Executive Times

Volume 5, Issue 1

January 2003


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Speaking Truth Is Power

The best leaders rely on individuals who have the courage to “speak truth to power.” Leaders can become accustomed to deference to their position, and the comments and advice they receive often comes in the form and content expected rather than the message of truth that a leader needs to hear. The higher the level one holds within an organization, the more challenging it can be to maintain close relationships with individuals who have the courage to provide clear and candid feedback. Formerly trusted independent advisors have become compromised when their messages may lead to a loss in revenue, and so truth becomes relative, and rationalizations become the agreed-upon company line. Buried deep within the Time (12/22/02) cover story on the Persons of the Year (http://www.time.com/time/personoftheyear/2002/poyintro.html), in the profile of FBI special agent Coleen Rowley, was the line, “It was not about speaking truth to power, because people like Rowley don’t see much difference between the two. Truth is power – that’s how you catch the bad guys.” In this issue of Executive Times, we explore some of the different ways that truth is spoken, that power shifts, and that regimes are transformed. As you read these stories, think about what they mean for you and your organization. For those within your organization who are trying to speak truth to you, how easy is it for you to hear them? When you observe behavior in others that causes you concern, how do you tell them?


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5, one of which received a highly recommended four-star rating, and a best-selling author received a stingy one-star rating. Turn ahead to check those out. You can also visit our 2003 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 2003 book reviews.

“I am not a …”
Most leaders hate being labeled, especially if the label has negative connotations. Some go so far as to fall into an invalid syllogism, something along the lines of, “Racists are bad; I’m not bad; therefore, I am not a racist.” Former United States Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott didn’t see himself as a racist. While he apologized often for remarks he made at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party, he couldn’t shake the label or calm the furor that his comments raised, and he ended up resigning his position as majority leader. One of the voices speaking truth to power came, as expected, from the media. One of our favorite syndicated columnists, Leonard Pitts, said it best in his column titled “If Trent Lott is Not a Racist Then What Is He?” (Chicago Tribune, 12/17/02) (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/oped/chi-0212170357dec17,1,5146170.story). “A few things to remember about Trent Lott. He is recalled by members of his college fraternity as an ardent opponent of integration. He's had a long affiliation with the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. He has expressed his closeness to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He opposed the 1982 extension of the Voting Rights Act. He cast the only vote against the nomination of the first black judge ever to sit on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. And of course, he has been in political hot water for better than a week now, after suggesting the nation would have been better off had it elected segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond to the presidency in 1948.
The evidence is all around us. Yet apologists for the Mississippi senator and presumptive majority leader continue to reshape it so that it fits what they believe. And you have to wonder if they're trying to fool us or simply fooling themselves.
I am not here to tell you Trent Lott is a racist, because I don't know.
I am here to say that, given the preponderance of the evidence, the idea is hardly as unthinkable as some would have us to believe.”
For Lott and for each of us, the patterns of our behavior lead observers to conclusions about who and what we are.

Do the patterns of your behavior lead observers to conclude or judge something about you that you find distasteful? Are you open to the possibility that this pattern and the label fit? If you don’t like the label, what are you willing to do to create new patterns that change the behavior and lead to labels that you find more consistent with your self-image? How much time are you willing to spend explaining to someone that you aren’t the person they think you are?


The Company and I Are One

We read in the 12/30/02 issue of Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_52/b3814043.htm) that nobody seemed to be around to tell certain CEOs that the offers they received from investment bankers to buy stock in initial public offerings were inappropriate. As a reward for a company’s relationship with another company, the CEO was offered a personal benefit that wasn’t disclosed and smacks of improper dealings. Shareholders are claiming that the CEOs aren’t entitled to the rewards they reaped from these IPOs. As Business Week said, investors are arguing “The money belongs in company coffers since the execs got to buy the shares only because they held influential jobs with important banking clients.” Some executives don’t seem to differentiate themselves from their organization. For one of the companies under attack, Ford Motor, the CEO’s name is on the door, and the relationship between the company, the family, and its investment banker, Goldman Sachs, goes back many years and Ford has had a Goldman executive on its board. We read in The New York Times (12/13/02) (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/13/business/13FORD.html) that the Ford board of directors is investigating whether or not William Clay Ford should sell the 400,000 shares Goldman allocated to him from their IPO. According to the Times, “Mr. Ford defended his ownership of the Goldman shares in an internal e-mail message sent to Ford employees yesterday, saying that he would never do anything to harm the company and that the shares in question were a personal investment unrelated to any Ford business ties with Goldman Sachs.”


