Character: What Santa Claus is Looking for and How Destiny Orders Our Fortunes in Life

Here in Minnesota, we have a small group called the Minnesota Character Council, affiliated with the Caux Round Table, advocating the education of future citizens in good character.  I am its chair.  Here is a link to the current issue of our newsletter, with two statements of global relevance on character and leadership.

We cannot have a moral capitalism if there is no moral government.  We cannot have moral government if there is no moral society.  We cannot have a moral society unless people have good character. That has always been true, is true everywhere people live and will always be true.

To make the case for the human universality of benefiting from good character, let me quote Ptahhotep of Ancient Egypt, Mencius of ancient China and Heraclitus of ancient Greece.


The Vizier Ptahhotep, around 2375–2350 BC, during the rule of King Djedkare Isesi of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, wrote out certain criteria to be followed by those of good character.  His text was discovered in Thebes in 1847 by Egyptologist M. Prisse d’Avennes.

“All conduct should be so straight that you can measure it with a plumb-line.”

“Punish with principle, teach meaningfully.  The act of stopping evil leads to the lasting establishment of virtue.”

“Do not gossip in your neighbourhood, because people respect the silent.”

“Listening benefits the listener.”

“If he who listens listens fully, then he who listens becomes he who understands.”

“To listen is better than anything, thus is born perfect love.”

“As for the ignorant man who does not listen, he accomplishes nothing.”

“He does everything which is detestable, so people get angry with him each day.”

“Only speak when you have something worth saying.”

“May your heart never be vain because of what you know.  Take counsel from the ignorant, as well as the wise.”

“Think of living in peace with what you possess and whatever the Gods choose to give will come of its own accord.”

“He who has a great heart has a gift from God.  He who obeys his stomach obeys the enemy.”


Mencius went to see king Hui of Liang.  The king said, “Venerable sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?”

Mencius replied: “If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?”  The great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?”  Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit, the one from the other and the kingdom will be endangered.  There never has been a benevolent man who neglected his parents.  There never has been a righteous man who made his sovereign an after consideration.  Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness and let these be your only themes.”  Why must you use that word – “profit?”


Ethos anthropos daimon – “For persons, ethics governs their fates.”

George Washington

“Since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

In all that we do, let us think of character first and foremost.

Boeing: “When Sorrows Come, They Come Not as Single Spies, But in Battalions.”

There are two stories in today’s paper here about the ongoing travails of a once great company – Boeing.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Emily Glazer and Sharon Terlep reported:

Several high-profile candidates have turned down the chance to run Boeing, complicating the jet maker’s search for a new leader amid discussions about whether the next CEO needs to be based near its Seattle-area factories.

Boeing Chief Executive David Calhoun said in March he would step down by the end of the year.  GE CEO Larry Culp, widely considered a natural for the job, declined Boeing’s request to consider taking over, said people familiar with the discussions. 

Calhoun’s successor will have to deal with those issues, while rooting out ingrained quality problems that have led to massive production delays and drawn the ire of airline customers, federal regulators and investors. 

Culp, GE’s first-ever outsider CEO who rehabilitated the industrial giant, was a favorite of investors and suppliers.  He is known as a guru in the world of lean manufacturing, a management philosophy focused on cutting waste while continuously improving quality. 

Culp has said publicly that he intends to stay at GE Aerospace, which has shed its other businesses to focus on making jet engines used in Boeing and Airbus planes.

One of the company’s own directors, aerospace veteran David Gitlin, also declined an approach.  Gitlin, the current CEO of manufacturer Carrier Global, said on an earnings call in April that he told Boeing’s board to remove him from the list of potential contenders.

Secondly, also in today’s Wall Street Journal is a story that the U.S. Department of Justice is considering whether or not to pursue a charge that Boeing violated a pre-existing corporate probation for fraud related to the 2018 and 2019 crashes of Boeing aircraft, given a recent midair failure of a door.

If the measure of success in capitalism is, as many argue, financial returns to owners, then Boeing is a failure.

