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Mickey Edwards
Political leader

Mickey Edwards

Former U.S. Congressman, Mickey Edwards is vice president of the Aspen Institute, where he directs the Institute's Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

Human Leadership, Not "Business" Leadership

How should business leaders respond to their sudden new profits, especially given the fact that their turnaround was helped by a massive influx of capital from struggling taxpayers? That depends on whether those leaders see themselves as community leaders or merely leaders of a particular corporate entity.

For those with a narrow agenda, the best advice is to keep quiet. Outrage almost always dissipates, not because public opinion changes but because new issues arise and drive the old ones to the back pages and then, in time, almost entirely out of our memories. The current anger over the looming big-bucks bonuses will likewise fade. Talking too much about the profits and bonuses, attempting to "explain" or "defend" corporate action, will only keep the issue alive and fan the flames.

But for those who see themselves as having a higher calling, with concern about the country and not merely the corporation, here's one three-part suggestion:

First, thank the workers who helped the company turn around and give them bonuses, capped perhaps at $10,000, which is a fairly nice chunk of change.

Second, express an awareness that the new profitability came from taking significant, and perhaps imprudent, risk, and vow that having rescued the company, its managers will now pursue a more cautious strategy to avoid putting taxpayers in the same situation again.

Third, announce that the many millions of dollars which could have been paid in super-sized bonuses will instead be either paid into the Treasury (a thank-you gift) or distributed to worthy charities. That might not qualify as "business" leadership, but it would qualify as human leadership, which is something too few business executives have demonstrated in recent times.

By Mickey Edwards

 |  July 20, 2009; 1:10 PM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

Those super-sized bonuses should be invested it in helping to Reform our Health care system. Now that would qualify as human leadership.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | July 20, 2009 9:08 PM
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