Gladstonian Republicans

During my reading this morning my mind was confronted with a number of concepts, premises, and arguments. In the article titled “Vladimir The (Not So) Great” I learned about Russia’s non-exceptionalism. After reading this I do think Russia, and Putin in particular, has America envy. I understand that Russia wants to establish its own identity, and not be consumed by the west, but the question of Russian uniqueness in history has been debated for many years. “As the great 19th-century Russian satirist Mikhail Saltykoz-Shchedrin wrote: They [the powers that be] are talking a lot about patriotism – must have stolen again.” I am wondering if Putin’s focus on Russian exceptionalism in history is a smokescreen for what he has stolen?

Then there is the commencement speech given by Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, given on May 29th at Harvard University. Bloomberg attacked the current tendency of higher education to eradicate opposing viewpoints. He argued that “Repressing free expression is a natural human weakness, and it is up to us to fight it at every turn. Intolerance of ideas – whether liberal or conservative – is antithetical to individual rights and free societies, and it is no less antithetical to great universities and first-rate scholarships.” I agree with this argument and his warning about censoring those ideas we don’t agree with. He called it the New McCarthyism, and if anyone has seen the pictures of the anti-communist witch-hunt that occurred in the 50’s realize how serious this danger is.

However, where I want to focus my attention this morning is the idea of a Gladstonian Republican proposed by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. They wrote about the need for the Republican Party to reinvent itself as an expression of William Gladstone.

The authors of this article argued that the Republicans need a big idea, a positive message, because if they don’t the party is heading for a disaster. According to this opinion article the authors pointed out that due to the current administration’s inability to manage its business, a counter-narrative could be very successful, but without clarity of the narrative election results will be the same as the last two elections. They argued that the counter-narrative that would best provide success would be an adaptation of the Gladstonian narrative of the 19th century Prime Minister of Great Britain.

The authors described what this would look like. “Imagine that the world’s superpower reduces the size of government by a quarter over the next 30 years, even as the population grows by 50%. Imagine further that the superpower performs this miracle while dramatically increasing both the quality of public services and the nation’s diplomatic clout. And, imagine that the Republican Party leads this great revolution while uniting its manifold factions behind one of its favorite words: liberty.” Hmm, very interesting!

Gladstone led a 19th century revolution that lowersedtaxes in 1846, while the government built more and better schools, hospitals, sewers, and police forces. “The Victorians paid for these useful new services by getting rid of what they called old corruption (and we could call cronyism) and by exploiting the new technology of the day, like the railway.”

Gladstone believed in “no taxes,” but also recognized that this was not practical. However, he worked to create lower taxes that would allow money to “fructify in the pockets of the people.” Gladstone worked hard to eliminate waste in government spending, which helped him find the money he needed to build the services needed to help the poor. Therefore, what are the lessons from this 19th century exemplar that we should pay attention too?

First, defeat cronyism. Gladstone worked to eliminate the governmental benefits for East India Company, sugar makers, and British landowners. Second, concentrate the state on what it needs to do. “Gladstone would concentrate money on the poor, targeting the welfare state for the rich. More money goes to the top 5% in mortgage-interest deductions than to the bottom 50% in social housing. He would set about reforming entitlements to make sure that they are fundable.” Third, simplify government. “The aristocrats who ran the country wanted to conceal the fact that most government spending went to support their relations in the form of sinecure, church livings, pensions, and ceremonial jobs.” Fourth, take the state seriously. To do this Gladstone would make the state as small as possible but focus it and make it work a well as it can. Fifth, put the state on the side of business creation. This does not mean giving large corporations tax breaks only to have the corporations move its operations overseas. It means creating a level playing field that will allow business to flourish in this country, thus putting people to work. Lastly, make the state humble and dowdy. Maybe the word frugal would be better.

I don’t know if we can actually accomplish this, and I am still intrigued with the idea of the Nordic Model of capitalism, but the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing but expecting a different result. It ain’t going to happen.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

Winifred, Katie, Kenya, Bathrooms: Anything Can Be Entrepreneurial

My mother-in-law is a very unique woman. To give you an example of how unique, I’ll tell you about one of her collections. She has travelled the world, but her world travels started thirty years ago, so convergence of product had not occurred yet, so toilet paper was much different all around the world. She started collecting toilet paper from the countries she travelled in. Some or her samples were much like ours in the US, but some we very different. Some were scratchy, some were like wax paper, and others had pictures. Her collection has even made it into the paper where she lives.

