Browsing the archives for the Leadership category

Stopping Sex to End Violence

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ADP News, American Dream Project, Leadership

If you still doubt this consider the fact that nearly all (over 95%) of micro loans are made to female entrepreneurs in developing countries rather than males. The repayment ratio of these loans, which on average doubles a household income within a year, is more than 97% when made to women. Men are bad loan risks for these loans because most often they spend loan proceeds or any increased income to pursue their favorite hobbies – gambling, drinking, and prostitution.

I am not anti-male. I am only stating the facts. Men are hunters and women are gatherers. Women are also community builders. When women succeed using micro loans they invest their new wealth in their children’s education, clean water projects, cows and goats—things that strengthen their families and communities. This scenario has played out with tens of millions of micro loan recipients, and it only confirms what we experience throughout our lifetimes with wise women

Many anthropologists observe that women are the prime source of civilizations. And if you watch beer commercials it’s easy to imagine that without women’s civilizing force we’d be living like cave men.

So…maybe it’s time to let women run things. If women were in charge do you think we’d have gone to war in Iraq?

If women were in charge do you think…

  • We would allow millions of children to go uneducated?
  • We would allow millions of children to go hungry every day?
  • We would not have universal health care?
  • We would waste tens of billions creating weapons we will never use?
  • We would make sure everyone had access to assault weapons and blow off mass murder as necessary collateral damage?
  • We’d go off fiscal cliffs because egos are more important than our nation’s strength?
  • We’d continue to condone unequal pay to women?
  • We’d claim that the best society is one in which every person fends for themselves and that everyone gets what they deserve?

As gatherers I think there is a good chance that wise women have new solutions to old problems. Don’t you?

Of course not all women are empathetic and civilized. Ayn Rand was a women who was definitely more hunter than gatherer, but come on. The story of civilization is not built on the vicious power of the strongest. It is rather the emergence of community building based on building personal responsibility in children so they will promote community responsibility as adults.

For millennia women have had to motivate men to become civilized. In our own history passionate women were behind the movements to end slavery, child labor, and toxic working conditions.

In some parts of the world women are getting impatient with their uncivilized husbands and are attempting to push civilization faster. In the African country of Togo where tyranny and violence has crushed the defenseless for the past 50 years, Togolese women have organized “sex strikes” to press their husbands into action that will establish human rights and equal justice. A sex strike is refusing to engage in sex with your husband until things change. Togolese women combine their abstinence with prayer and fasting to work on men’s souls as well as their passions.

This battle for civilizing Togo is just beginning, but the sex strike has gotten the attention of women activists world wide. Perhaps it’s time to tame the animal instincts of men who too often mistake their competitive hormones for standing on principle. (Just imagine American women staging a national sex strike rile up men to insist our congress come up with both sensible and compassionate solutions to solve our solvable problems…just imagine)

Perhaps it’s time to fully civilize our future so that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are promises we authentically offer to all of our citizens. Maybe it’s time for gathering rather than hunting. Maybe it’s time for many more wise women to run many more things than they’ve ever been allowed to. It’s hard to imagine they’d do a worse job.

Wise Women unite! Please.

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Is Business Uncivilized?

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ADP News, American Dream Project, Leadership

I have spent time lately talking to people who were recently laid off from jobs they liked. Merry Christmas, right? The idea that hard work equals financial success is a myth. Of course it’s true that unless you inherit money or win the lottery it’s nearly impossible to be successful without persistent hard work. But it’s equally true you can work bone-achingly hard in a diner, a coalmine, or a global corporation and struggle and stress your entire life.

Most people today feel especially vulnerable because business managers have become hardened to the suffering caused by laying off workers at the first sign of an economic slowdown. For 50 years our university business schools have reduced business leadership to a series of models dealing with strategy and finance. The human side of business is not even a topic. Labor is a “thing.” A cost line on a profit and loss statement. This mindset has led us to an age of zombie employees who largely live in numb uncertainty about their future.

It’s not surprising.

Frankly it’s hard for senior management to empathize. They usually spend little time making friends with people unlike themselves. When executives think about their own potential job loss they worry about the emotional disappointment of failing but rarely about immediate dire economic consequences. Often their “going away packages” are a year of salary and they usually have deep financial savings that soften the practical effects of a job loss. It’s very rare for these types of executives to put themselves in the shoes of anyone who is one or two paychecks away from missing a rent payment.

