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A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead
By Orrin Woodward, Oliver DeMille
Grand Central Publishing Copyright © 2013 Orrin Woodward Oliver DeMille
All rights reserved.
"Still watching, Mr. President. Nothing this year so far."
"Or this decade," the small man replied.
"Or even the last four decades," he muttered, as he turned and walked down the long hallway. His shoulders were slumped in what looked like disappointment. But those who knew him well understood that his feelings were a lot closer to despair.
Goodnight, David," Marcus said.
"I'll call tomorrow afternoon." David waved, as Marcus checked his watch and walked toward his BMW.
David smiled. Marcus checked his watch a lot whenever he had a new one and wanted to be sure everyone admired it. This time it was a new Tag Heuer Grand Carrera with the leisure racing band, and Marcus had mentioned in passing that it only cost him $10K. Last weekend it had been a Vacheron Constantin. David shook his head.
That's just the world we live in, sad as it is. Whoever has the most toys wins, and all that ...
He turned and walked along the water of his private estate. The old feeling of frustration immediately came back as the lights from Marcus's car left the driveway and turned onto the main road. David had enjoyed the lighter mood during dinner with Marcus, but now the old worry returned.
I used to think that way, too.
David switched on his iPhone and glanced at the news updates. Arguments in Washington about tax increases. New regulations. Partisan battles. Fuel prices. He put the phone back into the safety of his pocket and kept walking.
I'd rather have Marcus's interest in shopping than the national addiction to bigger government. Thinking of these two things in the same sentence made him smile. Together, these two views just about sum up today's America. He sighed.
When he reached the end of the dock, he stopped and leaned on the rail. The lights from the city across the bay reflected off the water. It was beautiful, and David forced himself to listen to the waves against the dock and feel the breeze rather than think about ... the thing.
David Mersher had been the CEO of Indytech for almost two decades, and the company he had founded was now a leading growth firm despite the struggling national and world economy. He had won more awards than he cared to remember, and his family was the joy of his life. His wife, Amy, had been his business partner from the beginning, and with his oldest daughter, Emily, finishing grad school this spring, many of his friends were suggesting that he relax more and enjoy the fruits of his success. "You've earned it," they told him. "Let others worry about the direction of the nation. It's not your problem."
He took a deep breath of ocean air. I need to face this thing head-on. It's time to deal with it. It's festered too long.
I know how to deal with these things, just like I always have. Directly and immediately.
David squared his shoulders and confronted the challenge he'd been feeling for months.
America is my homeland. I've been blessed with a wonderful wife and four hardworking children. Professionally, my life has been a blast, owning my own company and specializing in corporate turnarounds. I should be able to just relax and enjoy life.
But America's story is not inspiring. Well, not right now, anyway. It is bankrupting itself—interest on the national debt is one of America's greatest expenses, the welfare state has bred generational poverty and a widespread loss of self-respect, our national credit rating will most likely keep getting downgraded, and the international warring factions have turned our military into the world's largest police force.
With each passing election, many Americans think their vote has created some change, but the simple truth is—things keep heading in the wrong direction no matter who is in office.
Although I have been blessed personally with a beautiful family and a thriving business, what will that matter if freedom disappears from neglect? What kind of country will my children and grandchildren live in if leaders don't begin to arise in our generation—as they did in the founding era?
This is my problem. It is. In fact, this is everyone's problem. It's the biggest problem of our lives, and the more successful we've been, the more our leadership is needed. We don't need more watches or cars, or more taxes and regulations. We need leaders.
We need a nation of citizens who are leaders.
David's thoughts turned more personal. For whatever reason, God has blessed me with the ability to identify the underlying systems of decline in corporations and then the ability to initiate a turnaround by redesigning the flawed systems. I've made millions doing just that.
I know the answer. Since America is my home, I know I have to get involved in its turnaround. I spent the first half of my life achieving success in the corporate sector, so why not spend the second half influencing the public sector to ensure the same opportunities for future generations?
So many of my colleagues are building homes in other nations: New Zealand, Monaco, Costa Rica. They see the same problems in America, and yet they use their money and leadership to get away. Permanent vacations, I guess.
