Accountability: The Political Exemption
Everything rises and falls on leadership*
On the rare occasion that a CEO of a company takes full responsibility for the failure of the company, consumers are encouraged that there may be hope in mankind. You may recall this past year when Electronic Arts’ Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello resigned after six years at the helm of the video games publisher, saying he held himself accountable for missed operational targets. And this is not an isolated case, albeit uncommon. The fact is, most CEOs blame everyone and everything on their failures to lead.
Possibly the most difficult task in leadership is leading. I realize this sounds trite, but consider this. For FORTY YEARS Moses served as the CEO of a very loosely connected group of people. He let them for forty years through a dessert sustained on the very brink of extinction. And while that alone is miraculous, the fact that one of the 600,000 disgruntled employees and consumers did not replace him or murder him, is even more miraculous. And while I might oversimplify this issue, the real reason that Moses was able to survive forty years of lostness was his effective ability to communicate the vision of the future to his leadership team. You can see this in Numbers 7 and Numbers 11 when Moses is successfully casting his vision to both the leaders of the tribes, and the seventy elders of Israel. Moses success was not tied to his growth charts, marketing strategies, and stock options. His success was simply tied to his ability to get people on board! He wandered, the people followed. That is leadership at its pinnacle…and its most challenging point.
As much as I disagreed with many of his personal beliefs, Steve Jobs was a master at this. What many Americans have forgotten is that Steve Jobs was actually fired as the CEO from Apple in 1985 because of his inexperience as a CEO. He was replaced by PepsiCo magnate, John Sculley. At that time Pepsi was on top of its game and Sculley had a reputation and experience in marketing savvy. After several failed product lines, Sculley was fired and Jobs resumed his role over TEN YEARS LATER (1997). What was Job’s magic? He could invent something we’ve never seen, and convince us we could not live without it. And we followed. The rest is history.
Yesterday, nearly one million federal employees did not report to work. The mandatory day off (without pay!) is the result of political gridlock. Now we get to hear the blame game. The house blames the senate, the senate blames the house. The democrats blame republicans, republicans blame democrats. The Washington Times reported, “President Obama on Tuesday laid the blame for the government shutdown entirely on congressional Republicans, rejecting any responsibility for the stalemate and calling it ‘a Republican shutdown’ caused by spite over Obamacare.” Like so many other leaders before him, he will take no responsibility for this failure. And yet, if this had been any Fortune 500 company shutting down with mandatory unpaid leave, we would not hear the end of it for years–until the trials were over and the CEO was in jail, most likely.
I realize that a government cannot be run like a business. But that being the case, then the government should not be trying to run a business. The government has proven it inability to run business. Reference the March 2013 report by United Postal Service CFO Joseph Corbett which place the first quarter LOSS for the post office at nearly $2 BILLION dollars! If the government cannot run business, then it should privatize all business related activities, or, more specifically, all ‘for fee’ services. This would obviously include the USPS, processing of VISAs, passports, and insurance.
In the age of accountability it is disappointing that the leader of our nation still takes no responsibility for failure. His failure is his inability to convince the elders and tribal leaders the importance of his vision. So in the end he only leads half of the people. This is not a democrat or republican issue, this is a leadership issue. Any CEO who only leads half the company is not the CEO. He may be the COO, or the CAO, but he is not the CEO. But that is business. Apparently in politics, when it comes to transparency and accountability, there is a political exemption.