Even during my travels, which are not as extensive as hers, I have seen a few countries that had very different bathroom facilities. In Kenya, there is what is called an Indian toilet. This is just a hole in the ground, which reflects a heavy eastern influence. I remember when we were travelled from Nakuru, Kenya where we were staying to Buffalo Springs where we were going to safari. As we were travelling we stopped to get gas, and Katie had to go to the bathroom. My mother-in-law turns to my wife and says, “should we tell her,” as Katie walks to the restroom. My wife responds to my mother-in-law and says, “let’s see what she does.” Katie comes out thirty seconds later and says, “I’ll wait.” It was a hole in the ground. It was the look on Katie’s face that was priceless.

The worst restrooms I have every seen were in Russia. I had travelled to Kaluga, Russia with a music group from church. The band would put on concerts at night, and we would evangelize the young people that came to the concerts. The restrooms at the concert hall were filthy, and the owners of the hall had removed all of the walls around the toilets. When you went downstairs to use the restroom, if you had to do number two you were in front of everyone. Needless to say they were not used very often.

You might be thinking what does this have to do with Entrepreneurship? It appears that the Japanese have done some pretty exciting things with toilets. In fact, they are calling them smart toilets. These smart toilets are app filled commodes that will play music while you do your business, sync with your smart phone via Bluetooth in case someone calls, or even heat the seat for more comfort.

These smart commodes with built in bidets are very popular in Japan. “Three-quarters of Japanese homes contain such toilets, most of them made by one of two companies, Toto, Ltd or Lixil, Corp.” Lixil has purchased American Standard, a major toilet producer in the US, and plans to bring smart toilets to America. The price for a smart toilet ranges from $5000 for high-end models to more reasonable prices for the lower end smart commode. I am not too sure what the differences are between a high-end and low-end model, but I am sure you will be able to tell the difference.

Whoopi Goldberg has said, “that her Toto Washlet is the greatest invention on the face of the earth.” Pretty high praise for something so basic! However, I laughed hysterically when Homer Simpson was confronted with a smart commode in Japan that shouted on when he entered the bathroom, “Welcome, I am honored to accept your waste.”

American Standard thinks there is a market here in the United States for this product. They are going to spend $3 to $5 million in advertising to promote their smart toilet and bidet combo. Many luxury hotels have contracted Toto to supply these new smart commodes in their guest rooms. It appears that these new commodes also used less water per flush.

The Japanese are obsessed with cleanliness, where we in America see “Japanese toilets, with their menu of smartphone-like buttons arrayed alongside the bowl,” as daunting. One analyst said this, “Nobody wants something so biologically mundane as going to the bathroom to be more complicated than it has to be, right now, every high-tech toilet reminds me of R2-D2.” Maybe if we are constipated we can cry out “help me Obi-Wan-Kenobi?”

I do apologize for “wasting” your time discussing smart commodes, but the sarcastic side of me won out today. I could not help myself. However, the lesson is clear, anything can be entrepreneurial, even something so mundane as sitting in the “library.” I do think the opportunities are endless with this product. Can you think of the many improvements to the process of going to the bathroom? “Siri, what can I do about my son missing the bowl and wetting the floor?” Or, “Siri, how can I get my dog to use and flush the toilet?” Maybe we could even connect it to our smart cars, and plan out a trip while we are regrettably indisposed rather that wasting time looking at a book on how funny parent texting is?

I don’t know if it is true that once we try these new smart commodes we won’t go back. But when it is cold in the morning, and I sit on a cold toilet seat, maybe an automatic seat warmer isn’t too bad. Or how about a keypad that you can put your number in and the seat adjusts to your requirement versus’ your spouses or roommate. The opportunities are endless. See anything can be entrepreneurial.

And that is my thought for the day!

I Miss Jesus!

Today is Memorial Day where we choose think about those we have lost, soldiers who fought for this country, Dads, Moms, children, or grandparents. However, this year I am thinking about something I saw on TV the other night, and what my Pastor talked about Sunday in church. It was a very fruitful day yesterday, at least when it comes to pondering the subject of missing someone.

This thought process began with watching a television show titled “The Black Box.” This program stars Kelly Reilly and Vanessa Redgrave, and explores the functions of the nervous system. Reilly plays a world famous neurologist, who is also, and secretly, bipolar. In this particular episode the writers explore what is called the Jerusalem Syndrome.

This particular Syndrome occurs after someone visits Jerusalem and develops a psychopathological obsession with religion. I had no idea such a syndrome existed until I looked it up after watching this TV show. The story involves a non-practicing Jew who is wealthy, that visits the holy land with his family, and subsequently develops a new found obsession with God. He gives his apartment to the maid, and gives away $12 million to charity. Subsequently his wife is a little upset, and they put the man in the hospital to find out what is going on because obviously there is a malfunction of the nervous system with anyone becoming overly religious. Spirituality is reduced to a physical response to an external stimulus. In other words, life is materialistic. There is no spirituality.