Now that he had taken on this project, David applied the same intense focus that had made him so adept at seeing through business failures over the years and understanding what was needed to turn a company around.
It usually only took a few key changes, and then relentless execution in following through. And that always meant the right kind of leadership.
What are the key changes needed in America?
David began to analyze with his trained expertise. For him, this was a discipline, an art and a science all rolled into one.
First, America's original foundational principles are in various states of disrepair through ignorance and neglect. They must be relearned and rebuilt.
David drew a deep breath.
This certainly won't be easy. In fact, even though I have had plenty of tough assignments in my life, this will be my biggest undertaking by far.
With so many Americans looking to the government as a nanny to take care of them, liberty is on its last legs. Running against the current is never an easy task, but when it's necessary, leaders must do it. Like one of my first mentors used to say: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. America is in a tough spot, and the tough need to get going.
David reflected on what he called the Five Laws of Decline (FLD). He had seen these in action in his work with a number of corporate clients.
Similar to how gravity must constantly be overcome in order for a plane to fly, each entity must overcome its own FLD to grow. In truth, it's not too much to say that this systematic approach to analyzing corporations is what has catapulted me to the top among turnaround specialists.
While it used to take me months to identify the root causes of a company's decline, now this can be accomplished in just a few weeks or less, simply because these principles are based upon human nature—human nature that hasn't changed at all in recorded history.
Now, apply these same principles to the nation. History is full of examples of empires that violated the FLD and fell over time. Greece, Rome, and the British Empire are three applicable case studies. Thankfully, one doesn't have to read the thousands of history books, economics books, and political tracts to capture the essence of the FLD. The United States today is experiencing all Five Laws of Decline. It's time to figure out what is needed for effective turnaround.
David stopped to reflect. Okay, time to let in the emotion. My walk this evening has filled me with a sense of responsibility to apply the FLD to our own country before it's too late. Actually, I've been feeling this way for a long time. But whom should I talk to? My consulting work has kept me too busy to develop a bunch of relationships in the political camps.
Will my information even be welcome? Probably not. Most turnarounds fight the truth at first. The last thing I want to do is be a modern-day Cassandra—Homer's young lady of Troy who was cursed by the gods to speak the truth and yet be ignored as their city fell. Or Virgil, who warned of Rome's decline but whose words fell on deaf ears until it was too late.
That's the big one, David thought to himself. What if it's too late?
Okay, enough emotion.
Despite my fears, I feel compelled to act.
"Mr. President, we ... may ... have ... found someone."
James sat up in bed. "Come in, young man. Tell me about it."
"I'm sorry I woke you, Mr. President, but you told me—"
"None of that, none of that," James cut him off. "Who is he? Or she? Which continent? How well prepared? Come on, man, speak!"
It was too early to call for breakfast, or even to risk waking up Amy by rattling around in the kitchen. But David was absolutely starving.
He glanced at the clock behind him, though he knew perfectly well his laptop would tell him the time if he just looked down at the corner. He liked the big clock over the mantel, however, right above the framed pictures. His favorite was the famous photo of Vince Lombardi. Anyway, his habit was to use the big clock to check the time, and he wasn't going to go all digital now.
Five fifteen a.m. Still too early. I've been writing since two. This should be a good writing day, Marcus isn't expecting to hear from me until two or three this afternoon. David dismissed his growling stomach and turned back to his screen and keyboard.
He reviewed the PowerPoint he'd used hundreds of times to teach the Five Laws of Decline. His main point to his corporate clients: ignore any one of these laws, and your company will start its decline.
As he pulled up each slide, he reread the outline of his customary FLD speech:
The first law of decline knocks leaders out of the "coma of complacency." In our egalitarian times, we like to feel that everyone is equal and that there isn't any difference in the results from one person to another. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In the same vein, it's just not effective leadership when people are promoted based on how nice someone is or how long they've been at a company rather than upon specific results.
To help illustrate the point that too much corporate emphasis is on making people feel good rather than emphasizing real leadership, let's discuss Sturgeon's Law—that 90 percent of everything is simply crud.
This usually got a few snickers of laughter, but David was dead serious.
That's Sturgeon's Law, which at Indytech we call the first law of decline. As far back as 1870, Benjamin Disraeli wrote, "Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine-tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense."
