Cash is king was the CFO’s favorite go-to line when denying expenditures.
Everyone knew their spending requests for raises, projects, hiring, process innovation expenses, etc. were doomed once the CFO uttered “cash is king.”
What made it doubly hard was that the CEO always agreed with him after a “cash is king” ruling. Arguing was futile, justifications meaningless.
With that orientation, naturally over time, the company’s unwritten mission became make as much money as you can as fast as you can. Company culture changed. Ethical corners were cut. Legal lines were crossed. Cutthroat competition between departments became the norm.
Along the way, compassion, empathy, and character became less and less important. Money was the only yardstick by which success was measured. The work environment became a joyless, soulless place.
Leading with both head and heart
Many have written about the soullessness of economic-focused corporations and the cold, economic logic that defines what’s done. Much is said about their greed and ruthlessness; 82% of employees don’t expect their boss to tell the truth. Employees lose their individualism; 70% of the workforce says they’re disengaged. Some employees feel shame about admitting where they work.
If you are a boss, ask yourself: When you look back at how you’ve treated followers, peers, and superiors, in their eyes, will you have earned the right to be proud of yourself? Or will they believe that you ought to be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed by how you have trampled on others’ dignity day after day? ~Robert I. Sutton
With a little more care, a little more courage, and, above all, a little more soul, our lives can be so easily discovered and celebrated in work, and not, as now, squandered and lost in its shadow. ~David Whyte, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
Leading with head and heart in a cash is king world
With work and dedication from character-based leaders, workplaces can keep their soul and employees can have dignity. Some food for thought as you lead yourself and others:
1) Don’t let reasonable self-interest turn into greed. Hang onto generosity, reciprocity, and ethical commitments.
2) Be mindful of the rights, feelings, and interests of others. Research by Jonathan Haidt at New York University shows that employees who are moved by the compassion or kindness of a boss are more loyal.
3) Walk the talk of honesty, integrity, fairness, compassion, charity, and social responsibility.
4) Lead by both/and, not only either/or. Delivering both results and relationships is much more rewarding than focusing only on either results or relationships.
5) Challenge the status quo through constructive dissent, respectful irreverence, and purposeful discomfort.
6) Start with the carrot or the hug, not the stick, when difficulties are encountered.
7) Appreciate the power and possibility of differences. Don’t marginalize those who see things differently. As Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist, observes, “Successfully functioning in a society with diverse values, traditions and lifestyles requires us to have a relationship to our own reactions rather than be captive of them. To resist our tendencies to make right or true, that which is nearly familiar, and wrong or false, that which is only strange.”
8) Balance getting with giving and doing with being.
9) Make a good difference.
The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly. You are your own raw material. When you know what you consist of and what you want to make of it, then you can invent yourself. ~Warren Bennis
10) Define success by both tangibles and intangibles. Don’t favor one over the other.
11) Display competence, commitment, and character, and hold others accountable for doing the same.
12) Know when to be confident and when to have humility; when to speak up and when to be silent.
13) Keep Aristotle’s twelve virtues as close companions: courage, temperance, generosity, magnificence, magnanimity, right ambition, good temper, friendliness, truthfulness, wit, and justice.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~unknown
Getting right with competence, commitment, and character starts in our own heads and hearts.
That means the presence or absence of soul in our workplaces begins with each one of us.
Feeling up to the challenge?
Image credit before quote: Pixabay