Profitability and True Value

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Several important people in my life, including my son, urged me to read David Brooks op ed column in the New York Times several weeks back now. I only recently got to it. Alas, “In Praise of Dullness challenges much of what I hold important in my life and work. Brooks asserts that recent research proves that “warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as C.E.O.’s. Organized, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive.” He even cites Jim Collin’s seminal work, Good to Great in support of his argument.

As one reaches the conclusion of his column, the “political” nature of his argument becomes blatantly apparent. It reinforces the need to test underlying assumptions (which are frequently very political in nature) and examine common practices for sustainable value. For example, Brooks equates political talent (ala Washington D.C. in any case ) with “charisma, charm and personal skills”. If politics is indeed about the inevitable exercise of power and struggle for control, then political skills are much more about persuasive influence and effective management than Brooks leads the reader to believe. And such political skills are important to successful leaders, regardless of position.

The current economic climate does not speak well of the “success” of American businesses, including the leadership of many CEOS. If innovation is indeed required to maintain or regain competitive strength, the human all too human factors in the work environment, including the need for trust and some measure of personal fulfillment, are essential.

Insufficient criteria for success are confused with generating sustainable true value. Paradoxically, “breaking the rules “ of what many have deemed “profitable” may be what is required.