From the perspective of stakeholder capitalism, the company’s single-minded search for cost reductions devalued the importance it put on customers by compromising their safety through toleration of a shoddy production process, a failure to take due care and so set the company on a course to short-change its owners in the long run.

Who, in their right mind, would want to become the CEO of a company like that?

Reverse Engineering of Global Warming and other Possibilities

From time to time, I have shared reports on new technologies which can de-accelerate global warming or even, with carbon removal and sequestration, reverse it.

My thesis is that technology, a product of capitalism, got us to where we are today and that technology, again, can get us to where we want to be.

The only questions are: who will invent the technology and who will take it to scale?  The history of the Industrial Revolution down to today is that the private sector (including now non-profits and researchers) and markets are better designed to invent and scale technology than are governments.

Here is an update on some developments supporting the cogency of my thesis:

Graduate students at Purdue University came up with an ultra-white paint which reflects up to 98.1% of sunlight, cooling down buildings painted with that paint.

Direct air capture uses chemical filters to trap CO2 out of the air.  The captured CO2 can be converted to fertilizer or fuel or pumped underground to be trapped in rock formations.  A Swiss company, Climeworks, now mixes captured CO2 with water and pumps it underground.

Another company, Biochar, uses a kiln to heat agricultural waste without oxygen to make biochar, which traps the CO2 in the waste to prevent it from re-entering the atmosphere.

A company in Somerville, Massachusetts, is making batteries to store electricity by using iron and air.  When iron and air combine, rust is created and energy is released.  Apply an electric current to rust, it changes back into iron and stores energy.  The company’s batteries are charged with an electric current.  Then, when air is pumped in, energy is released as the iron rusts.  This technology, the company says, stores electricity much more cheaply than current batteries.

American Airlines is buying credits from a new company that uses bricks of carbon-absorbing plant material.  The company collects sawdust and tree bark and compresses that biomass into bricks sealed to prevent the plant matter from decomposing and releasing CO2.  The bricks are then buried.  The plants use photosynthesis to remove carbon from the air, so this technology piggybacks on nature itself.

Trees remove from the air each year some 2 gigatons of CO2.

Though the private sector is at work bringing forth new technologies, government transfer payments from taxpayers to companies finance the costs of developing the new processes.

Since the Earth produces hydrogen a fuel – from iron-rich rocks and radioactive rocks – such hydrogen can be extracted from those rock formations.  Iron-rich rocks react with very hot water to produce iron oxide and hydrogen.  A Canadian firm, Hydroma, is searching for the gas.

Extractable hydrogen has been found in France, America, Brazil, Australia, Colombia and Oman.  The search for hydrogen has attracted millions of dollars in private investments.

Private sector ventures need capital.  There is a market for carbon credits – some reduce carbon and get rewarded by society (government) for doing so with credits that can be used by others, which generate greenhouse gas release.  The generators can buy the credit from the reducers.

The total value of assets in global carbon markets was roughly $950 billion last year, with Europe accounting for most of that value.

But who will be a willing buyer and seller of such credits to make a market open to buyers and sellers, facilitating the creation and use of such rights created by government?

In the U.S., to facilitate growth in the trading of carbon credits, State Street Bank is now providing back-office services to clients who want to invest in carbon credits, expanding the market for such securities.  State Street is providing its usual custody and fund administration, including handling and valuing assets, gathering prices and maintaining investment records.

Markets need confidence and trust, which come with reliable custody of assets and transparency of pricing arrangements.

Concrete is the second most consumed substance in the world after water.  Around 3 tons per person are poured each year.  The production of 5 billion tons of concrete produces 8% of man-made CO2 per year.  The Materials Processing Institute has claimed to have made the first zero-emissions cement in northern England.

The key ingredient of cement is limestone – composed of oxygen and carbon.  A chemical reaction drives the carbon from the limestone, producing lime and CO2.  Roughly, one ton of carbon is produced when making one ton of cement.

A professor at the University of Cambridge proposes to recycle old cement into new cement and side-step use of lime.

