Community Interests

Corporate Culture and Leadership

Aeschylus writing in Prometheus Bound states, “…sorrow and humiliation are your portion: you have failed in understanding and gone astray; and like a poor physician falling in sickness you despond and know not the remedies for our own disease.”
Is it too much of a stretch of the imagination to translate this failing of understanding to the state of affairs within the Michigan Legislature, the crises of the Federal and State Budgets, the disorder of our automotive sector; and finally, the present and persistent financial and community well-being of the City of Detroit.

Recently, GM’s Chief Executive Fritz Henderson’s was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying that he is focused on new vehicles and customers. His discussions are about cars, customers, and culture. There is truth that these discussions are needed. According to Mr. Henderson, “It is about winning in the market place again. That’s the most important thing we can do as a leadership team.”

Like Prometheus Bound, unmovable restrained to a large rock, Federal and State institutions, educational institutions, large manufacturing companies, and too large to fail corporations, all appear bound to their own inherent cultures. Each in their own way has failed in understanding their business situations: the necessity for a budget that supports the best interests of those served, the need for a better system for education our children, the volatility of the market place where lack of innovation, quality, and execution of purpose brings inferior products to the marketplace, and the notable final humiliation… the absence of leadership within each institutions.

Leadership is not an attribute taught in any college or prominent business school. Leadership is many things, but leadership is not culture oriented! Leadership is an acute awareness of the situation presented in all its intrinsic forms. Leadership, recognizing and understanding the issue, initiates and directs those that can do…to do…what they know how to do!

(note: leaders may become victims of a corporate culture)

The experience and depth of the team are critical and the all for one and one for all unity is a dominant theme…where each one has the others back and follows up on every detail. Nothing is left to chance!

When common sense does not prevail, when inaction traumatizes leadership creating a stopgap; when this stopgap exists, leadership is at its worst and is typically culturally driven leading to deficiencies or failure of the product or program.

Show me an individual that has never taken a risk or has not known a defeat; I will show you an individual that has never accomplished anything of worth; furthermore, leadership is not an attribute of the individual.

I have witnessed a team of designers and engineers fail miserably in their efforts to get a product on line and on time. Management scorned those involved. When these same individuals were given another program under a different leader, they were highly successful! The launch of the product was noted as one of the best for quality, efficiencies, timeliness, and low cost. What was the difference? It was leadership.

Perhaps today’s leaders should not be worrying about the cooperate cultures that prevail within their organizations. Instead, why not initiate a culture that breeds contempt for complacency, incompetence, and inaction.

Defining a corporate culture takes years of adjustments, readjustment, reorganization, restructuring and development. In today’s markets, whether in state or federal government, local cities, or the automotive industries, or those too large to fail organizations, culture is your enemy not your partner. Change or liquidate is a strong medicine for cultural inaptness.

Why waste time and energy to change a corporate culture when you cannot afford the time or waste the energy. If you want to bring change to an organization and success to your businesses, concentrate on leadership and use those individuals who get things done….and it is not accomplished by elimination of the employees who have experience and product expertise.

Prometheus was bound by an omniscient mythological power. Today’s leaders are not bound by any mythological power. Instead, there are bound by self-serving entities and interests that have failed in their understanding of the past, present and today’s persistent issues.

Leaders must convince others that defective cultures and deficiencies in business and industries must be remedied by whatever means is necessary if they and the businesses are to have a future.

Prometheus crime was to give fire to humankind. He was punished: bound and immoveable for his contempt of the Gods. Perhaps unwittingly, we too have created mythical institutions that should be bound and immoveable.

Corporations and businesses must be unbound by cultures that are defeating the promises of a brighter tomorrow. Successful institutions will be defined by those leaders who become unbound from organizational cultures that no longer have value and worth.

Corporations Unbound should be the new catchwords for Michigan’s future.

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