Courageous Leadership

4 julio 2012 por Douglas McEncroe · 0 Comentarios · Liderazgo

I recently heard an interview on ABC radio with American author David Frum talking about his new book, “Patriots”. Frum was a speechwriter for George W Bush so you would expect his book to applaud recent Republican politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. His novel is a Satire on how the Republican Party has played politics these last eight years, its manner of doing things that, according to Frum, has little to do with the values his party has traditionally held dear.

Just as you might expect, criticism of his book, and of him personally from many of his ex-colleagues has been virulent, especially from Tea Party members who try to portray Frum as a traitor, ironically the opposite of the title of his book.

But just who is the real traitor and who is the real patriot? Is he a patriot who remains loyal to his country no matter what direction it takes or he who remains loyal to the values on which the country was founded?

Is loyalty a value in itself?

This question actually begs another. I often hear people applaud loyalty is if it were a value in itself. Many Germans remained loyal to Hitler even when it became clear just what an insane monster he was. Was this loyalty good? I personally believe that there are some ideals on which most democracies are built and some values that are based on a renaissance understanding of humanism. I believe these things to be good. I also believe that there are things that we just know are right and things we just know are wrong. If someone or some political party remains true to these, then I believe it is good to be loyal. If they betray these things than betraying them is good. On this basis someone like Willy Brandt who was sent to a concentration camp for his beliefs is a patriot and a hero while the SS Guards in Hitler’s Bunker who executed those that looked for a way out of Hitler’s disaster, were loyal traitors to everything that Germany had stood for.

Companies who betray their founding values

Following these ideas, how should a manager behave when he sees his company or his bank betray the original values or their long followed ethical practices? I believe that if they want to practice the type of leadership on which the world’s truly great companies were built, he needs to be critical even if it leads to his eventual exit from the company.

We need this type of leadership today more than ever for so many organizations seem to be losing their way. Bob Diamond’s defence of Barclays Bank’s fraudulent practise is a recent example, saying that they followed those practices because “they believed that other banks were doing the same”. I hear this type of phrase and I wonder if these guys even know the difference between right and wrong any more. This is not the way to build a company that deservedly makes good profits by creating products and services that add value to people’s lives. Going down the wrong track, as most of the “great” financial institutions seen to have done these last fifteen years, starts with a small but intentional lie, a ruthless act, a seemly insignificant betrayal. Good leadership blows the whistle on these types of action.

David Frum remains a conservative, he does not share the Democratic Party’s philosophy of how to run a country and improve the life of its people. In fact I personally don’t agree with his politics, and yet I respect his opinions and could probably even find some common ground, for he is an honest man practising honest leadership. By criticising his party for turning their back on the great majority of Americans and by practising politics that spread fear rather than hope he his is doing his party and his country a great service. He is being loyal to its original values. He is for me a patriot.


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