In Germany a steel firm is using wind-generated electricity to run electrolyzers that split hydrogen from oxygen.  The hydrogen can then replace coke with its carbon in reducing iron ore into iron.

In Woburn, Massachusetts, a company, Boston Metal, proposes to use electrolysis to separate iron from its ore compound, avoiding any use of carbon to produce iron from iron ore.  This approach produces oxygen as the byproduct of the chemical reaction.  Iron ore is dissolved in a molten mixture of metal oxides.  Passing an electric current through the molten mass heats it and splits the iron oxide into its component molecules.  The liquid iron produced is chemically pure and homogeneous.  The impurities from the ore are left in the molten electrolyte.

There are also other new technologies that would give better protection to our environment.
A biochemist has suggested feeding insects on the waste – discarded barley and yeast – of beer breweries.  Such insects could become feed stock for beef cattle.

Sway, a small company near San Francisco, extracts cellulose from seaweed and turns it into a plastic-like substance, which can be used in plastic manufacturing equipment and then biodegrades when disposed of.

Solugen makes chemicals from boring ingredients, such as corn syrup, to replace ingredients that disrupt the environment or the climate.  The company’s founders used AI to design new biomolecules.  They invented a “biofuge” – a 60-foot-tall tank that keeps harmless ingredients, like sugars, trigger them with biochemical reactions and aerates them with a dense stream of microbubbles.

The machine creates a biomolecular alternative to phosphates, which reduce corrosion in water systems, but cause life-killing algae blooms.

The bioforges produce enormous volumes of chemicals at a profit, using renewable energy and removes more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit.

Solugen wants to produce enough bioplastic to remove from commerce 5 billion non-degradable plastic bottles.  Though a private business, the owners want government to use its regulatory power to create incentives for customers to demand their new products.

Finally, a company in Norway wants to put 8 million young Atlantic salmon in tanks.  Fish farming is the fastest growing method of food production, now accounting for 17% of the world’s protein intake.  The World Bank estimates that 90% of the world’s fisheries are fished either at or over their capacity to regenerate.

But aquaculture in net pens creates serious pollution of surrounding waters.  And rearing lots of fish in close proximity to one another risks outbreaks of diseases and parasites.  That demands that the fish farmers use antibiotics and other drugs.

In tanks, a new technology continuously cleans and recycles water for the tanks.  Water cleaning machines dispose of the waste produced by fish living in the tanks.  This technology was largely borrowed from the sewage treatment industry.

Standard salmon farming requires about 50,000 liters of water per kilogram of salmon, when the new technology might need only 150.

Tank farming also has the advantage of being close to consumers in urban areas.  But the capital costs of using more technology are high.

Human ingenuity – for good and for evil – must not be underestimated.  But eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

An American Tragedy

Yesterday’s decision of a jury in New York City to find Donald Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records with the intent of covering up a crime puts before the American people this question: how much do they want their constitutional republic to survive?

One notable and now relevant historic precedent was the factional self-destruction of the Roman Republic.

A second relevant and most notable precedent was Maximilien Robespierre’s terror during the French Revolution to cleanse France of “enemies of the people.”  The law which established the tribunals seeking out those “enemies of the people” and killing them was the Law of 22 Prairial (10 June 1794)

That law legalized the following procedures:

The Revolutionary Tribunal is instituted to punish the enemies of the people.

The enemies of the people are those who seek to destroy public liberty, either by force or by cunning.

The following are deemed enemies of the people: those who … have sought to disparage or dissolve the National Convention and the revolutionary and republican government of which it is the center.

Those who have deceived the people or the representatives of the people in order to lead them into undertakings contrary to the interests of liberty.

Those who have sought to inspire discouragement.

Those who have disseminated false news in order to divide or disturb the people.

Those who have sought to mislead opinion and to prevent the instruction of the people, to deprave morals and to corrupt the public conscience, to impair the energy and the purity of revolutionary and republican principles or to impede the progress thereof, either by counterrevolutionary or insidious writings or by any other machination.

The penalty provided for all offenses under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Tribunal is death.

