The leaders on Wall street caused, and continue to do so, untold suffering and even documented suicides. The core reasons for this tragedy isn't any different than the story of Enron in 2001 and the savings and loan scandals of the late 1980's .
I will venture to say that the leaders of these companies are smart people. Many have degrees from the nations most prestigious universities and they get paid enormous amounts of money for their smartness, yet they have failed in the most basic and important way - they failed at the people part of their business. They choose to put at risk the quality of human life for a chance of increased profits.
Every company makes decisions that will adversely affect people. They must make these decisions to remain profitable and in business; layoffs are painful and necessary, but these stories are different in a significant way. Profits in essence were not the issue; it was an obsession with profits. It's similar to a junkie who steals money from his mother's purse to get his next fix. I've listened to their rationalizations. I've got to relieve my "jones"; I'll pay her back when I get on my feet. Obsessed and addicted to drugs - obsessed and addicted to profits. As with all addictions it is not just the addict who is affected by their obsessed thinking and behavior; it impacts the entire village.
Most people are smart enough to learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, including CEO's, but we continue to make the same mistakes. And because of the highly interdependent world we live in, their mistakes ensnare thousands and in some cases millions of people. Leadership is at a critical juncture in this century. We will have to make difficult decisions, which will have serious consequences on people and profits. We will need more than smart leaders; we'll need outstanding leaders. Who understand that wealth is not a number at the end of a profit and loss statement that omits the health and well-being of their workforce, customers and community. It's time to insist on leadership that balances people and profits.
The following article highlights the findings of a study that identifies the differences between good and outstanding leaders. I hope that it is helpful in creating meaningful dialogue on what we want and need from our leaders going forward.