Well, I know this sounds outrageous, but I believe the copout excuse that layoffs are just a part of business is simply immoral. That’s right. Immoral. The ethical way to judge the morality of layoffs begins with the understanding that the civilized standard of morality is that each of us has an intrinsic obligation to not cause avoidable suffering. That’s a high standard. But it’s the only standard that matters. If you or I willfully cause human suffering from actions we choose to take, that’s just plain bad.

Think of it this way. Life itself is unfair enough. Through no fault of their own people suffer from cancer, die from accidents, or are wiped out by natural disasters. That kind of human suffering is unavoidable. It’s under the category of “stuff happens.” Civilization evolved to institutionalize compassion. People come together to pool resources to prevent or relieve the suffering caused by events we can’t control. For the most part we do that well.

What’s twisted is that our modern economists have legitimized the view that in spite of living in a time a high civilization property rights trump human rights and our mutual obligations. Economists maintain that the investors of a business have a supreme right to the highest possible profits all the time. Under this theory, in the 1980’s Jack Welch started firing people from profitable divisions of GE so the shareholders could make more money. That’s when “doing more with less” became the mantra of business. It usually meant making more with less people.

But this notion is simply crazy. Critical thinking requires a leader to consider who has the greatest stake in their company’s success. It isn’t the investors. The average share of stock is held for only four weeks or at most months in today’s world of high speed trading. It isn’t a customer. Customers can easily find equal replacements for virtually any product or service. In other words, neither investors nor customers suffer much from disengaging from a business. But employees…they are frequently devastated.

So today U.S. companies have over 900 billion dollars sitting idle in their treasuries. Their leaders can’t think of any way to invest that money productively. They buy their own stock. They increase dividends. But they are so trapped in their traditional business models they can’t think of new ways to put smart, loyal, hardworking people to work. Instead Hewlett Packard lays off 27,000, Citibank 11,000, and on and on. These layoffs are not a failure of the employees; it’s the failure of leaders. It’s not only a sign of incompetence; it’s a sign that most businesses have moral compasses pointing south instead of north.

I am not suggesting we pass laws to prevent layoffs. We need efficient labor markets. What I am advocating is something far more important. It’s simply that business leaders need to accept their primary moral responsibility to the well-being of their employees. To sit on billions of idle cash while former employees watch their lives disintegrate is simply wrong.

We need a revolution of thinking about the economy we are creating. We need to accept ethical responsibility for making choices that impact people’s lives, their health, and their families. We need a moral revolution in business leadership. Nothing less.

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Don’t Work For a Jerk

ADP News, American Dream Project, Leadership

Work should be a source of joy.

Okay, if that’s too strong…

It should at least be a source of personal well-being.

Gallup’s research confirms that work is the second most important factor in promoting our life satisfaction. (The first is the quality of our relationships.) We spend half our waking hours working. It is a source of personal identity, growth, and self-efficacy.

That’s all great when our work is good. But when work is not good, it’s our single greatest source of stress. And new research is confirming what we all know. If our work is stressful, it’s mostly because our boss is bad.

Here’s why:

Business organizations are designed as power hierarchies. This is because the military is run as a power hierarchy, and modern organizations come from the military gene pool. The family tree of business also runs back to royalty, warlords, and a host of archaic organization models.

The people at the top of hierarchies hold life-and-death power (or hire-or-fire power) over everyone. They are also expected to be smarter, better informed, and more capable than their employees.

Of course, sometimes they are.

Often they are not.

But it’s not competency alone that determines whether a leader creates a great place to work. More often, it is his or her personality, values, and worldview.

The emerging research on leaders of large, modern enterprises is that they tend to be more narcissistic and less empathetic than average. I know…this is not surprising. But let’s take a closer look.


  • Tend to act confident, be well-groomed, self-promoting, and extroverted. They make eye contact, offer inflated compliments, and have high energy.
  • Need and may demand the spotlight, recognition, and admiration.
  • Are self-serving, self-focused, and insistent.
  • Constantly search for better deals, better people, better jobs, better spouses.

And their grand ability is to leverage their influence to dominate a social group. That’s why leadership positions in business, politics, and the media appear to be loaded with narcissists.