The proof necessary to convict enemies of the people comprises every kind of evidence, whether material or moral, oral or written, which can naturally secure the approval of every just and reasonable mind; the rule of judgments is the conscience of the jurors, enlightened by love of the Patrie; their aim, the triumph of the Republic and the ruin of its enemies.

If either material or moral proofs exist, apart from the attested proof, there shall be no further hearing of witnesses, unless such formality appears necessary, either to discover accomplices or for other important considerations of public interest.

The law provides sworn patriots as council for calumniated patriots; it does not grant them to conspirators.

We should note in this law that those accused had no right of defense.  If there was evidence against them, they could not contravene it with counterevidence of their own. And no legal counsel could assist them.

More importantly, the standard for conviction was whatever the jurors might believe, no matter how false such beliefs were or how prejudiced the jurors were.

In the criminal proceeding against Donald Trump and in line with the Law of 22 Prairial, the judge left it to the conscience of the jury to find a crime.  His jury instructions encouraged them to indulge in speculation and prejudice.

Nor, during the trial, did the judge permit Trump to have effective assistance of counsel.  The judge even refused to let the jury hear germane and material testimony from an expert witness that no crime had been committed under federal election laws.

Trump’s trial, in other words, was a diluted measure of French revolutionary terror seeking to destroy an “enemy of the people.”  The revolutionary faction on the hunt for its enemies being the Democrats in the White House desperate to crush through state repression those whom they fear as “counter-revolutionary” activists.

Fear of such opposition to the moral hegemony asserted by the Democrats has been given the name of “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a kind of elite psychosis.

Looking back, we might even say that Robespierre, Saint Just and other Jacobins also were under the influence of some derangement of mind and heart.

The dynamic of breaking the law in order to defend the law was presciently described by James Madison in his 10th Federalist Paper on factionalism.

Madison considered any propensity for the “violence of faction” to be a “dangerous vice.”  He reasoned:

“The instability, injustice and confusion introduced into the public councils have, in truth, been the moral diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.” …

“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society.  A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” …

“It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good.  Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”

John Locke, in his 1690 second treatise concerning civil government, had previously rendered an opinion as to abuse of lawful authority as we have seen accomplished in the criminal trial of Donald Trump.

According to Locke, the purpose of civil government is to protect us from “the corruption and viciousness of degenerate men.”  Thus, a government may be directed to no other end but the peace, safety and public good of the people”.

Locke proposed that all power is given to public officials as a trust and that whenever that trust is manifestly neglected or opposed, the powers which have been given in such trust must be forfeited and returned to the people.  A public trust may never be used to further personal ambitions.  Making use of power not for the good of those who are under it, but for one’s own private, separate advantage, is tyranny.  “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins,” he said.

Locke insisted that whenever rulers “make themselves or any part of the community, masters or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties or fortunes of the people,” they forfeit their trust and lose their authority.  They, thus, “put themselves into a state of war with the people.”

“Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws and all the slips of human frailty will be born by the people without mutiny or murmur.  But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people and they cannot but feel what they lie under and see whither they are going; it is not to be wondered, that they should then rouze themselves and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected.” (Sec 225)

“The end of government is the good of mankind and which is best for mankind, that the people should be always exposed to the boundless will of tyranny or that the rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their power and employ it for the destruction and not the preservation of the properties of their people?” (Sec 229)

“Here, it is like, the common question will be made, who shall be judge, whether the prince or legislative act contrary to their trust? … To this I reply, the people shall be judge; for who shall be judge whether his trustee or deputy acts well and according to the trust reposed in him, but he who deputes him and must, by having deputed him, have still a power to discard him, when he fails in his trust?” (Sec. 240)

With the conviction of Donald Trump, no matter how the case finally comes out after appeal courts have considered its lawfulness and fairness, the American people now face a watershed November election in their political history: will this abuse of power by the Democrats be ratified by the people or will the Democrats be found to have forfeited their public trust?

At stake for the American is nothing less than the rule of law and their constitutional order.

