February 13, 2020

The Problem With Doing What’s Right In Business

When Wendy put the TV on hold, and said “You need to watch this.”,
I could see she was serious.
And her voice was filled with emotion.

On her phone was a picture of a ‘suit’ whom I kind-of recognised.
But couldn’t immediately place. (It’s an age thing)

She confirmed that it was Mitt Romney. The Republican Senator.
The one who’d had a serious shot at running for President.

Yeah? So?

“You need to hear what he’s saying. And why he’s going to get viciously attacked.”
She had my attention.

Now, normally, I couldn’t give a ‘monkey’s whatsit’ about USA politics.
Apart from the fact that I’m stunned by how increasingly divisively ugly it has become.

But when I hear a major political figure explain why he wants to impeach the President from his own party…
Well, now, that’s worth listening to.

So, I watched the 8 minute 23 second video.
And, I have to say… I was both moved and impressed.

Following which it was a foregone conclusion that the might of Trump’s Titanic Twitter machine…
….together with the polarising power of Fox Corporation…
…would launch exocet missiles by the dozen at this lone voice in the Republican wilderness.

Which they did.
Of course.

Here is a man willing to commit political suicide.
Here is a man willing to be vilified, ostracised, hung out to dry.

And all for one reason:

He would rather face the abuse of influential friends and powerful colleagues…
Than to act contrary to his conscience.

He would rather teach his children and his children’s children what conscience-guided behaviour looks like…
Teach them the price of standing for something…
something that he holds to be noble and valuable to humanity…

Than be eulogised for his popularity, his prestige, his position, his power.

(In an interview after his speech, he quoted a line from a hymn that his children sang when they were small:
”Do What Is Right. Let The Consequence Follow”)

Didn’t Martin Luther King Junior take the same risks?
Didn’t Mahatma Gandhi?
Didn’t Nelson Mandela?

I recall reading one of Professor Robert E Quinn’s 18 books on Deep Change Leadership and Creating Positive Organisations.

He describes how he was brought in to work with the main board of a large corporation.
Except what he found was a group of senior directors squabbling, fighting turf wars, scoring political points.

At the conclusion of a gruelling and unsavoury day, he stopped the conversation.
And he asked this question:

“Tell Me. What Are You People Prepared To Die For?”

He could see that they hoped he wasn’t being serious.
Except that he was.

The room was deathly quiet.

“When you decide what you’re prepared – as a team – to fight for and die for…
then we might find a reason to create unity in this board of directors!”

So – as you read these words – the question now hangs between us.
Because I’m asking you.

“What does your firm stand for?
What ethos and belief system are you prepared to fight for?

What do you and your team value so highly as a principle and behaviour….
That you’re prepared to lose everything you’d hoped to gain.
In order to live and demonstrate that ethos – that value, that belief, that principle – to those you care for… to those you love.”

(Translation… “Do Your Values Have A Price?”)