How do you separate your personal life from your business life? Does the power you have from the job you hold cause you to receive personal rewards that come from entities that receive substantial rewards from your organization? Are the terms of your personal business with those entities the same terms that the entity would offer other clients with the same personal characteristics as yours, or are you receiving benefits unique to you because of the job you hold?



Lawless Beantown
For a while, it sounded like the message from Cardinal Bernard Law’s boss, Pope John Paul II, was something along the lines of, “You created this mess, so you clean it up.” The Pope refused to accept Law’s resignation some months ago, and sent him back to Boston to resolve the extensive scandal involving priests abusing children, and officials covering up illegal acts. All the talents and skills that brought Bernie Law to the level of prince of the church were obstacles to his ability to move beyond the scandal. While the Pope may have been deaf to the American press and to the reactions of the laity, perhaps it was the petition signed by 58 Boston priests calling for Law to step down that caught the Vatican’s attention. Leaders without followers are useless, and Law lost the confidence of the people he needed most. In mid-December, the Pope accepted Law’s resignation. What’s next for Law? Lots of time with attorneys. We read in a Slate article (12/19), “But Why Isn't Bernard Law in Jail? (Part 2)” (http://slate.msn.com/?id=2075831) that Law’s personal involvement in the scandal may lead him to prosecution. According to Slate, in the year since the periodical first asked the question about why Law isn’t in jail, Almost a year later, more lawsuits have been filed, depositions have been taken, church documents have been turned over, and we have a clearer picture of what precisely the cardinal has done, or not done, over the past decade and a half. What's emerged is horrifying. Law was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape. Worse yet, he breezily reassigned clergy known for sexually abusing children to work with more children—conduct not all that distinguishable from leaving a loaded gun in a playground. … What Law has done goes far beyond ‘not reporting’ suspected child abusers. This was no crime of omission. It is now clear that Law affirmatively engaged in a pattern of shielding child rapists and recklessly allowing them unfettered access to yet more victims. A high-school principal or the CEO of any company in America would have been indicted months ago.”
Stay tuned to see if Law ends up indicted and incarcerated.

If you work for someone who has lost your support and confidence, what do you do? If someone who reports to you made a huge mistake, when would you choose him or her to repair the damage, and when would you find a replacement? When workers lose confidence in bosses, what happens in your organization? Is that what you think should happen? Does power in your organization come from position or from skills? What happens when there’s one without the other?


Worker to Owner to ?
Is the experiment in industrial democracy and employee stock ownership plans dead? An op-ed written by Bruce Bartlett for the National Center for Policy Analysis (12/9/02) (http://www.ncpa.org/edo/bb/2002/bb120902.html) says that with the bankruptcy of United Airlines, the idea that workers who are owners will build profitable companies has been refuted. “Economists that have looked at ESOPs generally find that there is no significant increase in productivity at companies with such plans. The benefits to each individual worker are too small to fundamentally change their attitudes. On the contrary, they often use their ownership to block productivity-enhancing changes. The result is that management is even more hamstrung than it was before, leading to losses and bankruptcies.” In the case of United, where the pilots owned half the worker’s share of that company, salaries for pilots were the highest of all domestic airlines, and twice what profitable Southwest Airlines pays its pilots.

When employees own stock in your company, do you expect them to behave like owners? Do they? How significant do stock holdings need to be align workers and owners? Is industrial democracy a theory that doesn’t work? If that’s the case, why do you try to implement that theory?



Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

Ø      We note with pleasure that Time selected for its Persons of the Year issue (12/22/02) (http://www.time.com/time/personoftheyear/2002/poyintro.html) the whistleblower theme we first covered in the August 2001 issue of Executive Times. We also called attention to FBI special agent Coleen Rowley in the June 2002 issue of Executive Times. Unlike Time, we don’t think of Enron’s Sherron Watkins as a whistle blower, since her action was to provide information solely to company management. A Wall Street Journal commentary (12/24/02) agrees with us (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1040694822309792113,00.html).

Ø      About half of the 2002 issues of Executive Times made some reference to Tyco and its former CEO, Dennis Kozlowski. If you haven’t had your fill of this story, we highly recommend the Business Week cover story from the 12/23 issue (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_51/b3813001.htm). An online extra presents a psychological profile of the CEO as thief. While the psychoanalyst interviewed hasn’t met Kozlowski, we found his insights fascinating. You can read the interview online at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_51/b3813012.htm.

Ø      At last count, “trust” was mentioned in twenty-eight issues of Executive Times. As part of the Forbes 85th anniversary forum (12/23/02 issue) (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2002/1223/248.html), New Yorker business columnist Jim Surowiecki presents how trust is the foundation of capitalism. In an article titled “A Virtuous Cycle”, Surowiecki concludes, “Look past today's scandals and you'll find that capitalism has always been founded on trust, honesty and decency. That's the only way it works.” The article gives a great historical context for how capitalism developed, and what went wrong in the past few years.