What’s dangerous about this is that the most dominant trait of a narcissist is fake empathy. That is when a person pretends to care about the sufferings and sacrifices of others, but really doesn’t. It’s what enables business executives to permanently lay off hardworking, creative, successful employees to temporarily raise profits. It’s what enables leaders to sell and promote bad food and harmful products, or brazenly pollute and poison the environment.

Researchers have now administered thousands of personality assessments, and found that people with low empathy scores tend to become lawyers, economists, and investment bankers. (I know, I know…no surprise.)

So what’s this got to do with our work? Everything.

IBM published research last year revealing the person most employees least enjoy spending time with is their boss. They found that our stress hormone levels skyrocket when we talk to our bosses, due to the massive economic and social power bosses have. If that power is wielded by a narcissist or a low-empathy leader, it’s frankly very scary.

The cure is simple. Not easy, but simple. It has two elements.

First, become great at something. That way, you have a career instead of a job. We all earn money by creating value. Value in a business is primarily created by saving money or making money. Be clear on what you’re great at, and get better. Become an expert in a field you’re passionate about.

You do this by reading, going to conferences, writing, speaking, doing. Do something for at least 30 minutes each day to learn something new in your field of choice. Give yourself three years to get in the top 25% of your field. In five years be in the top 10%. Life is short. Be great at your work so you will always be in demand.

Second, don’t work for a jerk. Remember, business is a magnet for slick narcissists. So if you are going to work for someone other than yourself, you must target great companies that push self-promoters away. You will discover these humane places to work through networking, reading local lists of good companies, and asking around.

Sometimes transitions take time. Don’t fret about it. Just don’t settle for being stressed, scared, and exploited.

I just finished teaching a career class to about 60 adult UCSD students. What was reinforced to me is that we all have gifts to give. We have a difference we can make. And if you want to, you can put yourself in the right place with the right people to work the way you are uniquely designed to. Never give up your dream.


Don’t Lose Your Mind

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ADP News, American Dream Project, Leadership

Science is making us stupid.

Not real science. Fake science has infiltrated our culture and filled our minds with nonsense. Stephen Colbert cornered the phrase “truthiness” to describe assertions based on flimsy evidence posing as truth. If some outrageous claim is confidently repeated over and over, many of us will accept it as truth. Yes, it’s the basis of talk radio and “crazy news” on TV. But it’s worse than that. It’s all over the media in stories reporting on correlation studies performed by two-bit academics posing as scientists. And it makes us stupid.

Here’s the problem. Real science proves a hypothesis by discovering the true cause-and-effect principles of our physical world. Experiments are created that duplicate results over and over again. These results must have no exceptions to be considered scientific fact. This approach works best in hard sciences, like chemistry and physics.

And even that is hard because, as quantum physics demonstrates, the physical world is full of unanticipated and presently unexplainable surprises. A genuine “scientific fact” is 100% true, 100% of the time. Otherwise, it’s just a theory.

Today, theories of all kinds are asserted as facts. But you shouldn’t fall for fake science.

Here’s how falling for fake science makes us stupid.

  1. Correlation is not cause. Recently, a study was promoted saying eating red meat or processed meat (like bacon), in any quantity, substantially increases our risk of heart attack. The study compared mortality rates of daily red meat eaters and non-red meat eaters. But it did not factor out other risk factors. So a deeper look showed that the meat eaters in the study also had much higher rates of smoking, fast food intake, and low rates of exercise. So attributing heart disease to red meat alone is misleading to say the least.Want to know something more bizarre? A Stanford study called “A to Z” examined health risks of five popular diets ranging from Atkins to the Zone. The only diet that significantly lowered cardiovascular risk was the high meat-and-bacon Atkins diet. It actually lowered bad cholesterol. I know—you can’t believe it—but look it up for yourself. (See Stanford Diet Study Tips Scale in Favor of Atkins Plan)
  1. Predicting human behavior is named “social science.” But it’s not real science. Psychologists claim to predict human behavior by conducting small studies of less than 100 college students. Most of these students are under 25. This means the test subjects’ brains are not fully formed.

    For instance, until age 25 most young men and women seek to increase pleasurable stimulation and excitement for the least effort. You don’t need a PhD to notice that “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll” is a very appealing lifestyle to college students. The last part of the brain to develop is our higher centers of judgment and the exercise of free will. So nearly 90% of studies of human behavior are based on tiny samples of hormone-crazed frat boys and society girls. No, I am not making this up. The fact is that social science is largely based on studying people who act like the cast of American Pie movies.