The show ends with two significant events. First, Reilly’s character is inadvertently given a hallucinogenic drug, one that was used earlier in the show to help a man cope with dying, and because of the hallucinations enters a church to calm down. She is sitting in church and sees a stained glass window of Mary wink at her giving her a sense of comfort. The implication being that maybe there is something out there.

The second event is where I want to focus. When we were first introduced to the man suffering from the Jerusalem Syndrome he is loving, wearing a toga, and healing people. At the end of the program after the doctors figured out he was suffering from a brain disorder, which they were able to prescribe the appropriate drugs, we see the man how he really was, focused on wealth, business, and himself. But the character makes an amazing comment, “I miss God.” Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Not that I miss God, but that someone could put themselves in a place to have once known and experienced God, but is now in a place where the presence of God is no longer there. I cannot think of anything worse.

This TV program helped me to remember a story about a man named Charles Templeton. I had to look up the story because I could not remember it all. In the article entitled “Pathetic Preacher Dies in Unbelief,” the detail of Templeton’s life is laid out for us. Charles Templeton was a young man who made a profession of faith at 19 in the Nazarene Church. “He did evangelistic work for three years in Canada, Michigan, Indiana, New York, and other northern states.” He eventually left the revival road and founded a church in Toronto. The church eventually grew, subsequently filling the building, around 1200 people.

Templeton was handsome, had many abilities, and what some would call unlimited potential. He was also a friend of Billy Graham. Some even said at the time Templeton superseded Graham as an evangelist. However, even during all of these wonderful events Templeton was having doubts about God. Templeton describe this problem, “I picked up Thomas Paine’s the Age of Reason. In a few hours, nearly everything I knew or believed about the Christian religion was challenged and in a large part demolished.” Over the next few days he read Voltaire, Russell, Ingersoll, Hume and Huxley thus solidifying his move away from God.

In order to mitigate the move away from God,Templeton decided that he was not trained enough. So he applied to Princeton Theological Seminary. His experience at Princeton was described by his son as an attempt to learn; but made his father an agnostic. The saddest part of this story is Templeton’s attempt to justify is move to agnosticism in his work entitled “Farewell to God.” The arguments in this book are not new, but as Lee Strobel found out, Templeton had no desire to return to the faith of his youth. The saddest words to come out of Templeton’s mouth, “I miss Jesus.”

The question then is how do you keep from missing Jesus? John 15: 1-13 gives us the answer. Jesus said, “ I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” He also said in this section “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” He adds I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”

This seems very clear to me. Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. Se regardless of what is going on around me, I will trust Him. I think that is the first part of keeping connected. I also think that any attempt to isolate God from any part of our life is dangerous. Due to my lack of eloquence, I will use the old cliché of God wants to be on the throne of our lives. He wants to be central.

This means I am not a churchgoer on Sunday and a businessman on Monday. I am a follower of Christ, who practices his religion in all facets of his life. I am connected with the vine who in turn provides the life I need to bear fruit. It is as we maintain this connectedness that I will never feel the desire to say I miss God, or I miss Jesus. I really think these are sad words, ones that I hope I never say. So happy Memorial Day, and may this day always be one of remembering what you have and not what you have lost.

And that is my thought for the day!

Virtuous Capitalism And The Evangelical Church

As much as I want to write about Dr. Monica Wehby, and the lousy politics that tried to paint her as a emotional female that likes to stalk people. Or how she is an accomplished neurosurgeon. No, instead of writing about this horrible attempt to discredit a successful pediatric doctor in the state of Oregon who is running for a position as Senator, I have chosen to write about another topic near and dear to my heart.

This morning I want to challenge the Evangelical Church to begin to think about Virtuous Capitalism. Why do I want to challenge the Evangelical Church? Because why should the Catholic Church have all the great books and articles that discuss the power of Capitalism to do good in society? I know there is the side of the Evangelical Church that is said to present the social gospel, focusing on taking care of the poor, and I know there is the other side of the church that focuses on the salvation of mankind, stating their responsibility is to preach the good news. But I do not believe there is a separation of focus. The church is to preach the good news of Jesus Christ while caring for the least of these. That is our call. What got me thinking about this was an article in yesterday’s WSJ written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Dolan starts this editorial by referring to the May 9th meeting between Pope Francis and the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “From media reports, one might think that the only thing on the Pope’s mind was government redistribution of property, as if he were denouncing capitalism and endorsing some form of socialism.” I think in this editorial Dolan is attempting to clarify the mind of the Pope for us. I think he does a pretty good job at explaining what the Catholic Church teaches on this subject.

