Monday, January 09, 2020

To Seek the Grail

I owe you, my readers, some hint of where we will be going, if you stay with me as this year progresses. Otherwise, you may justifiably decide to look elsewhere for whatever you have been finding on this site.

I am going on a quest: a quest to discover how leaders can combine productivity with humanity. I want to understand how corporate executives can practice civilized behavior, follow ethical values and develop greater wisdom, without ignoring those insistent demands of business: profit, efficiency and competitive success.

I refuse to believe it isn't possible. Mankind has already achieved so much—socially, politically and technologically—and this seems a small requirement in comparison. Nor can I accept it as unimportant. How we live; how we invest our limited capital of time, energy, interest and capabilities, is surely more important than how we invest our money; and look how much time, activity and newsprint is spent on that. Money can be replaced. Once spent, our lives can not.

Unless you are willing to accept a shoddy material abundance as all the future has to offer—and I refuse to do that—it is your duty to yourself and to others to find a better way. That will be the goal of my quest, and I invite you to join me. You can come to lend a hand; or simply for the entertainment of watching me lose myself in blind alleys, and fall into manure-filled ditches. Either seems a good enough reason, so long as you enjoy the ride.

Starting The Quest

Where shall we start? Not, I think, with one of the many worn-out concepts that delight business and management writers—though why they should is beyond my comprehension. They call to mind beginning a gourmet meal with an appetizer made from fish so old and fragrant even feral cats won't touch it. Perhaps mousse of hundred-year-old red herring, well laced with the arsenic of buzzwords and condescension.

I want to start instead with leaders themselves. I want to find what they think about and worry about. What concerns them most as leaders, and so what may drive them to find better ways of doing it. I also want to consider our common humanity, which is violated by treating employees like animals to be exploited, then kicked out when they are of no further use. The audit mentality that permeates today's organizations like toxic mold lavishes greater care on machines, which are classed as assets, than it does on people, whom it labels as costs.

It does not have to be like this. We can have efficient, profitable enterprises that also treat the people who work there in appropriate ways for a civilized nation. All it takes is the willpower to make that a goal; and the courage to face down the demons of greed, convention and fear that come out to block the path.

That is my quest, and I repeat my invitation: join me as I set out to find the grail I am seeking—how Slow Leadership can restore the craft of the leader to an honorable place and a worthwhile expression of human values. I'll be glad of your help and will try to be humble at your laughter when things go wrong. Like all quests, it's the journey that matters as much (or more) than the goal.

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Interesting turn. Isn't slow leadership mean being yourself especially.

After my son's recent stint at the hospital, I'd suggest you look there on your quest. I saw several cases where care and reasonableness came before profit or efficiency.
My backpack's ready, Carmine! Let's burn a trail! (I'm contemplating being 100% honest with my employer and telling him I fully intend to take the first train out of here.)

Sorry about your son, Dave.

Kathy Sierra took a kick to the head from a donkey and still went into work.
Thanks to you both, Dave and Rabbit.

I'll certainly try to be humane to everyone, including myself (especially?).

Hope your son is well now, Dave.
I am now rereading Ricardo Semler's "The Seven-day Weekend". He started his quest quite a long time ago...
It's a great book. Thanks for the comment...
Interesting quest. I'll be on the road with you. Here's a question for you; who are the great examples that embody the idea? I started exploring a similar question in a broader way, 'Do you have to be a b$%^£rd to succeed?' One thing I have started to do, is to look for some assessed list of say the top 100 people in a field, such as scientists, artists, composers, politicians whatever and then start to checkout their biographies for a quick and dirty judgement of b%%^&rd; or saint. In my case I'm checking professional and private life behaviour. What I'm looking for is a short-list of good examples of humane, good people who reached the pinacle of success in their field, to look into in more detail. I hope some are still alive!

This is a great comment. The poster child for combining business success with humanity is Ricardo Semler. He's also written extensively on his experience. Either "Maverick : The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace" or "The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works" are good. There are also reprints from HBR like "Managing Without Managers".

I'll try to find some other good examples and post them on this site.
Ricardo is a good start, not least because there's so much out there from or about him. I've had a fascinating time reading through interviews and bios, and will look out for his books when I next indulge myself in a bookshop trip.

Thanks again for the whole grail thing, I'm looking forward to being on the journey, and it's got me started back into answering my question above.
Most leaders just do it, regardless of the money or accolades. They receive compensation in other ways: like Dave's experience with a hospital. (BTW, care and reasonableness = efficiency actually.)

Ever seen teachers buying school supplies with their own money? Even as some are dodging bullets at school?

Carmine: Dave's words are well by you and that will spread to others. You can only do what you can do to the best of your abilities (i.e., what you can control).

Great site. Thanks.
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