My most recent book – Hard Times: Leadership in America – was published last October by Stanford University Press. The book explores the impact of context on leadership and followership. Beginning February 3, I started posting in this space excerpts. They appear here in the order in which they appear in the book.
“Our perception of corporate America in the second decade of the twenty-first century is in large part a consequence of what happened in and to corporate America in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Beginning with the ignominious collapse of Enron in 2001, American business has seemed ever since somehow, somewhat tarnished. One could, in other words, make the argument that it never fully recovered from this particular debacle, from the failure of a famously high-flying energy company previously thought virtually impervious, or from the criminal convictions of corporate officers previous thought virtually invincible….. While most Americans did not closely track [the] various corporate collapses [during roughly this same period], they did catch the whiff of failure, of greed, of corruption. They did understand that like some of their most vaulted political leaders…some of their most vaulted business leaders were other than what they were cracked up to be. Most were mere mortals and many had been, were still, overpaid and overpraised.
The recent financial crisis did not change our opinion or help the situation. Corporate debacles ‘scorched’ the global economy, with the IMF calculating that they resulted in total bank losses of about $2 trillion. They also led to a ‘collapse of trust in business.'”