Goldman Sachs and the Loss of Leadership

Over the course of my career, I have worked for Fortune 200 companies as well as much smaller, more entrepreneurial firms.  I have enjoyed good success and also experienced failure.  I have made 100% Clubs, received various awards for a job well done and have been fairly rewarded financially for my efforts.  I also have been laid off and fired.  I have lived both sides of the coin. 

Ironically, as I look back on my experiences in business and intercollegiate athletics, I have learned much about leadership and performance improvement.  While the latter is still elusive for many companies (most companies are terrible at developing their people), the former, leadership, is pitiful if not non-existent in some. The issue of leadership, or should I say lack of leadership, was recently brought to light in Greg Smith’s op-ed piece in The New York Times entitled, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” (you can read the article at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me). The letter was published on the very day Mr. Smith resigned from the firm. 
 
As I read the piece I felt bad for Mr. Smith who was leaving a company he had worked diligently for (12 years) and once loved.  I also felt bad for the clients of Goldman Sachs who, according to Smith’s letter, may have been duped on more than one occasion by the company just to make a buck, or millions of bucks.  And, yes, I do feel bad for Goldman Sachs the company because whileonce a trusted entity whose corporate life has spanned 140+ years, it now has appeared to lose sight of the very culture and vision it once had.  As Mr. Smith points out in his letter, the company’s leadership has failed the company and its clients.

I have always believed that the foundation for all leadership is honesty. In fact, I have written a book based upon that premise (Dad’s Last Letter). Being honest takes courage.  Being honest requires an individual to face the reality of their situation and hold themselves accountable instead of rationalizing or putting the blame elsewhere.  More than a foundation for leadership, honesty is the very foundation of our character.  We don’t have to look back all that long ago to see how dishonest behavior and misrepresentation led to train wrecks on Wall Street that created chaos in the markets and sent the economy spiraling downward.  Leaders today like to talk about transparency when the truth is, if we had more leaders who were committed to being honest, transparency would not be an issue. 

Business leaders today need to be people of character, people who value their integrity and understand that honesty is not a sometimes thing. You don’t “spin” the truth. We need to get back to practicing honesty in all that we do, at home where our relationships matter most, in the workplace, and every day when we look in the mirror. 

To Mr. Smith, my best wishes.  I have no doubt you will continue on and do well in life.  As for Goldman-Sachs…sounds like a wake up call.  The question is, did you get the message?  

Source: blog

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