BLG Leadership Insights Leadership On the Edge

11 Companies With The Worst Reputations In America

Making a top 10 list is every company’s dream. You can make up a nice plaque celebrating the accomplishment and hang it next to reception or you can plaster it all over your website and promotional materials.  It’s a way to tell the world: “We’re awesome!”

Then again not all top 10 lists are created equal. There are some that you might want to do everything you can to avoid. One such list is the Huffington Post’s 11 Companies With The Worst Reputations In America which was culled from the backside of the 12th Annual Harris Interactive U.S. Reputation Quotient Survey. According the Huffington Post, Harris got 30,000 Americans to rate the 60 most visible companies in the US using six factors: financial performance, products and services, workplace environment, vision and leadership, social responsibility, and emotional appeal. The results aren’t exactly shocking. The list is a who’s who of corportate screw ups. If you got a massive bailout due to your incompetence and sheer greed or thought it might be a good idea to destroy an ecosystem this list is your home away from home.

I am guessing all of these “winners” will try hard to make this list next year. But seeing how much literal and figurative damage most of them have done… I kinda doubt it.

BLG Leadership Insights

The Leadership Debate Beneath the Oil Slick: Obama vs. Hillary Again

Organizational leadership is a question of balance, focus, and consistency. Leaders in organizations have to sustain the consistency of a perpetual campaign while keeping an eye on the ball, as well as constituents, agendas, allies, resistors, strategies, and tactics.

There is one critical point in which leaders sometimes stumble and from which it is often difficult to recover. It is the trip-wire that lies between the drama of rallying people to your side and the pragmatics of execution.

Leaders rally others to their position with dramaturgical language, by a sense of commitment, and are often exhausted by their own drama so they begin to allocate the responsibility of execution to others. In the case of President Obama that is what almost tripped him up with health care. In the case of George W. Bush that’s what tripped him up with the promises he made at the World Trade Center and his foreign policy agenda.

A classic example of a president who was able to sustain momentum for the short period of time he was with us was John F. Kennedy. In a specific case, he promised to get America to the moon before the end of the decade and he did. He successfully coupled the sense of urgency with resource commitment.

There are times that leaders must become managers. They must not only become managers, but micro-managers. They must understand that they have not just moral responsibility, not just ideological responsibility, but the micro-responsibility of execution.

The micro-analysis is the true test of a leader’s competency. The problem is that some issues needs micro-management more than other issues. President Obama yesterday delivered a $20-billion dollar promise from BP. He was able to rally people around the idea and use political muscle to get what he wanted. The core of the $20-billion promise demanded a different talent than what is needed to clean up the oil spill. Cleaning up the gulf will demand micro-management. It will demand not simply drama, but the translation of drama into the skills of execution.

During the election there was a great distinction made between Hillary Clinton as a manager and Obama as a leader. There was never a question of Obama’s vision; he was haunted by questions of his managerial capacity. Constantly we heard the distinction between Obama as a visionary and Hillary as a person who could get things done. Those questions have now come to the surface again as we hear more and more nostalgia and a bit of lament among the Hillary supporters. Obama faces the trip-wire that all visionary leaders face sooner or later. Can they deliver? Can they manage under crisis? In a real sense visionary leaders have to learn how to translate promise into execution and translate hope into realization.

Pragmatic and proactive leaders have to deal with the micro-issues of resource allocation, accountability, human resource management, and get into the details of the game. In a time of crisis, as we’ve learned from such leaders as Eisenhower, logistical nuts-and-bolts involvement is the final test of leadership. When you lead you can’t just deal in promises, but you must jump into the nitty-gritty business of everyday action.

Picture Credit: Mega Beth

BLG Leadership Insights Features

Obama, Dylan Thomas, & Peter Finch

So we all want Obama to rage. We all want him to make the passionate plea, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

Somehow we all have these moments when we’d like to see our leaders raging passionately. Maybe not quite as wildly as Peter Finch in the 1976 movie Network, but maybe with the rage that Dylan Thomas demands of his dying father when he asks him to “Rage, rage against the dying light.”

It’s generally agreed that Don’t Go Gentle Into That Good Night is about Thomas watching his once powerful father age and become blind and weak. Seeing the disintegration of his former idol Thomas urges his father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

To often in life our fear is that we are simply stumbling, one mistake after another, and have lost the drama of rage. More so, we fear that our leaders are stumbling and have lost their rage as well.

The real challenge is to know when to rage and how to rage. When George Bush visited Ground Zero the timing was ideal and the drama palpable. The problem was: what followed the rage? Very little.

In that context, as we look back at his rage, we see how successful it was at mobilizing the crowd but it did little at sustaining momentum and following through.

In hindsight Bush’s rage has lost some of its historical meaning. Leaders have to be selective about what to rage about and when to rage. Sometimes rage can come to late and sometimes it can come to early. Sometimes it’s appropriate and sometimes it’s inappropriate.

The ecological catastrophe we’re now seeing the Gulf hasn’t challenged Obama’s capacity to deliver as much as it has challenged his dramaturgical capacity for knowing how to convey he will not go gently into the good night.

Some have said the raging Obama is not the real Obama. His concern, they argue, is with methodical execution. Absolutely true. We have seen very few leaders on the scene more capable and more thoughtful about methodical execution. But once and a while even Harry Truman has to lift up his walking stick, fling it at the setting sun, and rage at BP.

Most importantly, after raging, get something done.

Picture Credit: ArbyReed