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You’ll find the 20% of leadership information that produces 80% of leadership results in this newsletter. This is well-researched leadership information that, when consistently implemented, will produce bottom-line results.

Authentic Leadership Reprise
Take a deep breath and calm down. What? You weren’t upset? Give me a couple of paragraphs and you probably will be. If you keep reading you will encounter the words “politics,” “leadership” and “debt crisis,”—words almost guaranteed to cause reflexive intake of antacid or adult beverages. Setting aside emotional reactions, the most recent the debt ceiling machinations have, at the core of them, a primal human motivator and leadership factor—perception of fairness.

David Rock, Quiet Leadership, and Daniel Pink, Drive, both note that fairness is an innate human drive. Humans are hardwired to expect an equitable (not equal) distribution of the perceived pie. In an oft cited study, 2 people are given choices. The first person is given $50 and can choose how to split it between the 2 of them. The second person can accept or reject the split. If the second person rejects it, neither of them gets any money. Given that most social science is conducted using cash strapped college students, you’d think that any cash is better than none—not so. Splits perceived to be unfair were rejected by the second person, in order to punish the “cheater” who split the cash inequitably.

In other studies of group behavior, the person who calls the cheater to account is perceived to be the leader regardless of whether the person has the title. Our political leadership turmoil seems to hang on the perception of fairness and the perception of who is cheating. Therefore our perception of who is or is not a political leader is probably based on our perception of who is punishing the group we perceive to be tax cheats.

These same perceptions play out in our organizations at many levels. Here are some examples:

  • Is it fair that smokers get more break time?
  • Is it fair for people without kids to have to pick up the slack for parents who leave early, come in late or use more personal time?
  • Is it fair for a person to be chronically late to meetings and no one says a word?
  • Is it fair for a department that has worked very hard to stay on budget to be asked to give up operating income to a division that didn’t manage to stay on budget?

If you were answering those question in your head as you read them, my guess is “it depends” was your most frequent response. Your employees might see it very differently. As a leader, your job is to manage the perception of fairness. Easy ways to do this are:
  • Fully explain the circumstances
  • Right the wrongs if the systems is inequitable
  • Address individuals who are truly cheating

I’ve never read the tax code and I doubt I have time to* before I retire. At 71,684 pages (including rulings), and over 500 separate forms, needing 1.5 million paid tax preparers annually, could something that complex possibly be fair to anybody? Perhaps we should consider a perception adjustment.

*At 20 pages a day, with no weekends or holidays, you could finish reading the 2010 information in 10 years. However at the current growth rate you would then have 24,000 more pages to stay current.

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