After making the above statement Dolan clarifies the churches teaching on property rights. “The church believes that prosperity and earthly blessings can be a good thing, gifts from God for our well-being and the common good.” This is consistent with what has been called the protestant work ethic. The Puritans believed in hard work, frugality, and diligence. As a result of this, according to the Puritans, there would be a visible blessing demonstrating the grace of God. WE must remember that the Puritans did not believe this was a motivation to get more things, but to reflect the goodness of work and human productivity as it related to the grace of God. The Puritans did believe it was right for those that work hard to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Dolan affirms the Catholic agreement with the Puritans. “It is part of human nature to work and produce, and everyone has the natural right to economic initiative and to enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

If you ask me why I am not a socialist, it is because I understand the evil that lurks within the heart of humankind. To trust government with the responsibility to own and fairly distribute property is a disaster waiting to happen. However, the opposite is just as false. To say that the free market will lead to the economic salvation of society leads us to believe in a fool’s errand. This is also related to the fallen nature of humankind. We do not like to share. But, as Cardinal Dolan ably points out, “Abundance is for the benefit of all people.”

All we need to do is look out our front window and we see the reality that all do not participate in the abundance of the economic harvest. Pope Francis warns of a “throwaway culture, economy of exclusion, and culture of death,” which emerges when our society attempts to marginalize the poor. We do that by limiting their opportunities and pushing them to live in certain parts of the city. We only see them when they are panhandling on the side of the freeway off-ramp. It then becomes easy for us to say “let them eat cake.”

I truly agree with Dolan when he writes, “But the church certainly disapproves of any system of unregulated economic amorality, which leaves people at the mercy of impersonal market forces, where they have no choice but to sink, swim, or be left with the scraps that fall from the table.” I think the Evangelical Church would agree with this statement, and I think all of us would agree that the “Wolf of Wall Street” is not a good model of economic prosperity.

I found his following statement to be compelling. “It is also worth noting that what many people around the world experience as capitalism isn’t recognizable to Americans.” I think this is a fair statement. If it wasn’t, then why do Wal-Mart, Nike, the Gap, Apple, and other major corporation struggle with monitoring their supply chains to ensure their suppliers are not using child labor, paying appropriate wages, and have safe working conditions? So I Think it is true, that the capitalism that these countries, Thailand, Vietnam, and others, are experiencing is much different than ours. Dolan describes them as exploitive, benefiting the wealthy few, instead of a system that rewards hard work while helping those less fortunate. As I write this I immediately think of Boaz and Ruth. As Boaz was harvesting the wheat, he allowed the poor to glean the leftovers on his field. Boaz’s abundance helped others.

So Evangelical Church why aren’t you screaming this from the housetop? I can’t tell you how many books I have read on this subject that were written by Catholic writers. Where is the Evangelical voice on this subject? To often we are seen as being a pawn of one political party or another instead of being the ambassador of God that we are meant to be.

“As Pope Francis reminds us, individual generosity, private economic development, community and family initiatives, and public policies of legitimate redistribution of economic benefits all have a role in enhancing economic opportunities, and in alleviating and eliminating poverty.” I like this, and have been teaching this in my classes for the last two years. I am a free market guy all the way, but I also recognize that there is a responsibility to give to the poor. I also believe that economic advancement will only occur as the Community, Business, and Government come together to develop a plan. I also believe that “to whom much is given much is required.” This is what Jesus said, and He said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Let’s start writing about this. Let’s leave the politicians to their futile actions and let’s take responsibility to shout from the housetops the importance of productivity and serving the poor. But serving the poor in a manner that does not reinforce their poverty.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

The Specter Of Uselessness

Yesterday I played 27 holes of golf. Played pretty well, but today I am relaxing a bit. The wife unit has gone to work, and it is just Lucy, our dog, and myself sitting here at the homestead thinking about the day. I am getting some work done, but having trouble with motivation. I think I am a person that needs to have structure each day to keep me moving forward.

I don’t want you to think that I am lazy, I am reading and writing. I will be completing some things that are related to my responsibilities at the school later today, and I am meeting my son for coffee. At 6pm I will be doing an observation of a faculty member. As I write this I am beginning to think that maybe my day is more structured than I thought.

All of this leads to me to want to write down some thoughts about the specter of uselessness. This is a concept proposed by Richard Sennett in his book “The Culture of the New Capitalism.” This concept can be applied to several demographics within our society. Those of us who are growing old, especially those of use who lose energy or purpose. A middle-aged man gets laid off, and can’t find another job, this man enters into a world of uselessness. Or maybe it is a person who has lost their job, because their work has been shipped over seas. They don’t have the skills needed to work in this new, more complicated environment. This person could be young and uneducated, or even a woman. As a result, they have a feeling of uselessness.

