We are used to thinking of the role of the leader as the results the leader gets from his/her organization. When I taught ethics at Southern New Hampshire University, the students we4re loathe to make Jack Welsh wrong, even though GE polluted the Hudson so badly with toxic PCBs, and the practice of firing the lowest 5% created a backbiting and ruthless culture, as only two examples of the impact of his leadership, because he made so much money for his company.
Harold Meyerson, in his article, The Forty Year Slump accurately describes the real impact the leadership of the time had on the American economy, an impact that most people missed. Craig Shields in his blog on 2GreenEnergy, Sustainability and Political Philosophy asks the question – how much is ‘enough’. A question we had better get very good at answering! Our two greatest hurdles to surviving our current state of affairs are greed and hate. Most of the ‘results’ we strive for are really a justification for greed and hate becomes a justification for greed when we ‘have to’ create collateral damage to get access to the resources we desire. The myopic focus on ‘results’ blinds us to the impact of our actions.
The illusion that ethical behavior equals success is another clever maneuver that allows us to feel good about the destruction we reap. Over the past seventy-five years we have lost the ability to value the discipline it takes to be ethical. We have been seduced by the quick and easy, ready to ‘sacrifice’ all that we love and hold dear (family, friends, nature) for the illusion of ‘success’ and the short-term benefits of a few dollars. We tend to look at oil and gas as examples of this excess but I’d suggest that understanding our use of sand is an even better example. When building becomes an end in itself (Dubai is 90% empty and China builds empty cites) then there is no other reason except greed!
We use the rhetoric of love for country and religion to justify inflicting horrors on others and the environment. The current film American Sniper and the plan for a ‘green’ city in Giza are both excellent examples of this corruption at work. The absolutely irresponsible actions of those who call themselves leaders who publicly hate and despise the President of the United States give permission to others to hate. This ‘sanctioned’ hatred is the first step toward dehumanizing anyone classified as ‘other’ – someone who stands in the way of obtaining a desired outcome. We have seen this at work before in history and it never ends well (Germany, Rwanda)! Don’t conflate results with impact – that is a very dangerous misunderstanding!
The Real Impact
This video is just one example of the impact of our current way of achieving ‘success.’ Our willing blindness is really an excuse for self-indulgence, the justification for a resistance to self-awareness and introspection, the rationale for inflecting pain and bearing pain instead of exercising self-discipline.
Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.