does this very well, it gets to make money. At BB&T our real purpose is to help our clients be financially successful and economically secure, and when we do this well, we can make money for our shareholders.”

He also warns about what he calls the “ultimate psychological sin of evasion.” This occurs when we choose not to explore what we know we should explore because we are afraid the information will not concur with our already-established views. Evasion has a dramatically negative impact on one’s happiness, as well as the success of a business or a society.

The author is very firm regarding the importance of staying focused on truth. He says, “When we evade, we are detached from reality and cannot learn or grow.” True both for individuals and for businesses. And, for society? He asks, “Do our political leaders make decisions based on reality?”

The pages of my copy of the book are filled with notes and underlines as well as starred and bracketed sentences and paragraphs. I simply cannot do this book justice in a single post. Let me suggest — if I may — that you purchase this book, read it, study it, and then buy it as a gift for all the leaders and potential leaders in your life.

There are a lot of excellent leadership books on the market and I’ve benefited from reading many of them. This one might just be the most important one yet!

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P.S. Here are just a few more gems from the book I couldn’t resist including. And I worked hard to whittle it down to just these: :-)

“It is a significant error for a leader to promote a vision and not deliver. This is a fundamental breach of trust with the organization’s constituents.”

“The organizing principle of human action is purpose….{W}e are purpose-driven entities.”

“If your work is just ‘work,’ you are missing a lot of what life is about.”

“The ultimate societal incentive is freedom.”

“It is noteworthy that we seem to tolerate a level of dishonesty in politicians that we would not tolerate at work or with our friends.”

“It is irrational to expect someone to change his or her behavior based on nonexistent feedback.”

“The primary manner in which you earn self-esteem is by living your life with integrity and living your life consistent with your values.”

“Much of leadership is based on the ability to integrate multiple specialists to accomplish complex work that no single specialist could achieve alone.”

“Successful communities (teams) are created by voluntary mutual consent…Successful teams and communities cannot be built using force.”

“The compound self-esteem impact of working to your potential day in & day out is significant.”

“Earning money is tremendously rewarding, even if you give it all away. Earning money in a free society is a symbol of productivity and has a meaningful psychological reward. It is the earning, not the having, that is valuable.”

“Remember human flourishing — happiness — is the end of the game.”

Question Regarding Capitalism vs Cronyism

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Question Regarding Capitalism vs Cronyism - Bob BurgIn a Facebook group run by my friend, Dov Baron, he posed the following question:

Capitalism…Do you see a difference between Capitalism and Corporate Capitalism? Should we keep either, both, and if so how do you see us repairing the system?

Many responded. One I found to be particularly interesting was from someone we’ll call Steve who replied:

“The ‘elephant in the room’ difference is that Capitalism can use guns to enforce their will.”

Since that, by definition, is actually the very opposite of Capitalism, and I feel that understanding this concept is so vital to our future as a country, I responded to Dov’s question and “Steve’s” comment with the following:

“Corporate Capitalism” (a/k/a “Corporatism” or “Crony Capitalism”) is a misnomer and is actually not Capitalism at all. As I often say, “Crony Capitalism is to Capitalism what Chinese Checkers is to Checkers…nothing!”

That’s why I don’t even use that term “Crony Capitalism” and simply call it “Cronyism.”

The entire premise of Capitalism — aside from private ownership — is that it is the exchange of products/services between two or more willing parties with both sides coming away from the exchange better off than they were before the exchange. Otherwise, neither party would willingly participate.

Cronyism, on the other hand, is where corporations or other special interests purchase special favors, rules and regulations from politicians (usually via lobbyists and through campaign contributions and other goodies) in order to provide themselves with an unfair advantage over the competition.

This ultimately hurts the consumer in many ways as well as the country as a whole.

Freedom vs. Force

Responding to Steve, I must respectfully disagree and say that the difference is not that Capitalists can use guns to enforce their will; it’s Cronyism that employs “the guns of government” through the buying of politic favors from politicians.

Key Point: With true Capitalism, companies can only get people to buy from them by providing value in such a way that a consumer chooses to do so. In a truly free-market environment the consumer is the ultimate boss and votes with their dollars.

In other words, Capitalism is based on freedom of choice. Cronyism is based on manipulation, politics, and ultimately, force.

Capitalism — while not utopian or perfect — has been the driving force in an increase in the standard of living for everyone living under that system. The more economically free a country is, the higher standard of living for the masses (including the poor). The less free, the lower the standard of living.

In answer to Dov’s question about how to repair this situation, the citizenry must insist its elected representatives do not participate in Cronyism or they will be voted out of office.

Of course, for this to happen, the citizenry must first understand the difference between Cronyism and Capitalism. I’m afraid that at this point most people think they are the same. And, that is a huge problem.

We cannot repair what we don’t understand.