  1. Personal bias runs amok in science. It’s always been a problem because scientists have size XL egos. When you’re smart about things most people don’t know much about, you can get away with promoting whatever your ego wants to prove. For instance, brain scans used by neuroscientists have been frivolously used in hundreds of studies to “prove” all kinds of pet theories. What is never reported are all the exceptions to evidence presented to support the theory.For instance, a merry band of scientists are hell-bent on proving all the higher motives and experiences of human life are nothing more than brain synapses and chemicals. Feelings of love, compassion, and heroic acts of charity are drained of spiritual meaning, and explained as simply the biology of evolution motivating us to act in some ultimately self-serving way. So a soldier’s sacrifice to give up her life to save members of her patrol is not a selfless act of heroism, but only the expression of social biology. Free will is dismissed in favor of us being biological robots programmed by complex evolutionary forces we don’t fully understand, but are sure to “explain” every unexplainable thing we experience.

    A closer look at the materialists who attempt to use brain science and evolutionary biology to explain the mysteries of consciousness, spiritual experiences, and free will make great logical leaps to connect their insistent assertions based on scientifically untestable claims. These are people who claim it’s impossible for humans to retain conscious awareness if we are brain-dead. Yet there are a growing number of cases documented by medical doctors of patients being fully aware and completely alert even when their brains and bodies are clinically dead for extended periods of time. But scientists still claim this can’t be true, no matter what contrary evidence is presented.

What’s the point? It’s that a closed mind is a dangerous weapon in the hands of arrogant and influential people. When you hear someone make the case for their convictions as something absolutely true in all cases, be cautious.

The happiest, least fearful of us are curious. We are happy to live with mystery. We don’t need certainty to have contentment. One of the greatest joys of living is retaining our ability to change our minds.

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In Memory of Steve Jobs

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ADP News, American Dream Project, Leadership

We have all been enriched by the motivated genius of Steve Jobs. The ideas shared, inventions created, music enjoyed, loved ones connected on devices he conceived have changed our lives and our future. His side job was building the world’s most successful movie studio…24 Oscars, every film a hit. How?

Consider his words about work.

” Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

And my favorite Steve Jobs quote,

” Think of the greatest thing you can imagine. Do that.”

What Motivates You?

American Dream Project, Leadership, Life

Many leaders don’t have a clue about what motivates people to engage themselves in valued work.

A new survey by ExecuNet reveals that CEOs commonly believe that people are naturally motivated by money and the challenging nature of the work they are asked to do.  They also think work life balance is a non-issue for well-paid senior level employees and executives.  But this is dead wrong.  It’s based on the faulty notion that status, money and goal achievement are sustainable motivators.  It turns out they are not.  Virtually all motivational research of the past 30 years confirms that most people are motivated most deeply when they feel they are fulfilling their personal potential for a meaningful human benefit (purpose) with people they trust and respect.  Even though this research is recent it isn’t a new idea.  Aristotle noticed these same things about people about 3000 years ago.

Perhaps the reason so many business leaders are way off base is that it’s much easier to try to drive performance through extrinsic motivations—money, promotions, and performance reviews.  But this is wrong headed.  MetLife’s new 9th Annual Study of Employment Benefits Trends shows a record number of employees with valuable knowledge, skill and customer relationships are secretly looking for new jobs.  The biggest reason talented people are planning to leave is they don’t feel valued, they aren’t doing work that matches their talents and interests and they don’t trust their boss or their company’s leadership.  Today 40 percent of American workers say their work stress level is unsustainable and is taking a toll on their personal lives.

What’s going on is that people are neither “assets” nor “capital” in the sense they can be controlled like numbers on a spreadsheet.  Indeed we are complex, emotional beings with legitimate psychological needs and desires that seek to thrive.

For great enduring enterprises that is not a problem; it is an opportunity to attract the best.  For leaders who seek to do extraordinary things they need to be more than ordinary leaders.  For employees who seek a more fulfilling life we need to ask ourselves, “Is this really the best I can do?”

If it isn’t, don’t wait for your boss to become enlightened.  Become the leader you’ve been waiting for.  Lead yourself by investing your energy in your work in ways that express your individual purpose and your personal passion.  Yes you can.  Right now.  Studies show that hospital janitors who view their job as a means of keeping infections in check have as much intrinsic satisfaction as heart surgeons.

So, what motivates you?  Do that.