In either case you have individuals that are adversely affected by the changing culture that measures ability in the terms of creativity, intelligence, and employability. As Sennett states our new environment deems people more worthy and superior if they hold these traits. This philosophy then supports the natural aristocracy of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson stated, “There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.”

This Jeffersonian ideal is usally discussed in congruence with Jacksonian democracy, which is based on the ideal of the self-made person. We in America have grown up on the ideal that if we work hard we can be successful. Jeffersonian meritocratic aristocracy is based not on birth or status, but out of the ability to do a certain type of work and the ability compete.

The question then is what do we do with those that do not have the skills to work in this new environment, or have the ability to compete? I am convinced that each of us is born with an innate desire to be productive. And as we struggle with our environment this innate desire is either enhanced or killed through experience. Sennett states, “In the writings of Abraham Maslow, for instance, human development was viewed as a lifelong negotiation between the genetic capacities of an individual and his or her experience in society; in place of Freud’s ideas about drives and instincts, Maslow sought a more plastic understanding of the self’s form in time.”

The implication of both Maslow and Alderfer’s ERG theory is that this struggle is a lifelong process. Erik Erikson in his eight stages reflects a life long struggle between two opposing forces in our lives as we look for a healthy equilibrium. Pondering this tension has reminded me of a sentence in the Alchemist. Paulo Coelho says, “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I wonder if those who have lost the fire, if you will, and now experience this sense of uselessness feel that all of the universe is conspiring to help them achieve anything? These individuals had potential ability, and they still do, but now due to changing economic conditions have lost the opportunity to contribute, to be productive. I agree that meritocracy disempowers those that are not creative or ambitious. But I am not too sure that, as some would argue, represents the vast majority of people.

I do think that everyone has a creative potential. It is just finding what the gift is that each of these people has. I also agree with the idea of potential ability. Some just need to be reminded of that reality. Those that have this sense of uselessness may need help finding purpose again. Productivity, doing a good job and completing are both factors that can help us reclaim self-worth.

Later today I am going to go work out. In fact shortly, I am going to take Lucy for a walk. These little accomplishments keep me moving forward. Instead of focusing on my failures, I reject the sense of uselessness that comes from inaction. I also agree with Coehlo, that the universe does conspire, but that universe is Jesus Christ. Phil 1:6 states, and this is my life verse, “He that has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” This inspires me to push on.

And that is my thought for the day!

Boeing, McNerney, And Change

Warren Bennis, in his book “On Becoming a Leader,” says this about leadership, “Leaders are, by definition, innovators. They do things other people have not or dare not to do.” This, a comment I heard from an old friend the other night, and an article this morning in the paper about Boeing has initiated a moment of reflection about the role of leadership within organizations.

Kurt Lewin once said, “If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.” I think that the work McNerney has done to change Boeing has indeed helped him to understand the many dynamics involved with a large organization.

Leaders learn from the past, but they also have an incredible ability to make things new. “Having learned from the past, they live in the present, with one eye on the future.” Like it or not, I think Jim McNerney has attempted to accomplish that leadership trait. Has this been well received by employees? It appears the results are mixed.

McNerney is approaching 65, which is the mandatory age of retirement. He has announced that he has no intention of retiring, but a 50 year-old man, Dennis Muilenburg, has been appointed vice chairman, president, and chief operating officer. So I would think that Boeing is in for another change.

The comment I heard the other night was about the work atmosphere at Boeing. It sounds tense, and it appears that management is cracking down on certain shop floor practices that the employees found desirable. The union workers are losing radios and other freedoms they used to enjoy. These are simple characteristics that point to a tense relationship between union and management. North Carolina, NLRB lawsuits, and moving Engineers to other parts of the country and world all point to management/labor problems within Boeing.

During this week’s investor meeting there will be discussion about financial results, as well as the succession plan for CEO. Over the last ten years Boeing’s stock value has increased by 80%, which reflects operational effectiveness. Boeing had to improve its operational efficiency in order to improve its margins. With over 11,000 airplanes on order between Airbus and Boeing worth billions of dollars, Boeing had to fix its production system. This has happened even with the problems associated with the 787.

The 787 program is still losing money and will do so until they have manufactured 1,300 airplanes. “Dreamliner production has increased to 10 each month, but the company is still losing money on each sold, having built around 200 so far. Boeing is able to account for that high cost by spreading it over 1,300 deliveries, allowing the company to book future profits as today’s earnings.” This does seem like creative accounting to me, but what happens if something happens between now and 1,300 airplanes, will they need to declare losses? This makes me wonder if we have a little Enron within the Boeing accounting system?

