Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lead By Example

Let's take this out of the comments.

General Powell gives a good speech. I watched a video of this speech when he gave it to my last employer's conference in Orlando. Just a few points in response:

  1. If the corporation is making the claim and receiving the credit for philanthropy, the donation needs to come off the bottom line: corporate profits. Since stockholders tend to object to that and rebel against executives who are generous in this regard, this doesn't happen often or in quantity.

  2. That leaves employee contributions. We are all familiar with the scene where the office geishas send out memos asking us to contribute to some charity in a city where our company wishes to do future business. We've all heard the speech from the guy representing the PAC of a favored local politician and seen that after the employees contribute, that guy gets a very big promotion. We are familiar with the math of large bonuses for executives based on performance numbers built on employee-contributed hours of unpaid overtime while these same executives tell us that the company can only afford a 2% raise for those who shouldered the burden of the miraculous turn around.

So it really comes down to picking someone's pocket in these corporate initiatives unless contributions are matched in kind by all and by percentage of income. Otherwise, the next time the call goes out for these contributions, tell them that you are happy to do your community work, but that you will donate where the branding of the effort does the most good: give at church. Advancing the career of your minister seldom increases his or her income, career potentials, or customer base. It just goes to where it will do the most good with the least claims.

And if your employers subtly or overtly insinuate that contributions and company-brandable effort are required for consideration of leadership potential, do as the subject of the cited article, General Powell, did when faced with such: seek other employment. That is the hallmark of leadership: lead by example.

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