Integrity Matters Broadcasts
September 22, 2008
I am “nervous and upset” and becoming more so. The federal government of the United States is committing a trillion dollars or more - of our hard-earned tax dollars - to bail out the most recent bunch of “skuzzy” wheeler-dealers, who have played fast with integrity, across the board. This will be an expensive short-term band-aid that will only delay the ultimate crisis. Current federal remedial actions will generate unintended consequences – at no small cost to our wallets and to our confidence. The very people to whom we looked for leadership in both the private and public sectors have created a mess. We must now navigate the turbulent waters created by greed, grossly inflated executive compensation, “golden parachutes” for dismal performance, insider deals, political ineptitude and the hypocrisies of hand-wringing pretend-leaders who abdicated their responsibilities.
This trillion-dollar “ransom” is being paid at the very same time that our nation’s leaders tell us we lack the financial strength to fund infrastructure upgrades, health care, unemployment insurance and even Social Security. I feel deceived. Miraculously funds have been released to prop up the weasels of Wall Street following their lackluster performance, but not before they robbed their institutions, jeopardizing the financial confidence of our nation, seemingly, without risking jail terms.
Here is what disturbs me: what is our strategy to renew integrity? Social, economic, political and cultural confidence has again taken a beating. Partisan blame games change little. These architects of the latest financial shell game have already taken the money and they are running – to enjoy their ill-gotten millions. My father often said that “nothing is too good when you are spending other people’s money.” So, the power brokers have again emerged with the authority to sign blank checks – to cover themselves and their special friends, while hosing the masses, who are “holding the bag” and paying the bills.
Only legitimate leadership can right the ship of state. It will take a personal effort – an integrity-centered leader, to rejuvenate the system, one transaction at a time. If it is to be, it is up to me! Genuine wisdom is simple, in this case, using only 10 two-letter words – basic steps to restore integrity and confidence.
If it is to be, it is up to me!
Economic Chaos and Integrity
The New York Times provides this headline on September 19, 2008: “Vast bailout plan is proposed in bid to stem economic crisis.” So, you ask, how does that relate to integrity?
And, how did this happen?
Each year, major financial institutions – including investment banking enterprises, global consulting practices and powerful law firms repeat their annual drill. They camp out on prestigious educational campuses, recruiting the “best, the brightest and those with the finest of connections” to work for them. With credentials in hand, these “newbies” are provided generous starting salaries with the promise of incredible bonuses. Blue-chip organizations, including political parties and agenda-driven think tanks, attract, groom and reward their protégés; whom they will mold, unfortunately, in their own self-serving image.
Many members of the power elite start with substantial intellectual talent that is refined by gifted professors who help to sophisticate their financial and political language; facilitating their questionable practices. America’s “elite” are then positioned to leverage their knowledge to influence markets and create unprecedented financial rewards – most recently for themselves and their cronies. With the willing participation of co-opted political operatives, including greed-driven lobbyists, pathways to even greater influence propel the system to the brink of chaos; which is where we are, now.
When institutions fail in their values, they decay from the inside. Once again, the excesses of a self-serving elite have punished the whole of society, especially the economy. Unfortunately, the prevailing structures promote the politics and the economics of convenience over the commitment of leadership. Overpaid “big-wigs” basked in the excesses of destructive compensation, all the while drifting from quick deals to devastating dishonesty.
It should be common knowledge that free markets must operate with integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing government oversight. This current debacle is likely to cost each taxpayer at least $8000; with the financial fallout threatening to go even higher as more shoes fall. If you have had enough of this greed-driven fleecing, then respond with your vote, buying habits, investment strategy and charitable giving. I am nervous, angry and ready for better leadership, across the board. How about you?
In the meantime . . . Please wake up!
America is in serious trouble. Brazil, China and India – along with other nations - are poised to assume significant leadership positions that have been enjoyed by the United States. Several emerging populations are well educated and appear willing to work and work very hard. While the United States has evolved, for the better, in terms of creating and supporting opportunities for its underclass, one cannot be confident that these emerging global powerhouses will operate in the same way. It should not be assumed that these nations will be terribly responsive to the laments of those left behind when there is a plea for equal rights for the new minorities, some of whom will be citizens of the U.S. Free markets, as usual, will measure organizations and individuals on three criteria: productivity emerging from innovation, quality and price. Those unable to compete will suffer.