Whether the union like McNerney or not, he did create change in the company. He did learn from the past, live in the present, to create a new future. McNerney is an innovator, and I do believe what he has done has been good for the company. However, from this point on Boeing will need a new kind of leadership.

Muilenburg will face some of the same issues the Jeff Immelt did when he took over for Jack Welch. Welch was a hard act to follow. Welch turned a very large organization around making it more nimble, flexible and successful. I would argue that even though GE is still a powerhouse the Immelt has not accomplished as much as Welch. However, that may not necessarily be bad thing. Immelt stabilized the company and institutionalized the changes made by Welch. Muilenburg will need to do the same thing.

McNerney introduced change to Boeing, but in the process he has infuriated the unions. I don’t think he will be able to repair that by the time he retires, and I don’t think that is important. I think the Muilenburg will need to come in and stabilize and institutionalize the changes initiated by McNerney, and repair relationships to get the employees back on board. However, while he does this he will need to keep his eye on the future and financial margins.

Many are questioning whether Boeing and Airbus are manufacturing too many airplanes? China’s growth is slowing down so will airlines need 11,000 new airplanes? Who knows, but one thing I know change is a constant. Although Boeing‘s product life cycle is long, compared to a computer tablet, the environment does impact backlog. I am sure Boeing and its leadership are looking for the Black Swans that are out there.

Leadership is tough in the simplest of times, but when the company is in a dynamic environment it is even more difficult. Maybe that is why people feel that most organizations are not well led? Congrats to Boeing for its successes, but don’t rest too long on your laurels, or you will become the Lazy B again.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons About Leadership

The last couple of days have been days of reflection. The school year is done; therefore what went well and what didn’t go so well? I enjoy self-reflection because I like to get lost in my thoughts. I am not going into some alternative life because I am unhappy in this one; it is a thought process I use for trying to become a better leader, teacher, husband, father, and grandfather.

After meeting with someone the other day, I was very disappointed at this person’s lack of learning from events. This person has not been humbled, or has even attempted to become a better person because of these events. This person continues to blame others, and is furious because everything has been taken away from them. This actually made me very sad for this person, and the organization that has been and will continue to be affected by this person in a negative manner.

There are several questions I have been pondering since this meeting. First, what is the reason for leadership? I came to several conclusions. Leadership is about ensuring the organization is performing in an effective manner. This means that a leader does not just continue what has been done in the past, it means questioning what has previously been done why we did it. A non-leader continues with the status quo; a leader asks what and why. Thank you Warren Bennis for that insight.

Although I am very disappointed with this person, there are other people affected by these events. This has led me to my second question, when an organization is in the middle of change, what does a leader do? The answer, become an anchor of hope. The key characteristic of a good leader is the ability to create a guiding vision. A leader has the ability to paint a clear picture that all within the organization can see what the desired end state looks like. However, there can be some very uncomfortable times to get there. Thus, the leader becomes an anchor of hope. The leader continues to remind everyone where the organization is going, and assuring all is ok. However, because the leader is authentic, the words are not platitudes or manipulation, they are heartfelt expressions from a person who believes that integrity is important.

According to Bennis one of the reasons for leadership is the integrity of the organization. Hmm, what the heck does that mean? The definition of integrity is this: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Can an organization be honest and have strong moral principles? I think it can, especially if it has strong leadership that models these characteristics. This integrity emerges from a strong desire to be an authentic leader. This type of leader is listening to their inner voice. As a Christian I am listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, or at least attempting to keep myself in a place where that voice comes through loud and clear. I have done this by prayer, confession of sin, reading God’s word, reading good books, and having the right mentors. What emerges from these actions is a clear guiding vision for my life. I have tried to take this and apply it to the organization I am now involved with. I want the WPC Business program to be successful, and I want it to produce business leaders in the community that make a difference.

To accomplish these things, our students need to emerge as authentic people. They need to know themselves, while having the ability to self-regulate and have a strong self-concept. They recognize the importance of interpersonal relationships because they all know that good business means good relationships. However, they also recognize they themselves need to be develop and the importance of developing others. This desire for development grows out of a strong sense of thinking and experience.

It is amazing that so many people feel that the leaders in their organizations are doing a poor job; especially with the amount of money that is spent on the subject. The definition of insanity is the continuation of doing the same thing while expecting a different result. It appears we need good leaders to help create better leaders. Who has the guiding vision for this? With all of the books on leadership now, why do we have some many bad leaders? More questions to ponder.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From The Week

Graduation was last Saturday, and it is always sad to see students go. Next year things will be very different. This is not bad or good, it just is. So is the circle of life. Often my students will come back to say hi, and I am on Facebook with many of my previous students, so it is not like I never hear from them again. It just is.