The Caux Round Table Principles for Government accept the righteousness of the rule of law, looking at precedents in different wisdom traditions – Ezekiel 34 in the Old Testament, Cicero, the Buddha’s middle way, Qur’anic guidance in keeping one’s trusts (Amanah) and serving as God’s steward (Khalifa), Mencius on the right of revolution, Confucius on the need for virtue (te).

Our principles include the following:

Public power is held in trust for the community.

Power brings responsibility.  Power is a necessary moral circumstance in that it binds the actions of one to the welfare of others.

Therefore, the power given by public office is held in trust for the benefit of the community and its citizens.  Officials are custodians only of the powers they hold.  They have no personal entitlement to office or the prerogatives thereof.

Holders of public office are accountable for their conduct while in office.  They are subject to removal for malfeasance, misfeasance or abuse of office.  The burden of proof that no malfeasance, misfeasance or abuse of office has occurred lies with the officeholder.

The state is the servant and agent of higher ends.  It is subordinate to society.  Public power is to be exercised within a framework of moral responsibility for the welfare of others.  Governments that abuse their trust shall lose their authority and may be removed from office.

Justice shall be provided.

The civic order and its instrumentalities shall be impartial among citizens without regard to condition, origin, sex or other fundamental, inherent attributes.  Yet, the civic order shall distinguish among citizens according to merit and desert where rights, benefits or privileges are best allocated according to effort and achievement, rather than as birthrights.

The civic order shall provide speedy, impartial and fair redress of grievances against the state, its instruments, other citizens and aliens.

The rule of law shall be honored and sustained, supported by honest and impartial tribunals and legislative checks and balances.

Truth and Moral Capitalism

I just read a clever little human-interest story which brought me up short.

The story was about Peter Barton Hutt, of whom I had never heard.  He apparently introduced to the American consumer systemic learning of the “truth” about what they bought to eat – the mandated nutrition labels that sellers of food products must put on their packaging to inform customers of what is in the food they are buying.

Five decades ago, Hutt wrote the rules on disclosure of ingredients for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Disclosures of ingredients have since appeared on billions and billions of packages in legible typeface.

But consider: how can a moral capitalism ever work if there is no truth?

Running capitalism on “your” truth or “my” truth just won’t cut it.  Such a system of illusions and delusions, of random guestimates, will never gain traction among human persons.  Who will trust whom about what something is or is not?

If there is not truth, how can any good, service or company be given a sound and sensible valuation?  Governments impose a requirement for telling the truth on those who issue securities.  Donald Trump is in big legal trouble for allegedly not telling the truth about the value of his ownership interests.  The courts impose liability on those who lie, cheat, deceive and misinform and so harm others.

Markets need flows of trusting buyers to survive from moment to moment.  Unquestioned reliance on the probity and honesty of sellers makes markets possible.  Caveat emptor – “buyer beware” – is an age-old caution putting a drag on market dynamics.  Not every seller tells all the truth all the time.

Alan Greenspan’s quip about the dangers of “irrational exuberance” – a form of truthlessness – has caused many a market bubble to form and then pop, leaving buyers sorry and angry over their unexpected losses.

If truth drives markets to produce the “wealth of nations,” as Adam Smith observed, who then can we find to always be truthful and keep our markets working for the best?

Remembering John Brandl: A Moral Politician

A friend of mine, the late John Brandl, a former Minnesota legislator and dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, demonstrated in his life and his career in politics how to incorporate moral ideals with self-interest and differences in religion to create a common good for citizens.

John demonstrated, with tact and grace and through personal perseverance, that we can collaborate in good faith with others who are not our intellectual or cultural clones to instantiate in our lives a common good.

We have included in a special issue of Pegasus some essays written in honor of John’s example.

I am reminded, when thinking about John and others like him who I have met around our world, that it is individuals who create moral outcomes.  Such happenings are not of natural design.  Nor do they come about by accident or from thoughtless, uncaring, selfishness.  They demand human agency and invention.

