Tuesday, March 06, 2007

You Are Who You Hire

"Scooter" Libby's conviction today reminded me of an old lesson I learned in the business world. If you want to understand the true motivations of another manager, look at the people this person has hired or retained on their staff - especially the key people.

Do you see a cadre of intimidated "yes-people"? Do you see a bunch of bullies, or workaholics? Do you see people who have little respect for truth or the "rules of the game"? Or, do you see people who work with others to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes? Do you see people who give you time or expertise when there is little or no benefit to their organization but obvious value to the corporation? Do you see people who reward their subordinates for showing creativity? Whatever you see, it will be the characteristics that are valued by the leader, because the leader will give higher value to people like him or her.

"Loyalty" is the one word we hear more than any other when Bush's own team talks about their culture. If you stay with the party line, you are in. If not, you are out. Intellectual independence and initiative make you persona non grata, but loyalty might get you hired to run FEMA or be appointed as the new attorney general. It's right out there in the open.

So, what price loyalty? Colin Powell walked one kind of plank to stay on the team - he buried his doubts on weapons and his convictions about needing overwhelming force to win. "Scooter" walked another - he buried his integrity. Bush's succession of press secretaries, while very different personalities, have all been unabashed "stonewallers"; no matter how obvious the problems, they've denied them with straight faces. Rumsfeld will go down in history for his comment about "just a bunch of dead-enders" when truth in the form of dead Americans began to appear. Do the current White House staff members still think loyalty will work out for them?

But, back to the main point. The buck does stop at the top. Bush doesn't leash Cheney because Bush likes Cheney's snarling, sarcastic style just like Bush appreciated Rumsfeld's smiling, sarcastic style. Bush gives people nicknames to reduce them and ensure they understand their subservient status, not to honor them. Just go down the list of cabinet members...who among them will be remembered for anything other than obedience to a failed president? Can anyone name Bush's chief of staff? Cogs in a wheel, going nowhere because the leader is going nowhere.

Bush will be remembered for the characteristics of those he hired - men of bluff and bluster, just like him, the grinning chimpmeister of "Bring 'em on" fame. And when the next president is inaugurated, we only need to look at those surrounding him or her to get a really good idea about what we should should expect in the next four years. You are who you hire.


Ron Davison said...

Leaders have to trust people. Some trust people to do what they are told. Others trust people to tell that leader when they're headed off course. It seems like George & Dick fall into the first camp. There are some great people who simply don't want to play that game, which is one of the reasons that the group surrounding different leaders can vary so much in quality.

1138 said...

Before the invasion of Iraq, before September 11th 2001, before the inauguration if you looked at the kind of people this man surrounded himself with and considered the history's of the people they worked with, the colossal errors and wrong steps taken in the past, You knew that his was not going to be a good Presidency.
These are the same folks that made the mega mistakes of the mid to late 20th century that define the phrase "Ugly American".

Chrlane said...

It's the culture. It's not receptive to the sort of inner dialog that needs to take place before one is able to trust in those he employs to that extent where he can enable them a certain autonomy within the group.

And it's unfortunate, because any effective leadership must be able to designate effectively within the ranks of it's people. I mean, that's what loyalty _is_.

Sometimes, I think it's the drinking culture that makes it so. I mean, even the alcohol buzz is a solitary, numbing experience. So it comes as a given that any ensuing culture would have similar qualities.

It would be effective, perhaps for those in leadership roles to live straight-edge.