Michael Bloomberg 2019: A commencement speech worth reading and a message worth sharing.

Posted by Admin Admin on Sunday, August 4, 2019 Under: Leadership

In my work and personal life, it often seems like we are provided false choices. I am suspicious of people who frame issues as only an either-or proposition. I respect leaders who have the courage and character to speak honestly about the complex challenges facing our world.

Maybe that's why I found Michael Bloomberg's commencement speech at Harvard Business School so timely and refreshing. "Calling on the Harvard Business School Class of 2019 to demonstrate “moral leadership,” and to invoke integrity in the service of country and capitalism."

Here are some of my favorite highlights:

  • ·      “Being ethical does not require a master’s degree,” he said. “It requires having a conscience and following it.”
  • ·      "No party has a monopoly on good ideas or good people. But I believe all of us have an obligation to reject those who traffic in dishonesty and deceit. That is not a partisan position. That is a patriotic position. Unfortunately, when we elect people to public office who have no interest in ethics, that depravity trickles down, and it seeps into our culture."
  • ·       "Thirty years ago, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York described society’s growing tolerance for illicit behavior as “defining deviancy down.” Today, we face the same problem — except that the bad behavior is not on city streets, but in the halls of power in Washington. And as our political culture degenerates, so does our ability to address all the big challenges we face. Now, the good news is: There is a solution. In fact, I believe that the solution to our political problems is also the solution to our economic problems. And I can sum it up in one word: integrity."

How do we proceed?

Be sure to read the entire commencement address for some ideas. But in simple terms, whatever positions we hold we are each called to lead with integrity. Leaders must have the courage to speak and defend the truth. Having the character to lead through these moments in history is a calling for each of us to consider carefully.

History is filled with wisdom. Humans have seen difficult moments before. So it is useful to recall this statement by Abraham Lincoln when he was asked:

"What's the best test of a person's character?"

From one translation, "Lincoln noted that the response most people gave to that question is adversity — that people's true selves are revealed when times are difficult, or when they are faced with a particularly daunting challenge. In Lincoln's experience, however, the true measure was power. His actual quote - "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power."

So today, we must evaluate our leaders by their conduct. As CEO's do they compensate themselves first. Do they demand to be paid 10 or 30 times that of their ordinary employee? Do they hide behind what is legal (Citizens United that enables nearly the outright purchase of elections) and avoid the fundamental moral question of what is right for all considered?

In both business and political life, it appears clear to me that it is deeply important to get this right.

Leaders Must Avoid False Choices

Leaders of all types must lean into complex issues and avoid false choices that are frequently framed by the media or political elite. As just one of many examples, society and particularly young adults are told asked to make a simple choice without thinking about the complexity of a moderate position. The political choices today appear to be between capitalism or socialism. This false choice ignores the value and importance of competition. My point here isn't to debate a political topic but to reveal that the truth is revealed not in the choice but in the context. The best leaders help to demonstrate the context and avoid a false choice that despite its appeal will be a disservice to society. For instance, the context for health care or public education is that competition provides choice, but only in when certain minimum requirements are included as part of the solution. So in the case of health care. It seems practical that all citizens should be able to purchase health insurance independent of their employer - call it universal health or Medicare for all the point is important for all citizens to access essential medical care. Likewise, for education, competition can provide valuable choices for families but depends upon minimum levels of funding to deliver quality education regardless of what zip-code a student lives in. I am not a policy expert, but as a student of leadership, I firmly believe we need leaders who possess the character to speak honestly about the problems we face. We need leaders who are honest and capable of framing the issues of our time with the correct and complete context. Leaders - in brief - with integrity.


In : Leadership 

Tags: leadership  integrity 
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About Me

John Fees John Fees is an entrepreneur, strategic marketing executive and business leader in the fields of affinity, collegiate and partnership marketing. During the course of his career, John has founded and led successful companies specializing in strategic marketing and media, affinity, partnership marketing and financial services. Currently, he serves as the co-founder & managing director of NGI Group. NGI Group is a large shareholder in portfolio companies including GradGuard, MassDrive & MyLifeProtected.