My first year as department chair is over. The positives outweigh the negatives. I have had an opportunity to work with the department to create long needed changes to the Business program at WPC. I know we are doing the right thing, but we’ll see if we get an influx of new students. I have also observed how our faculty (both traditional and adjunct) teach their classes. It has been fun to see the different styles and processes each use to educate their students.

The not so good stuff involves the inability of some people to change. I have sat down with many faculty members over this year and discussed their styles and in some cases the need to change. Some have responded well to the critique, while others gave excuses and words that demonstrate to me they do not understand the severity of their issues. It is sad really, that these individuals are so blind to their deficiency that they are unwilling to change.

Several of us have read a book and have now begun our discussion around the topic of “The New Capitalism.” The book was written by Richard Sennett and discusses how our society and companies are losing trust, loyalty, and the accumulation of knowledge because of the temporariness of work. No longer do employees work for a company for many years and have benefits. They now work for temporary agencies and are treated more like a commodity. Our first meeting was Thursday, and we did have a good discussion, but we’ll see what the next one is like.

Now for the lessons from the world! Business ethics are still important. This is a lesson GM is finding out. Yes, a $35 million fine is only a day’s income, but the fact they hid recall failures will hurt them in the long run. Toyota learned that difficult lesson too. Transparent and honest business will always win.

Extreme poverty has been reduced throughout the world by 50%. This note worthy accomplishment was reported by the United Nations last year as a part of their Millennial Goals. Their goal was to accomplish this by 2015, but actually hit the goal in 2010. The number was reached due to economic development in India and China. Both countries have a growing middle class. However, in the case of India, which has been led by the same political party for 67 years, there have been some growth issues. The people of India have overwhelmingly elected a pro-business leader by the name of Narendra Modi to be their next Prime Minister. The people of India believe “Modi will change the country 100%, he will bring rapid development, he will bring foreign companies to India, everyone will have jobs.” As the WSJ reported today, “The vote amounted to a surprisingly broad repudiation of Congress’s welfare approach to policy-making and an endorsement of Mr. Modi’s call for more effective governance and business friendly measures to create jobs and drive growth.”

The last lesson of the week involves the interpretation of data. Robert Reich has been talking about income inequality for months now. President Obama has made this the battle cry of his administration, but others look at the same information and draw a different conclusion. Neil Gilbert, after looking at the same data that Reich looked at, concluded that members of the middle class are better off than 30 years ago. He reported this morning that the Congressional Budget Office’s 2011 report on income inequality offers better detail than market reports that exclude “taxes, government transfers, and adjustments for household size.”

The CBO report adjusts market income by subtracting taxes and adding the cash value of social benefits.” Gilbert then divided into five equal income groups and found that disposable income has increased by 40%. Gilbert also compared us to other countries, and reported that across all income levels our people are better off than other countries. Hmm, amazing how much one’s perspective and perceptual filters impact conclusions.

These are just a few of the things I learned this week. There is no such thing as just a business decision. All decisions are personal. Good business means good relationships. I hope my graduating students have learned that lesson. I know GM has learned it. I do think that India has, and I hope that we as a country recognize this importance. Yes, me may be better off, but there are the others that aren’t. May we never forget that.

And that is the thought for the day!

 

Putting The Term Liberal Back Into Liberal Arts

I am excited about an event I am participating in today. I and several other professors will be spending the summer discussing Richard Sennett’s book, “The New Capitalism.” I am enjoying the book, having read through it once and now working through it again, and look forward to our conversation. I would say I am the token conservative in this discussion, which is fine, because I am not that conservative anyway, but I am right of center. I believe in the free market and its power to create social good. However, I am a realist, and can see how an unfettered economic system can be unfair. But there will be more on that later. What I do want to discuss today is what will be occurring today during our meeting from 1:30 to 2:30 pm. There will be free speech and meaningful dialog, which is critical within any democracy.

Previously I wrote about Brandeis University banning Somali born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali from being its commencement speaker due to anti-Islamic teachings. I am not too sure on the specifics associated with Ali’s anti-Islamic comments, but I think we can assume it had to do with the treatment of women. Brandeis stated their reason for banning her involved the university’s core values.

I am in the academic world, and I know that many faculty would consider themselves left of center, but all of us should be afraid about the tendency of academics to shout down “the other.” When we start thinking the other person has no right to speak, then democracy is in trouble. If this happened once, I may not pay attention, but the fact that it is happening over and over again concerns me.

