Posted by: Martin Fox | May 26, 2011

A challenge for our future leaders…

I usually save light/fun articles until “good news Fridays” (light/fun messages), but this article seems too important not to share today. A message for our future leaders, not just MBA’s…

“FDR’s mantra was: Try something, try anything, but do something. Don’t expect perfection. Make things happen. That is what pragmatists do.”

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend,

Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership – accelerating the global ripple.

To the MBA Class of 2011

By John Baldoni

Two years ago I wrote a column about what I would say to the MBA of 2009 if I were selected to deliver a commencement address. That graduation occurred just as the savage effects of the Great Recession were unfolding. Millions had lost their jobs and millions more would fear losing them. Business confidence was nonexistent. More often than not, you heard executives say they’d not seen anything like that before.

So to the MBA class of 2011, let me offer my congratulations. We have turned the corner on the Great Recession. Companies are back in the black and even giving bonuses. Yet too many millions remain unemployed or underemployed.

The world that newly minted MBAs — my son is one — inherit is different from the one my generation faced. Yours is a world of diminished expectations. In some ways, this is very good. You have experienced the worst economic meltdown since the 1930s and you have survived. In a way you have more in common with your grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations. You have known hardship. Sadly, many your age have gone to war.

Today, the world differs greatly from the one our ancestors lived in during the last cataclysmic economic meltdown, the Great Depression. There is a curious though oppositional parallel, however. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal to rescue the nation. Prior to FDR, no one expected the government to do much of anything. Today the government is expected to do much, but it has far less — its budget is crimped by entitlements, defense, and debt service.

Once again it will fall to private enterprise to right not just the economy, but the entire nation and ultimately the world. You will be the generation challenged to accomplish that. The challenge may seem overwhelming, though you have the smarts to do it. Brainpower is not enough; you need to engage with others to make it happen. Let me offer two suggestions.

One, be pragmatic. The engine of American enterprise is not our smarts; it’s our can-do spirit. We know how to make things work. One of my favorite stories comes from car-industry legend Bob Lutz, a veteran of each of the Detroit Three as well as BMW (). When asked why Chrysler, for whom he worked in the eighties, had bought American Motors, Lutz said — partly tongue in cheek — that American Motors (which had been in financial distress for years) had been doing so much with so little that the expectation was it might make things out of nothing. Chrysler incorporated AMC’s pragmatism into its operations and helped save itself one further time.

FDR’s mantra was: Try something, try anything, but by gosh, do something. Don’t expect perfection. Make things happen. That is what pragmatists do.

Two, be willing to compromise. Too bad the word has fallen into disrepute, chiefly due to the ideologues who pose as politicians. They have conflated principles with policies and made it shameful to cooperate and collaborate. Fortunately, the business world does not heed Washington in this regard.

Savvy businesspeople make collaboration an art form. Today we see strategic alliances among competitors. In some fields it is not uncommon for competitors to be one another’s customers, as well as vendors, and still maintain competition in certain areas. Supply-chain integration is all about compromise, working with the best providers to help you deliver the best products and services.

As bright and savvy — not to mention aggressive and ambitious — MBA graduates, you can find many more things to add. And as you make your way in the world, remember to stop and enjoy it. Work is hard; that’s why they call it work. You are entitled to take some time off.

As an MBA graduate, you have proven that you know how to grind it out. Now show us how you can do something else. Spend time in the pursuits that interest you most. Pursue your passion. Indulge in free time. Do not overlook your family. And find ways to give back to your community. The final two are tall orders, yes. As you have done with challenges in the past, you will figure out how to do it.

Good luck and Godspeed. The world is counting on you to succeed.


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