This concept is crucial in helping companies turn around. Since 90 percent of anything is crud, likewise 90 percent of the alleged leaders in a company are producing cruddy results. It's not that the people are crud. In fact, they may be part of the 10 percent in other areas, but not in their current role or field.
Understanding Sturgeon's Law helps us study the leadership teams honestly and not be fooled by the endless talk with no results. "When all is said and done, much more is said than ever done." The 10 percent walk while the 90 percent talk.
David looked up from the computer screen, then he stood and stretched. He went to the water cooler and filled a large water bottle. He stood for a moment watching the light begin to rise in the sky.
After another long drink, he sat down and went back to the PowerPoint slides.
When a company fills its leadership team and has no sorting mechanism in place, it is poised for a rapid decline. One of our first tasks in a turnaround is to develop a scoreboard that helps separate the 10 percent from the 90 percent.
Some fields are easier than others. Sales records, for example, quickly identify those who get results from those who don't. The people one may think would be successful are not always the ones who sell. Without a scoreboard, it is practically impossible to separate the two groups. It's not like a leader can go ask the people, because self-delusion is so common that many in the 90 percent emphatically believe they are part of the 10 percent. Only hard-core results reveal the truth.
David closed his laptop and walked around the pool area. I need to think. Who are the 10 percent? When we're talking about freedom, prosperity, and national leadership, we can't just list out any class or group of people as the 10 percent. We certainly don't want to go back to aristocracy or become even more elitist. We're too far down that path already.
We need a scoreboard, a way of effectively measuring who are the leaders of today's America—the ones who are most likely to turn things around. Who are they? What's the scoreboard?
David found himself walking over to a small pavilion with running water next to it. He had built several pavilions of different sizes and styles around his estate, some for personal reflection and others for small or larger groups to meet. He loved this small pavilion and the sound of the water cascading over the stones in the nearby fountain. And unlike most of the others, this one was entirely surrounded by trees and shrubs and therefore fully secluded. It was almost something of a personal shrine for him.
Who are the 10 percent? And how can we find them?
"In my time it was simply the wealthy," James told the room.
"Hold on, now." John spoke out in an annoyed tone. "What about me? Or my cousin Sam? Or Abraham Clark? A lot of us didn't have any money, and I think we added a little to the whole thing. Don't you?"
"Of course," James admitted. "I need to rephrase—"
"You do that," John told him.
"What I meant to say, and thanks to my esteemed colleague for requiring me to be more precise, is that without the wealthy it could not have happened. We simply would not have won. We needed the wealthy, and so does David and his team."
"What team?" John demanded.
"Well, we'll get to that later. But he's going to need the wealthy, and others. Unless we can help him see the need for getting many of the wealthy involved, the whole project will fail."
James scanned the room. "All right, team, who is the next wealthy person on his schedule?"
David's iPhone distracted him from his pondering. He looked down at the name on the calling screen: Marcus. Earlier than expected, David mused.
"Hey, David. Is it too early to call?"
"No. I've been up for hours. What's on your mind?"
"Well, I was thinking about the San Diego turnaround, and I'm not sure what to do."
"Go ahead ..."
"Okay, I've applied the 10 percent scoreboard and gathered a month's worth of data, but I'm running into a strange anomaly. I mean, everyone on the leadership team and the rest of the employees clearly break either into the 90 or the 10 factions, based on their production. Like usual. But there is one woman whom I just can't seem to categorize."
"Well, this is weird, but her production is low on everything we measure, while it is incredibly high in everything else. I think she knows what we're measuring, and she doesn't want to look productive. So I went back and looked at the data from before we got involved, measuring the same stuff we're measuring now. She was extremely productive beforehand, but then she stopped doing those things once we started measuring them. My question is: why wouldn't she want to look good on our scoring?"
"I've seen this before," David said. "Sometimes it happens because the person already has a job lined up elsewhere and doesn't want to make things more complex. Other times there is some personal issue going on between various employees, like a relationship problem. Could it be either of these?"
Excerpted from LeaderShift by Orrin Woodward, Oliver DeMille. Copyright © 2013 Orrin Woodward Oliver DeMille. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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