Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reorienting Business Leadership and thinking at B Schools.

“The Global economic meltdown and erosion of trust require business schools to examine the fundamentals of education they provide – Arun Maria”

Americans and world citizens have ceased trusting business leaders. If the latest Fortune ranking is any indicator most czars at businesses have seen their leaders losing their bonuses and business jets in a hurry. And those who counted on their stewardship of businesses are losing jobs and homes like an avalanche growing in demonic propositions down hill.

Dime a dozen by each day are getting hit like a deer on the 101 highway blinded by High Power Sodium Vapor Glares as the global economy plummets to a gut wrenching bottomless black hole .

When Capitol Hill pumped tax payer’s money into private banks to restore liquidity and flow of credit in the economy, bank executives used the money to shore up corporate balance sheets. Most like AIG even spent it on perks and big fat bonuses raising the ire of the tax paying public.

The usual retort of most leaders, if examined seems to be in a state of inertia and dazed denial. Rhetoric that they spew are - “There are a few Bad Egg” & “ A Few Devilish Smart Crooks like Bernard Madoff as one off case” and likes.

This seems to have emanated from a fundamental flaw in the way we feted and admired business leadership and corporate performance. The Irony also seems to suggest the way the street rewards business leaders and their performance.

Company Boards they believed had an overwhelming charter to focus on the shareholder value creation agenda than preempt fraud. And that the onus of preventing frauds lay squarely on the back of the regulator.

Quarter on Quarter Bottom line or margin expansion, contributing to monetary and momentary book value bloating and notional wealth creation followed by a reward fat pay packets and behemoth bonuses seems to have created a set of socially flawed business gang of poster boys whom fledgling bright minds from top B Schools yearn to emulate.

With the ascent of capitalism and the extinction of Socialism in most part of the globe the world got carried away into vague rational of valuing money and wealth as a singular measure of the worth of human endeavor and individual worth.

The media magnet gravitate toward projecting those who were the money minting engines and showcased their vulgar visibility in the form of the fleet of Car , Private Jets, Islands they Owned or Trophy Wife they displayed at Business and Social gatherings and Page 3 news. Success there at any cost was the mantra that today’s Gen Y and Gen Z are fed at aspiration sign boards and the juvenile kids baring a few are lapping these social value roll calls with both their hands. This - to many old timers manifest as social blasphemy gravitating to doom days in future.

If money making was the ultimate sacrosanct goal in the altar of the Wall Street then the people in the business of making money with other people’s money sprang into the circus of unleashing weapons of mass destruction like over leveraged assets and demonic tools like some exotic derivatives.

Add to that they also managed to harness the ambition of the brightest young minds by the best B schools producing top talents with aspirations to follow the poster boys of an era created by blemished value creation centered around minting money with out integrity and social conscience. Attract they did with obscene pay packs and perks befitting a royal prince. Wizards they were those you managed unthinkable proliferation of the business of money spawning money.

The Best of the Breed of Varsities therefore altered the curricula and populated their faculties with gurus who mentored the kids to realize an aspiration to make money faster than the last generation thus answering the call of the wizards. Wizards did come calling every year doling currencies which in turn enhanced the pecking order of the varsities that enrolled a few more aspirants in a hurry for another batch to hatch with a flawed aspiration programmed in their minds.

Like the Icarus on the wings of wax, the wizards of this financial world flew further and further away from earth until their wings began to melt as they neared burning Sun and they came crashing down, like the Lehman Brothers and dragged the economy down with the weight of their collapse.

This is indeed a poignant situation calling for introspection. Academic Institutions that claim to produce leaders for the world must take the ones seriously and own the responsibility for the values they teach their graduated.

I am inspired by the Oscar performance and an inspiring speech delivered by the protagonist and actor Supreme “Al Pacino” In the Scent of a Woman”. A tirade he unleashes on the jury at school and the students gathering commenting on the brag that academic institution was a cradle of leadership.

Indeed the institutions, varsities and governments have the critical responsibility of handling tender minds to choose the difficult road of being righteous with a good set of humane and socially values along side producing profits and financial ROIs.

Today’s Business Schools in reality are vocational institutes providing their students with tools and skills to create financial returns as a sole fanatic zeal – A passport to their personal wealth and an addictive follower ship of the Lehman Brother kind corporate example and Bernad Maddoff kind of Business Leaders.

Business Schools need to reexamine their curricula, faculty and the essence of business leadership that they seeding in young impressionable minds who will be leaders of the tomorrows planet. B Schools need to reorient and invigorate the methods oriented towards developing a moral compass with in their graduates.

The brand of morality embedded in the DNA of the pass out should be as credible as the visible as of “Intel Inside” promo. This will enhance the rating of the varsities immeasurably and they ratings will be lasting and revered.

In my limited and partial and broad pointers .Real leaders need a moral compass that points to true north: To a path that improved the world as a better place for every one impartially. They cannot be guided to be narrowly focused on a self serving journey. A narrow goal of making money for thy self and their company. The means they use to create their wealth are more important than the ends they seek.

Do these leaders strengthen the society or weaken and corrupt them for their own gain? And what values they embody? Those who espouse more freedom for businesses and less regulation must accept that it is up to them to self regulate and therefore have their business headed by leaders who lead with their functional moral compass.

Else harsh and stringent regulations will be implanted with in turn impedes free entrepreneurial but facilitated prevention of business leaders from unwittingly – or deliberately – causing harm to the society and environment.

The global economic melt down and the bankruptcy of trust in today’s leaders demand transformative alterations in many institutes breeding next generation leaders. Board at Companies must orient themselves toward good and clean governance and not merely facilitate bean counters of bottom-line enhancing businesses.

The media should shun sensationalizing elements extolling vulgar visibility of personal wealth and blemished values and honor business icons and corporations who are role models of good values. Markets should reward Good governance and equitable legal wealth creation and society enhancing corporate citizenry with higher PE multiples. This measure will drive the desired transformations at corporations and in turn strive to excel to seek rewards from the street

Yes the business of business is not only business but good, responsible, clean business run with the foundation capital of integrity.

For the many aspiring business leaders in the making and the poster boys of today’s economy. I urge that you do a self assessment, is the ladder that you are scaling leaning against a wrong wall? Else while you put in your might and intellect it will take long to realize that the ladder was leaning of the wrong wall.

Two gentlemen realize this as they brace to spend the rest of their life behind bars in solitude and comforting the burnt embers of their inexorable tryst to amass money at any cost. What a waste of their potential.

ALAS ! BERNARD MADOFF AND RAMALINGA RAJU- And Raju Garu ! I won’t regret to have had the privilege of working with you in person. Cause otherwise it would have taken me a long time to realize this simple truth of the lasting benefits of Integrity. And I would have continued to float in the frivolous fizz of unrealistic boom.

Thank you gentlemen! Your deeds are an awakening to the generation many leaders whose ladders are leaning against the wrong wall. At least now because of your fall they have a chance to realign their ladders and aspirations to a right wall. The lessons are ever so precious and the business world I hope shapes into a better place.

Scent of a Woman - Al Pacino Speech - Inspiring and Relevant!