I just returned from a trip which I spent a lot of time and effort convincing men to empower women to actually lead. I’ve got to tell... you it’s frustrating.
The vast majority of male leaders I encounter look at the radical imbalance of males to females in senior positions as a PR problem.
Even well-meaning CEOs are blind to the fact that the social intelligence and the (holistic) systems thinking strengths of women would help them become more customer-centric, more innovative, grow faster and make more money. Overwhelming data supports this fact, yet Mad Men-era mindset is hard to convert.
I am convinced that the deeper problem is this: These days male leaders don’t care about anything but money.
Most CEOs don’t REALLY intrinsically care about improving the quality of life of their customers. What they care about is their customers’ wallets. Except for the rare visionary, most CEOs have descended into the slime of simply being a financial engineer who buys and sells businesses, shrinks payroll costs and cares much less about what products the company makes than what he makes.
The core reason for this problem is that the male leadership class that rules our institutions today is trapped in an echo chamber of its own group thinking. Every decision is irrationally-rationalized in the web of financial ratios calculated to increase shareholder value. Wall Street has bought both the brains and the souls of highly competitive executives with insecure egos by using executive stock options as the moon that blocks out the sun of inspiring leadership, so their companies turn to shit. Literally.
Just this week the Wall Street Journal published a report that cigarette companies’ most profitable market is now the USA. They took in $93 billion in 2016. Overall, the percentage of Americans smoking has never been smaller, but the profits made from the sale of a single cigarette have never been higher. The article says investors are cheering because the tobacco index is up over 178%.
In this article, there is no mention of the fact that cigarette smoking murders 443,000 Americans a year and creates a huge burden on our medical system, which we all pay for. The pinheads of Wall Street are not interested in discussing the immorality of expertly creating and selling lethal products whose intended use will result in death. Instead, they talk about all the money there is to be made by creating an addictive but legal product. Indeed, recently a big tobacco executive said, “Cigarettes are deadly. They kill people. But at the same time, it’s a legal product.“
If you want to know what’s wrong with post-moral capitalism, you just read it.
What’s difficult is that the non-moral ethos is baked into virtually all industries. Manufactured foods, chemicals, technology, healthcare, pharma, entertainment… all industries are chock full of badass leader-less companies managed by overpaid financial technocrats doing more harm than good.
I am not saying all businesses are bad actors. I have been fortunate to consult with a few courageous CEOs of big, imperfect companies that are mindful of their inspirational purpose and seek a higher vision. But not many. Not enough. For the most part, money-focused leaders have hollowed out the inspirational core of work. Please don’t become complicit by contributing your time and talent to enterprises led by moral Neanderthals.
In order to create a future we all want to live in, leaders need to reclaim their fundamental humanity. Yet the evidence is strong that it is unlikely that highly competitive alpha males are interested in changing a financial system that feeds their primal drives for wealth, status and power.
In fact, alpha males and alpha females that mimic them are mostly in charge. As we look at the world led by an increasing number of ruthless strongmen it is so clear that immoral, incompetent and corrupt leadership causes massive suffering.
So we need a revolution.
It is not a solution for smart women to leave corporate jobs to become home-based entrepreneurs. It is tempting. But what’s needed now is for women, and men who support them, to take over the mindset of Wall Street and claim the power of large-scale capitalism for purposes greater than money.
The first step is recognizing what real leadership is and starving corrupt businesses from the talent needed to sustain them.
Here’s how to recognize the leaders you should support, and what’s needed to become the best leader you can be.
There are three levels of required thinking for SMART business leadership:
Inspired Thinking is a moral vision. It asks the questions, “What do we believe is good for customers, employees, society and our investors? How can our actions support creating the most good we can with the assets that we have?” The few times I have worked with CEOs who are consciously driven by inspired thinking have been the best times in my career. In each instance, the CEOs and their enterprises were remarkably successful over time. Their employees were engaged, created foot-stomping innovations, opened new markets and revived beloved brands. Today, I find aspiring women to be much more likely to use inspiring thinking in business decisions than most men.
Practical Thinking enables leaders to scale success. Practical thinking is really management. It asks the question, “How do we best achieve our goals?” The answer to this question requires systems of both empowerment and accountability. Practical thinking gets into the details of managing time and money and the resources needed without burning out the brains and souls of employees. These systems are not mechanical. They are human systems that require human networks of emotional and social intelligence because high-quality relationships are critical for teamwork. Again, in today’s fast-paced, complex workplaces I find women much more interested and able to empower, collaborate and align talent to get high-quality work done.
Financial Thinking asks the question “What is the smartest way to invest and spend money to make money?” Making money is the food of any enterprise. Food is necessary to thrive and grow. But we do not live to eat. Rather, we eat to live. The bread of life is not bread, it’s love. And likewise, we do not work for profit, but rather we profit from creating genuine value for others. Wise leaders know how to turn that value into a business model that creates rivers of money to re-invest and create even more value. Once again, I find women much more interested in using money to create value then hoarding money to create personal wealth. Too often, I have seen the toxic temptation of using money as the way men measure their self-worth. This is morally and mentally disabling.
The bottom line.
Great leaders, the kinds of leaders you want to follow or be, are up to more than simply making money. When you work for a leader whose leadership vision is a financial number you are likely to be exploited, your talents wasted, your time absorbed, and your stress amplified.
Take a close look as to how to judge whether your leader is worth your support. If not, it’s time to find an employer with a leader that inspires you. Most important, we need you to become that kind of leader.
I am out to recruit you to summon the courage to be a SMART Trusted Leader right now. Through my new initiative, A Million SMART Women, I will spend all my energy to convince the men who hold power today to give you the opportunity to express your SMART power immediately. It’s up to you to not conform to the shit model of present day leadership, but lead the way you are designed to lead.
Be confident in yourself. You are vital to creating the future, and you are perfectly designed to do it!