Principles – for moral capitalism, moral government and moral society – can easily and elegantly be proposed, but only individuals can bring them as a living presence into the reality that philosopher Jurgen Habermas called “facticity.”

Therefore, I hope I am not being overly provincial in bringing to your attention the example of an American politician from one of our 50 states.

An Historic Contribution to Interfaith Understanding within the Family of Abrahamic Religions

Last Thursday, at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam in Rome, our fellows, Professor Ibrahim Zein and Dean Recep Senturk, both of the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, gave presentations at the Georgetown Lecture on Contemporary Islam 2024.

John Borelli, special assistant for Catholic identity and dialogue to the president of Georgetown University, moderated the program.

Professor Ibrahim Zein and Ahmed El-Wakil have authored a book, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, on the historical giving by the Prophet Muhammad of covenants to respect and protect Christians and Muslims.

For his part in the Georgetown lecture, Professor Zein affirmed, after close study of multiple existing recensions of covenants given personally by the Prophet, that these documents are not forgeries.  His conclusion is that we have accurate texts of covenants given by the Prophet Muhammad from which we can learn more about his religious principles, his values and his engagement with non-Muslims “under the wing of mercy,” as he said in several of his covenants.

In this connection, it is most important to note that the Qur’an opens with acknowledgement of Allah’s mercy and compassion:

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful: Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

Dean Recep then spoke to the contemporary application of the values enshrined in Prophet Muhammad’s covenants with Christians and Jews (and also with Zoroastrians).  Dean Recep places the Prophet’s use of covenant within the moral recognition of a universal humanity arising from God’s creation of Adam and all those who descended from him.  In Arabic, this universalism of the inherent possibility of preciousness to be associated with all human persons is called Adamiyyah. (Please refer to Dean Recep’s article, “Islamic Law and the Children of Adam”.)

The common conclusion of the two presentations is that at the time of the Prophet, Islam was a more welcoming and tolerant religion than is conventionally accepted these days by many, including many Muslims.

At the conclusion of the Q&A segment of the lecture, our chairman emeritus, Lord Daniel Brennan, stated his view that the lecture had been “historic” in opening new vistas for mutual respect and inter-religious collaboration and mutuality among the faithful followers of the three Abrahamic religions.

To decide for yourself how significant it is for us today to learn about the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and their affirmation of tolerance in religion, please do read the book by Professor Ibrahim Zein and Ahmed El-Wakil linked above.

I would also like to thank Silvano Cardinal Tomasi for his leadership and guidance these past 5 years, as the Caux Round Table has provided its good offices as best as possible to gather scholarly opinion about the provenance, historicity and textual authenticity of the Prophet’s covenants.

I write this on the day of Pentecost, a moment of remembrance for Christians of the coming of the Holy Spirit into our world.  May that touch of higher justice inspire all of us to think again of just who is our neighbor and what is due to them from us.

Cultivating a Better Understanding of AI: Video

Back on April 2, our fellow, Michael Wright, CEO of Intercepting Horizons, provided us with a general overview of AI, which you can view here.

Michael is a values-driven leader and innovator who is passionate about leveraging technological convergences to shape future business landscapes.

He is the author of two books, The Exponential Era and The New Business Normal, both on management and technology.

Many thanks to Loren Swanson, one of our regular participants, for recording it.

It’s the Values, Stupid!

Bad actors make a mess of capitalism.  Deepfake creators are taking advantage of AI capabilities available in the market to scam companies.

In particular, AI programs can now imitate actual voice patterns of individuals to create phony, over the phone instructions to companies to do something for a supposed customer.

Banks and financial service companies are among the first to be targeted.  Companies providing voice activated access to personal accounts could expose depositors to theft.

OpenAI has showcased technology that can re-create a human voice from a 15-second audio clip.  But, thoughtfully, OpenAI said it would not put the technology on the market until it has more information on potential misuse.

Bad actors could also use AI to generate fake driver’s licenses to set up online accounts.

Could it be that we really do need “morals” in capitalism to protect the common good, that self-interested, short-term money profiteering is an unreliable road leading to increasing the wealth of nations?