Want to weigh in? Feel…free! :-)

Don’t Let Yourself Be “Chris Matthews-ed”

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Chris MatthewsA large part of influence is believability. Believability inspires trust. If you are believable once, you’ll get a shot at being believable again. If you are not believable just once, however (especially if it’s someone’s first exposure to you), the chances are excellent that you will not be considered such from that point on.

I recently witnessed a person make a somewhat dogmatic statement during a discussion. When asked to cite his source he began to hem and haw. When further pressed he grumbled something or other and got mad at the person who questioned him. Whether his statement was right or wrong, his lack of even basic source knowledge made him…unbelievable. In this case, “UN-believable” was not a good thing. :-)

The incident immediately brought to mind an interview conducted in May, 2008 by MSNBC TV Hardball host, Chris Matthews. In this segment, one of his guests was Los Angeles-based Radio Talk Show Host, Kevin James. As James began to bring up British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain’s well-known appeasement of Hitler during the lead-up to World War II, Matthews asked him to explain what he meant. In other words, how exactly did Chamberlain appease Hitler?

Beginning at 4:10 of the video and all the way through the 7:05 mark, James danced around the issue. Matthews, of course, refused to let him off the hook. Finally, it was determined that James wasn’t able to cite anything specific, most notably the infamous Munich Agreement.

Now, does that mean that Mr. James was wrong? Not at all. Chamberlain certainly did appease Hitler. And, if you listen to that part of the interview, James wasn’t incorrect in anything he said.

However, the fact that he couldn’t cite an example of this appeasement — one of the most famous in history — simply took away any type of credibility he might have had with Mr. Matthews’ audience.

Personally, being a Libertarian and believing in both free minds and free markets, I certainly don’t agree with most of the political ideas Mr. Matthews advocates. Nor do I enjoy his communication style. He’s an interrupter who at times can even be insulting.  But, you know what else Mr. Matthews is? He’s very intelligent; he’s very sharp. And, he’s not about to let someone get away with “not backing up their statements.”

I learned a hugely important lesson from that interview: to never place myself in a position where I can be “Chris Matthews-ed.”

In other words, if we’re going to make a statement of fact or attempt to persuasively advance our idea, we need to not only know what we’re talking about, we need to be able to communicate that we know what we’re talking about. Especially, if pressed to do so.

Of course, I believe we should do this with tact, kindness and respect for the other person, even if we do not agree. Part of being able to do that effectively is knowing — really knowing — from whence we speak.

Your thoughts?

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Seeking The Ultimate Freedom

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

FreedomIn the final sentence of one of her recent daily emails, Esther Hicks wrote:

“You are determined to be freedom-seekers in a Mass Consciousness society that is determined to make you the same.” 

What a powerful statement, and on so many levels!

In the context of her entire message, she was referring to internal freedom.

Yet, we can think about why physical, personal and economic freedom/liberty (what my favorite magazine, Reason would call “free minds and free markets”) is such a high ideal.  The more freedom one has individually, the more prosperous and happy will be the society.

Yet, society, by its very nature, seeks to conform the individual.

While we cannot control society (even if we could, that would simply be another form of mass consciousness control Mrs. Hicks referred to) and we should not try and control other individuals, we can control ourselves.

In his classic, Man’s Search for Meaning, Nazi concentration camp survivor and psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl considered choosing one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances to be the highest level of freedom; the last of human freedoms. The one type of freedom that could never be taken.

So long as we do that, we can — to paraphrase the title of one of Harry Browne’s most famous books — “find freedom in an unfree world.”

The Only Possible Way To Profit…

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Harry Browne The Secret of Selling AnythingRecently, on my Facebook page, I posted:

“Profit is a reward for satisfying the desire of someone else.”

~ Harry Browne, The Secret of Selling Anything*

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? And, it is. But it’s something many don’t realize. Yet, in a free-market based economy, that’s what it all comes down to.

If we desire to have a healthy and profitable business, we must please the marketplace of consumers we serve.

This is why Free-Market Capitalism, to the degree it is allowed to exist, by it’s very nature actually benefits the consumer even more than the business person. After all, it’s the consumer who ultimately makes the decision. And he or she says yes only if they value owning the product or service more than the money they are being asked to exchange for it.

Thus, only those business people who are focused on pleasing the consumer will have that healthy and sustainably profitable business.

As Harry said, the secret of success is:

“Find out what people want and help them get it!”

And, to do this, the successful salesperson must recognize that — when it comes right down to it — it’s all about the consumer, not the salesperson.

Your thoughts?

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* This magnificent book was published posthumously from a manuscript written by a hero of mine and a treasured mentor, Harry Browne in 1966. It may be ordered in paperback form online via The System Press or directly by telephone at 1-845-757-5037. Or, you can order the kindle version at Amazon.com.