Cannibal Capitalism And True North

I love to read. It keeps my mind active and results in the creation of critical thinking skills needed for making good decisions. Over the last four days we have been on vacation. I did a bit of reading which was nice. However, through this reading, and a Facebook post, I discovered two new books that I have found quite interesting. “True North” by Bill George is a sequel of his earlier book discussing authentic leadership. It has proven to be quite an interesting read. The other book is “Cannibal Capitalism,” by Michael Hill, which has also been found to be interesting. Both of these books reaffirm to me that we as a business community have lost our True North, and therefore have created a “destructive metabolism,” that is undermining our economic and social stability as a country. I want to challenge business leaders to reclaim their “True North,” thus returning to the positive purpose of business the creation of value.

Michael Hill has created a reasonable argument for why our economic system is degenerating, thus leading to a reduction of the middle class. “Slowly but surely, this country is eating away at all the things that built it up. This slow destruction comes not from without, but from within. It is as if we were a nation of cannibals feeding on one another, with no regard for the self-defeating nature of such conduct.”

We as a country have moved from being the banker to the world to a debtor nation. We are living well beyond our means, and this behavior is similar to the disease “kwashiorkor,” or a “form of catabolism (the human body eating itself).” Hill elaborates why this is happening to our economic system.

  1. Our inherent selfishness “is the fundamental human flaw behind all evil in the world. “ I think we could associate this to a True North issue.
  2. Suicide-Enabling. “With selfishness as a core ethic, short-term profits are always chosen over long-term benefits.”
  3. Money Politics. I agree with his association of money with politics. It doesn’t make any difference which party is in power, politicians will always defer to the power mongers.
  4. Selective Morality. Hill states, “The practice of ignoring or obfuscating inconvenient facts is all to common in all ideological corners.”
  5. Superpower Coasting. History tells us what happens to a country that becomes a superpower, they eventually degenerate from within.
  6. Easy Money. By easy money Hill means the development of an empty caloric intake of arbitrage. There is an unhealthy temptation for the creation of easy money.
  7. Monopoly Madness. “The solution to difficult market situations is far too often business consolidation, which creates monster companies that can become too big to fail enterprises that can threaten the national or even global economy.”
  8. School (out to) lunch. The deterioration of public education in America, as compared to other parts of the world, is becoming well documented.

These are eight characteristics of our social systems that demonstrate the cannibalism that is occurring within our country. I agree with Hill that these characteristics are valid and need to be addressed. However, I am not too sure we have the heart to go after these. We have lost our True North.

Bill George defines True North as “the internal compass that guides you successfully through life.” I think at one point in time it was called a worldview, anchor, or foundation. George describes it as an “orienting point” within a changing and spinning world.

I think these two ideas, Cannibal Capitalism and True North, go hand in hand. George states, “What concerns me are the many powerful business leaders who bowed to stock market pressure in return for personal gain. They lost sight of their True North and put their companies at risk by focusing on the trappings and spoils of leadership instead of building their organizations for the long term.”

Metanoia is a wonderful term. It means to change direction. Also, our English world repent means the same thing. If Authentic Leadership is about the creation of value and opportunity, then it is time for our leaders to change direction and stop thinking about short-term opportunity for themselves, but long-term value for their stakeholders. The value is associated with stakeholders, customers, clients, etc. The opportunity is for stakeholders such as all employees, not just those in positions of power.

And that is my thought for the day!


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