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

One hears, more and more, in cautious, somewhat reluctant, but worried tones, people coming around to say out loud what worries them – there are no leaders anymore.

Some seven or so years ago, one of the smartest executives in our network, a European, told me with definitive certainty: “Everyone knows we are living at the end of an age, that a new age is coming.  But no one knows what the next age will bring, so everyone does today only what they did yesterday.”

In my inbox a few days ago, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company sent tips on leadership from one of their reports of 9 years ago.  It was titled Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters, written by Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol and Ramesh Srinivasan.

Based on a survey of 81 organizations operating in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, in agriculture, consulting, energy, government, insurance, mining and real estate and sized from 7,500 to 300,000 employees, they reported that “the secret to developing effective leaders is to encourage four types of behaviors.”

They wrote:

Earlier McKinsey research has consistently shown that good leadership is a critical part of organizational health, which is an important driver of shareholder returns.

A big, unresolved issue is what sort of leadership behavior organizations should encourage.  Is leadership so contextual that it defies standard definitions or development approaches?  Should companies now concentrate their efforts on priorities such as role modeling, making decisions quickly, defining visions and shaping leaders who are good at adapting?  Should they stress the virtues of enthusiastic communication?  In the absence of any academic or practitioner consensus on the answers, leadership-development programs address an extraordinary range of issues, which may help explain why only 43 percent of CEOs are confident that their training investments will bear fruit.

Our most recent research, however, suggests that a small subset of leadership skills closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders.  Using our own practical experience and searching the relevant academic literature, we came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits.  Next, we surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations.  Finally, we divided the sample into organizations whose leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index) and those that were weak (bottom quartile).

What we found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior.  These 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness.

The 20 possible types of leadership behaviors included in the survey were:

-Be supportive.
-Champion desired change.
-Clarify objectives, rewards and consequences.
-Communicate prolifically and enthusiastically.
-Develop others.
-Develop and share a collective mission.
-Differentiate among followers.
-Facilitate group collaboration.
-Foster mutual respect.
-Give praise.
-Keep group organized and on task.
-Make quality decisions.
-Motivate and bring out best in others.
-Offer a critical perspective.
-Operate with strong results orientation.
-Recover positively from failures.
-Remain composed and confident in uncertainty.
-Role model organizational values.
-Seek different perspectives.
-Solve problems effectively.

The 4 optimal leadership behaviors were:

• Solving problems effectively.  The process that precedes decision-making is problem solving, when information is gathered, analyzed and considered.  This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision-making for major issues (such as M&A), as well as daily ones (such as how to handle a team dispute).

• Operating with a strong results orientation.  Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives, but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.

• Seeking different perspectives.  This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns.  Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.

• Supporting others.  Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges.  They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.

The researchers concluded that:

We’re not saying that the centuries-old debate about what distinguishes great leaders is over or that context is unimportant.  Experience shows that different business situations often require different styles of leadership.  We do believe, however, that our research points to a kind of core leadership behavior that will be relevant to most companies today, notably on the front line.  For organizations investing in the development of their future leaders, prioritizing these four areas is a good place to start.

What is startling to me and connected to the growing perception that we have no leaders is that the 20 behaviors associated with leadership did not include any core values or orientation to stakeholders.

To me, these 20 behaviors resonate with “teaming,” with “conversations,” with everyone at the table and no one responsible for anything in particular.

Only “operating with a strong results orientation” smacks of leadership gumption.

What the McKinsey researchers looked at was management, not leadership.  Management is team-centered.  Leadership is values centered and so purpose driven.

Managers perform.  Leaders deliver.  Managers process.  Leaders have courage and take risks. Managers are often substitutable, one for another and expendable.  Leaders are hard to find.

We were warned about mistaking management for leadership by Chester Bernard in 1938 (The Functions of the Executive) and again by Philip Selznick in 1957 (Leadership in Administration).

Maybe it was no accident, but something more systemic, which has bedeviled Boeing and destroyed its capacity for leadership in the manufacture of aircraft.