If you haven't had time to pray lately, consider offering up concerns for the plight of those who will need to upgrade their minds and skills, including language and cultural proficiencies, or run the real risk of being marginalized. Serious and practical education needs to take center stage throughout our society, or many will experience diminished roles.
Unfortunately, insecure minds seek out and too often cling to conversations with those whose positions already appeal to them. Education as usual will not be adequate. In addition to not wanting to face these serious challenges, some choose rigidity, self-righteousness and close-mindedness discouraging mature discussion. But, that will not work in a global competition, in which the playing field is becoming more and more level. Tom Friedman’s latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, discusses how America can regain its international stature by taking the lead in alternative energy and environmentalism.
While other parts of the world will grow and prosper, using traditional energy sources such as coal and oil (with larger carbon footprints); the United States has an opportunity to become the undisputed leader developing innovative energy-efficient approaches. To the surprise of no one, this requires study, discipline, sacrifice and relentless follow-through. Immediately and regardless of where one stands on global warming, renewable energy or political leadership, Americans will need to assess what it will require to change the way the world will build an effective economic engine in the 21st Century.
Stagnation and ignorance cannot be allowed to take center stage. This is no longer about single-mindedness, or courage or even being stubborn - it is about losing an appreciation for the sacredness of integrity-centered debate, being able to disagree without being disagreeable.
It is time for more people to read, listen, consider other’s opinions, offer feedback, think, evaluate the best plan and then to take constructive action. Shrill demonizing of those with whom we disagree spells disaster. Unless change occurs soon, my expectation is that newly emerging global powerhouses will prevail. The 2008 U.S. Presidential election is not singularly about winning the White House for either Democrats or Republicans; so much as it ought to be about resurrecting and invigorating American society’s integrity, innovation and productivity.
You can make a difference:
- nurture relationships at home and at work with your time and attention; while consistently demonstrating appropriate behavior, through personal example;
- improve education at all levels by getting involved, demanding results; and,
- vote only for those public officials who are “looking out, not only for you, but also for the longer-term viability of all stakeholders – sometimes including sacrifices on your part, to serve the needs of others with whom you might have been in conflict”
Another concern that makes me nervous and upset: members of the media who have moved from reporting events to shaping information; with bias, some appearing malicious. Such behavior is immoral and destructive to what we have come to admire in the free press. .
Recently, we watched two political conventions, one broadcast from Denver, Colorado; and the other, broadcast from St. Paul, Minnesota. We were disappointed - convinced that each party is doing many of the same old things, yet again: pandering to their respective bases, readying themselves and their special partisan partners to continue fleecing the masses, of which most of us are essentially irrelevant bystanders. Safe Congressional races, a result of re-drawing districts insures that nearly 97% of those seeking to “keep” their jobs will do just that. And, we will be guided by the very folks whom the pollsters say are receiving a 9% approval rating. How can those statistics make sense and be good for our society? Curious, isn't it that third world nations operate the same way. If our education standards continue to decline, families erode as keepers of constructive values, and genuine leadership is confused with celebrity (a crude by-product of dollars spent to manipulate images) - then how soon before blatant demagoguery becomes an accepted, even admired, process for achieving power and influence?
The time is now to assess the integrity of leadership – in all circles – and support those with credibility, credentials and longer-term commitment to the stakeholders they have promised to serve – in both the private and public sectors.
My final counsel: demand excellence, including responsiveness – from everyone, all the time. You won’t always get it, but you can be certain you never will if you do not communicate your expectations for it.
If you have not yet read our book, Integrity Matters, please do so and recommend it to others.
One final request: remember to Pay It Forward.
James F. Bracher
Dimension Five Consultants, Inc.
Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership
P.O. Box 22467
Carmel, California 93922
James F. (Jim) Bracher, Director
Executives in Residence
University Corporation at Monterey Bay
California State University Monterey Bay
100 Campus Center,
Building 201 - Suite 101
Seaside, California 93955
Phone: (831) 582-5015
Phone: direct: (831) 582-5038
(831) 582-5019 Fax