Don’t get me wrong, I could care less if Rush Limbaugh or even Tom Lykis is banned from being a commencement speaker. But the people that are withdrawing because others want to silence their voice is downright scary.

Smith College, this week, announced the “withdrawal of Christine Lagarde, the French head of the International Monetary Fund” as commencement speaker. 480 individuals with the College felt Lagarde was “associated with imperialistic and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Huh! Christine Lagarde is one of the world’s most accomplished women, and she is fostering systems that oppress women? In how many different languages can we say silly?

I wish it ended here, but it doesn’t. Haverford College lost its commencement speaker as a result of an inaccurate assumption about an event on the Berkeley campus in 2011 when this person was its chancellor. Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of US Berkeley, has been the “defender of minority students, the LGBT community, and undocumented immigrants,” in other words someone who is politically correct, yet the graduating seniors did not want him to speak at their commencement. It appears in 2011 the Berkeley police “used force against Occupy protestors in Sproul Plaza.” If Mr. Birgeneau was allowed to speak he would have been required to meet nine conditions, once of which would have been reparations to the “victims of police violence.”

The shunning of conservative views on college and university campuses has become a reality. I agree that some conservative views should be shunned, but our democracy stays healthy when there is a plethora of voices that comet together to create a common path. This is not the elimination of the other, but an exploration of shared meaning through dialog. I agree with David Henninger when he describes what he sees as the problem with not allowing the other to speak. “This shunning and isolation of conservative teachers by their left-wing colleagues (with many liberals silent in acquiescence) weakened the foundational ideas of American universities – freedom of inquiry and the speech rights of the first amendment.” Thus, because of the narrowing view of what is considered legitimate truth, even one of their own “must sign a Maoist self-criticism to be able to speak at Haverford. Meet America’s Red Guards.”

Although I don’t agree with Henninger when he calls professors nutty and loonie, or that in the name of progress professors are dumbing down courses; I do agree with him when he says “One might conclude: Who cares? Parents are beginning to see that this is a $65,000-a-year scam that won’t get their kids a job in an economy that wants quantification skills. Parents and students increasingly will flee the politicized nut-houses for apolitical MOOC’s – massive open online courses.” I don’t want that, and the faculty I know don’t want that either.

Just because I don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to tell me about their beliefs. Who’s to say that I am right and the other is wrong. As much as I’d like to think I am always right, I know I am not. Thus, I read to draw better and stronger conclusions. Maybe colleges and universities need to return to the days gone by, and return to what liberal arts is supposed to be.

And that is my thought for the day!

Biblical Entrepreneurship

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a fundraising dinner for the Nehemiah Project. The Nehemiah Project involves teaching students how to be entrepreneurs, while emphasizing their businesses should have a Biblical foundation for how they are run. The keynote speaker last night was Bob Moore, owner of Red Mill Natural Foods. It was an incredible evening, because Moore is a man who does run his business based on how he thinks God wants him to run it.

Moore mentioned several things that he sees as critical to his being faithful to God in his business. First, Moore pays his employees a livable wage (currently he has over 400 employees). He feels that this is a critical expression of his faith. Second, he provides medical benefits for his employees. There was a question from the audience about how these actions affect his margins. He felt that by providing these benefits for his employees that his margins are stronger than if he charged lower prices. His employees are happy and therefore give the company 110% all the time.

Third, Moore provides a 401k for his employees. It is not a pension, but it is an opportunity for employees to create a more comfortable retirement for themselves. And last, Red Mill provides profit sharing each month for his employees. Moore told a funny story on how his CPA tried to get him to limit the profit sharing to once per year. Moore said absolutely not. He wanted his employees to participate each month in the financial results of the business.

Moore’s Red Mill is successful. It is a multimillion-dollar business, that is doing well while doing good. Bob Moore is 84 years old and has no intention of retiring. However, he recognizes that he will not be able to do his business forever. In response to this reality, and his love for his employees, he has turned the company into an ESOP, which means the company is owned by the all of the employees.

I have to admit I was amazed by what I heard. Bob Moore is a Biblical Entrepreneur. He has started a business, made a difference in his community, while doing it God’s way. He is a businessman, but he cares for others. He and his wife have used their money to do good in the Portland community. He has created non-profit organizations with OHSU and others to provide opportunity for other less fortunate people.

Bob Moore is exactly what we are talking about in our Social Entrepreneurship program at Warner Pacific College. We are training students to start businesses that create positive social change. This can be done in many different ways, and Bob Moore has found one of them. Thanks Bob for being an excellent example of what a Biblical Entrepreneur can do.

Oh by the way, I ran into two old friends of mine at the dinner and plan on reconnecting with them.

And that is my thought for the day!