Thrill of Victory
Whether you like television sports or not, you have Roone Arledge to thank or blame. When he took over leadership of ABC Sports over thirty years ago, games were rarely shown in prime time, there was no instant replay, and his non-stop coverage of the tragic Munich Olympics set new heights for sports coverage. He started Monday Night Football, and brought the entertaining and annoying Howard Cosell to the sports fan. He found ways to promote sports, attract ad revenue, and helped ABC succeed. Thanks to Arledge, the variety of sports offerings and the economics of professional sports changed dramatically.

In 1977, he switched to ABC News, where the news professionals thought he didn’t fit. Instead, Arledge brought that group from the bottom of the ratings to the top, thanks to effective leadership. He found ways to make people take notice of the news, and those ways worked. A hands-on manager, Arledge got involved in all the gritty details of the news business, sometimes frustrating others when he postponed decisions to the very last moment, including which camera would be broadcast live.  He supported reporters in the field, and gave them air time and encouragement to become their best. Ted Koppel often heard words in his earpiece from Arledge just before going on the air, “Be great.” Koppel’s eulogy said Arledge was great. Arledge died in early December at age 71.


Latest Books Read and Reviewed:

 (Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com.  When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com.  Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2003 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian

Ambrose, Stephen E.

Spirit of Optimism. Read this farewell book from a fine chronicler of people and events and come away feeling better about America, Americans, and our many individual and collective achievements.

The Christmas Train

Baldacci, David

No Twain. Weak dialogue, unsympathetic characters, lame story, slow plot development. Happily, it’s not too many pages. Modeled after a story Mark Twain didn’t write. Our loss.

Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth

Bell, Derrick

A Path to Happiness. An opportunity to eavesdrop as this lawyer and professor reminisces about the decisions he’s made to follow an ethical path to happiness.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Bossidy, Larry and Ram Charan

What It’s All About. If you’re an executive, you should know the discipline of execution, which is what executives do. The authors present a primer on what this means for today’s organizations.

Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron

Bryce, Robert

Me First. The rot at Enron started at the head. The lack of integrity and character, the self-serving, the arrogance of the bright, are revealed in all their venality in this fascinating book.

Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II

Conant, Jennet

Catalyst. Thanks to the money Alfred Loomis spent on a private research lab, the Allies were able to use radar to win World War II.

Letters to a Young Conservative

D’Souza, Dinesh

Compelling. D’Souza delivers an articulate case for conservatism in the form of letters from him to a college student. Whether you agree or disagree with D’Souza’s politics, his writing is fine and his case is compelling.

From a Buick 8

King, Stephen

Classic. King’s character development reaches a high point in this book. Allowing multiple narrators, the voices of each character show King’s ability to bring characters to life and keep them differentiated.

Child of My Heart

McDemott, Alice

Bruised. McDermott uses fine writing in a coming of age story to explore the many ways we humans bruise each other as we try to love and care for someone else.

Rumpole Rests His Case

Mortimer, John

The End? Could this be the last of the Rumpole books? If so, savor each of the week’s worth of stories in this book, and hope that this is not the end.

Mission Compromised

North, Oliver

Do As ISEG. 200 good pages out of 600; just try to find them. Acronyms, slow-moving plot, weak dialogue: all here for your reading distraction.

The Demon in the Freezer

Preston, Richard

Dark Biology. Before you line up for your smallpox shot, read this book. It’s more likely that modified smallpox would be used as a weapon, and the vaccine would do no good.

Blackwood Farm

Rice, Anne

How r u gonna keep ‘em? New vampire Tarquin Blackwood narrates this tedious tale to old vampire standby Lestat, who should have killed Quinn to make a long story short. Usual Rice.

Murder at Ford’s Theatre

Truman, Margaret

Curtains. Unless you’re a lover of Washington, DC or a reader of prior Truman mysteries set there, there’s no reason to read this book.

Reversible Errors

Turow, Scott

Paradise Lost and Regained. Turow’s best novel yet tackles death penalty errors, love, loss, human nature and redemption. Lawyers, judges, criminals, and other readers will love this book.


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC.  Executive Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s office at 723 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. Subscription rate for first class mail delivery of the print version is $60.00 per year (12 issues). Web version subscriptions are $30.00 per year. Single issues: $10.00 print; $5.00 web. To subscribe, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html, send an e-mail to executivetimes@hopkinsandcompany.com, call (708) 466-4650, or fax to (708) 386-8687. For permission to photocopy or e-mail Executive Times, call (708) 466-4650 or e-mail to reprints@hopkinsandcompany.com. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archives.html contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date. 

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