Archive for the ‘Management’ Category
Most of our clients and subscribers have a keen interest in leadership. As investors, you must judge leaders — their abilities, skills, character and performance. As leaders in your firms, you must motivate your teams, make critical decisions and find ways to differentiate your firm and services in a crowded, competitive industry.
At Chiefist, we primarily serve clients in that first role. With our analytical tools, executive profiles and searches, and actionable trading ideas, we support the appraisal of corporate leadership as a key element of investment due diligence. But more broadly, we aid clients by offering unique ideas. And when we find a good leadership idea, we would be remiss not to share it — in this case, a book of fascinating ideas.
In Leading & Leadership, editor Timothy Fuller surveys some of history’s greatest thinking on the subject of leadership. He includes writings from Confucius, Homer, Plato, Machiavelli, Aquinas, Washington, Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass and Woodrow Wilson. It also contains important contributions from modern writers, including Ronald Glassman and Abraham Zaleznik. (Future editions would benefit from adding William Deresiewicz’s excellent speech, “Solitude and Leadership”.)
The book contains much wisdom about the characteristics and ethos of leadership. Every executive should read Zaleznik on “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” Washington’s “Farewell Address” should serve as a model for thoughtful succession transitions. The tension between Machiavelli’s and Aquinas’s conceptions of leadership are played out in organizations every day.
Individual readers will of course find their favorites among the chapters. Taken as a whole, the book offers a useful and needed counterweight to today’s often vacuous prattle on the subject. Our study of leadership needs practical advice, analysis of hard numbers and modern examples. But it also requires philosophical reflection, reasoned and dispassionate consideration, and a historical perspective. What emerges is a powerful reminder of the complexities and nuances of leadership. That reminder can only help us both to better evaluate the leaders in investments we’re considering, and to more effectively lead our own organizations.
As it usually does, David Brooks’ column caught my attention this week. Examining the nature of democracy, Brooks concludes that the most recent battles over the debt and deficit in Washington will not yield fruitful outcomes absent a reversion to republican (small-r) politics. Brooks expounds upon this by labeling our current democracy the “politics of solipsism.” “The [current] political culture encourages politicians and activists to imagine that the country’s problems would be solved if other people’s interests and values magically disappeared.” Instead, he says, we need a true leadership class, of the kind that existed “as late as the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations,” to balance interests and passions. Read the rest of this entry »
Normally I do not put much stock in political polling, especially on deep policy issues after politicians on both sides of the aisle demagogue political talking points with the American people. However, this recent poll on the front page of The New York Times certainly caught my attention. Although the poll includes policy-oriented questions, it also includes emotive questions and shows that nearly 70% of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track; meanwhile, disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy has never been higher—57% of Americans. The poll concludes: “Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Guest Blogger Ryan Berg
In light of my recent post about Leo Strauss, an education in political philosophy, and the liberal arts, I found a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about recruitment trends at America’s top colleges quite disconcerting. Companies recruiting new hires have recently moved the preponderance of their recruitment efforts to state universities. Recruiter’s top five favorite universities are all public, and the list is comprised mostly of top public universities.
Scott Thurm has a fascinating look at CEO pay in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. I will have much more to say about CEO pay in the coming months. For now, suffice it to say that CEO pay has become an exercise in opaqueness and deliberate misdirection. While I fully support top pay for top performance, hundreds of extremely well-paid CEOs deliver mediocre results year after year. That is an abomination.