Climb Out of Your Wall Street Box
Context is key. Leaders of AIG, meet your new owners, the American taxpayers. This is not business as usual. Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Geithner, take a break and spend some time listening to the people you serve. Knowing that these bonuses were planned, not taking action to stop them or not anticipating the reaction means that you are out of touch. Not knowing the knowable is just about as bad.
Effective leaders have a keen sense of the values, culture and dynamics, not only of the organizations they lead, but also of the larger context in which they work. They look outside of the box to relate to the values and changing environment of their constituents and the broader society in which they operate.
The culture of AIG and much of Wall Street is so narrowly focused on winning, that, ironically, the very risk takers who bet on leverage and their superior command of financial complexity now seem risk averse as they argue that these enormous bonuses are necessary to retain talent and avoid chaos--in other words, to maintain the status quo as much as possible. Come on! Get out of your office, listen to your new owners on Main Street, size up their representatives in Congress and look beyond the financial press you know so well to the political reporters who now have you under the microscope.
Effective leaders think of their organizations in relation to larger realities, external conditions and broader perspectives. They are grounded in reality and have the imagination to think into the future, anticipate the impact of their actions--and to avoid unintended consequences.
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