More Lessons On Leadership From Putin

Last night I watched the opening of the Sochi Olympics. The pageantry was beautiful, and except for a couple of snafus appeared to provide a wonderful start for the Winter Games. Any one was hoping for this to be egg on the face of Valdimir Putin will be disappointed. Putin will be a permanent fixture in Russian politics for many years to come. This is not to say that Putin won’t make a mistake somewhere in the near future that will limit his influence, but for now he is deeply entrenched in the Russian collective psyche and will continue to be so for years to come.

Putin is a thug, but thugness is as much a part of the Russian culture as is cronyism. The Oligarchs of Russian nobility have become rich as a result of Putin’s reign. But this is the normal way of doing business in that country. But, that is not how we in this country do business. Our culture is different therefore how business leaders behave is different. Or maybe should behave is more accurate.

If Putin does not like what someone is doing, like billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he has them arrested. After 10 years in prison Mikhail was released and subsequently left Russia, presumably with several billion dollars. But our situation here in the states is much different. We understand power a little differently. We are not afraid to question authority, and we recognize the need for more of a servant leadership mentality. Leaders are in power to serve their constituency, and when then take advantage of that leadership for personal benefit, we hold them accountable, eventually.

That brings me to my point. The leaders in this country better not forget the importance of taking care of followers. If this is forgotten the ability of followers to produce positive results will be hindered. Take Boeing for example. Boeing has just negotiated with the State of Washington to receive tax breaks. They did this to keep the 777X in the state. In other words, this new plane which is slated to revolutionize the industry, will be built in Washington by union workers, but to do this the union had to give back benefits like their pension.

Analysts are warning Boeing though. If they don’t create a more positive relationship with their workforce the company’s ability to build the new airplane, while continuing to deliver at higher rates, will suffer. With this new airplane analysts are predicting that Boeing will pull farther ahead of Airbus by grabbing a 55% share of the market. To accomplish this Boeing needs the help of its employees. Rather than continue to take away from the employees, Boeing management will need to revitalize its relationship with its workforce. However, it is not just Boeing, it is also all large employers in this country. Competition is becoming more fierce worldwide, therefore we need an engaged workforce to be successful.

The question is what do we have? We have 10.4 million men in their prime earning age out of work. A man’s most productive time in their work life is from the ages of 25 to 54. Yet, these men have been impacted by changing technology and globalization, which has transformed the workplace faster than any time in history. During the worst part of the recession 20% of men within this age group were unemployed. This has been reduced to 7% in December due to improving job growth, but “two-thirds of working age men weren’t looking” for a job. They were discouraged.

Men seem to be struggling, but “For women, the story is different. In the 1950’s, only about a third of women ages 25 to 54 had jobs. That rose steadily until the 1990’s, and then leveled off for reasons that aren’t clear. At last tally, about 70% were working; 30% weren’t.” Could it be that women are more compliant in the work place? Just a weird thought I just had.

We have all seen the reducing workforce participation rate, we see workers being let go prior to being able to collect pension benefits. We have seen worker hours kept low to ensure the company does not need to provide medical benefits. It seems there is a horrible attempt by the company’s desire to control cost to cheat the employee. This continues the downward spiral of the relationship of the worker and the company they work for.

Managers of the world unite and start treating our employees like they are human beings who need to be productive. Our employees are not commodities to be used up and thrown away, they are people that want to be productive and do good things. Let’s help them accomplish that. More value will be created that way!

And that is my thought for the day!




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