I guess I shouldn’t whine so much about poor leadership. But the more I read, and the more I look at research, the more I see how society is not benefiting from the billions paid by students studying leadership. 50%, 60%, 75% of organizations are viewed as not being well led. Through out my career I have seen good leaders and bad leaders, with most trending toward the not so good side. Oh, I am getting even more cynical as I get older.
Yesterday the House Republicans backed off from a Debt spending limit. After the people complained about shutting down the government, I can understand why Boehner and crew backed off. However, it does not deal with the fact that we are continuing to spend our way into oblivion. Somewhere somehow there needs to emerge a leader who can creatively solve our debt and spending problem, but we continue doing the same thing expecting a different outcome.
There are some more personal examples that I would love to share, but it would not be appropriate at this point in time. But bad leadership is all around us. Now I am not saying I am a good leader, I hope I am and I am trying to make a difference. We’ll see what my legacy is when I retire, or pass on the torch. I enjoyed my time as a manager/leader at Boeing, and I am enjoying my work as Department Chair at Warner Pacific College, but whether I am a good leader or not, we just have to wait and see.
The area in our society where we need to see more positive leadership is within the area of growing inequality in our country. I read several reports this morning describing some of the economic changes that are occurring.
There has been a great deal of discussion on the value of college degrees. I think the numbers tell us that the value is still there. In 1965 young people with a high school diploma made .81 for every one dollar a college graduate made. “Today, young adults with just a high school diploma earn just 62% of the typical salary of college graduates.” This is the widest gap in 48 years. Pew Research Center stated, “In today’s knowledge based economy, the only thing more expensive than getting a college education is not getting one.”
Another set of numbers that I found very interesting this morning involved the “decoupling of wages and benefits from economic productivity.” Household incomes, as reported by William Galston in the WSJ, are 6.4% below where they were at the beginning of the Great Recession. After the recession was declared over, household incomes are still 4.7% below the ending number. In other words during the recovery period household incomes have not fully recovered to pre-recession levels.
Between the years of 1947 and 1973 total wages and benefits grew inline with productivity gains. Output during this time grew by 2.8%, while wages and benefits grew by 2.6%. In other words we all shared in the benefits of post war prosperity. However, from 1979 to 1990 productivity grew on an average of 1.4% with household compensation only growing .5%. As Galston writes, “The 1990’s were better: Productivity gains accelerated to 2.1% yearly, and compensation to 1.5%.” However, the gap has still widened, “because compensation rose at less than three-quarters of the rate of productivity.”
The question is why? According to the 2012 report for the Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development there were three factors leading to these issues. First involves the “worsening position of low education workers.” As I mentioned above, people with a High School degree are making less than they once did. Second involves changing technology. The ability of companies to be productive without hiring more workers has led to more gains for the owners of production and not the workers. And third, increased globalization, competition, and capital flows. Thus, “When compensation fails to keep pace with productivity, workers purchasing power becomes less able to sustain economic growth.” So now all of us know where our society is currently at, but the question still needs to be answered what do we do about it?
This is where we need a new style of leadership. First, we need to say, hi my name is the United States and I have a problem. Until we are honest with ourselves we will never figure out what to do. The first step involves all of us, and our elected representatives. Second, business leaders need to recognize that they have stake in this. Henry Ford came to a very important realization. His workers needed to make enough money to buy his product. He decided to pay his employees $5 per day. That was unheard of in the early 1900’s. He was called a communist by his cronies, but Ford was smart like a fox.
Our business leaders need to get a little smarter and start looking locally at the demoralized workforce it is creating. Diminishing loyalty of workers is a serious problem leading to deviant workplace behavior. Shootings, employee theft, and other actions give an indication there is a severe problem with our local workforce.
And lastly, just like the concept of all politics being local, the community needs to step up and begin to work together to provide opportunities for its citizens to develop the skills needed to be a part of the workforce. The number one reason for people not being hired by companies today is the inability to pass a drug test. Pass a drug test; are you kidding me?
So, we know what the problem is, but do we have leaders in or communities that are willing to step up to ensure the work gets done? It will take the government, business and the community working together to right the ship. Lets roll up our sleeves and get to work. I guarantee that all of us will benefit from this work.
And that is my thought for the day!