Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership from a foundation of responsibility and trust 2

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 16, 2013

I have often noted in writing this blog, that management and leadership skills are mostly learned and that they can be quite effectively taught. I have also noted and probably just as often that our best teachers on how to manage and lead can be the examples set by the worst managers and leaders who we have had to work with, and who we have seen in action. It is their negative role model examples that force us to think through how this could be done better. And if we seek to follow better paths and approaches than our negative role models pursue, we become better managers and leaders as a result.

I wrote a posting: Leadership from a Foundation of Responsibility and Trust in 2010 with this basic precept in mind, and find myself coming back to that again here, and to the issues and challenges first addressed there. I keep writing about leadership, and from a wide range of perspectives. But ultimately, all of the traits and qualities that I write of in my ongoing postings on that general topic, come to naught if the leader in place cannot be trusted to do the right thing, or to at least try to do so and consistently.

I find myself writing this posting as I approach a fundamental turning point in my own work life and in my life as a whole. And I write this as I reach a fundamental turning point in what I write of in this blog. Specifically, and with that later point in mind I note that I have more or less systematically worked my way through the basic work life steps from job search through executive leadership and board participation in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Part 2 continuation page. And I am now well on my way through writing and posting a broader perspective series on careers and career development as a whole (see my Jobs and Careers Guide continuation page, postings 285 and following.) So I write this thinking about leadership from a broader perspective, and not simply in terms of the day to day details.

• I have been writing about a whole series of traits and activities that go into leadership and more particularly into effective leadership. They all stem from trust, insofar as they carry or convey any real meaning: trust and trustworthiness and the closely connected qualities of responsibility and accountability.
• The most serious and damaging action that a manager or leader can take is to betray trust. This is the ultimate failure of leadership as it undermines all else.

I write this in early 2013, several years now after the formal, official ending of the Great Recession but as consequences of that massive hemorrhaging of leadership responsibility and failure in trustworthiness continue to play out. Right now and taken directly from today’s News headlines, legal action is being actively pursued by the United States government against what is perhaps the single largest and most influential private sector investments rating agency in the world: Standard and Poor’s (S&P). The Justice Department is taking action against S&P for committing what starkly qualifies as massive consumer fraud – entered into as a route to achieving vast short-term personal profits at everyone else’s long term expense. Emails and other internal S&P documents made public as a result of this criminal investigation show that this agency acted in bad faith when publically rating what they knew to be very high risk, questionable investment instruments with the highest possible secure ratings grades they offer. They wrote internally of how risky and dangerous these investments were while publically encouraging everyone to buy into them. And then the real estate bubble burst and all of those faulty mortgage backed securities and derivatives of mortgage backed securities collapsed too, and at a volume and level that did not just cause massive harm to specific investors or investor groups, but rather at levels that virtually took down the entire economy.

This posting is all about trust and leadership. That still unfolding News story is too, or rather it is about the consequences of large-scale and even systematic failure of trustworthiness and leadership. That is the side to this News story that must not simply go away and even as the last of the dust settles for Standard and Poor’s and all other parties responsible for bringing us all into the Great Recession. That is a lesson out of this News that we probably will forget – again, just as we did after the Great Recession and from other reminders. But it is a lesson that we forget at our own peril, as also proven by that succession of reminders.

I initially wrote my posting Leadership from a Foundation of Responsibility and Trust to go live on August 18, 2010 and I return to it with this follow-up posting, set to go live on March 16, 2013. Both of these postings and related material can be found at Business Strategy and Operations and its Part 2 continuation page.

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