I left the Navy in December 1994. Twenty-one years later I finally figured out why there are so few real leaders in corporate America. I was brushing my teeth. I was thinking about a lot of things: work, clients, the economy, the lies companies tell the world and the lies the world asks companies to tell it.
And it it hit me.
There's one reason why corporate America has few leaders. It was so simple and obvious that anyone could missed it.
From high school through MBA programs, we teach people to manage up. But the military teaches how to lead. Managing up isn't leadership, it's kissing ass.
Military leaders write letters home to wives, husbands, kids, and parents. In good times, those letters home tell of a service member's achievements. In bad times, they tell of the service member's last full measure of devotion.
We don't make business leaders write letters to families when management's failure costs a loved one his job. But we should.
When a company loses an account and the staff gets laid off, the CEO should write a letter to the family of the employee laid off explaining how management failed.
When a plant closes down because management failed to adapt to changing markets, every family affected should receive a letter, written and signed by the CEO, explaining the CEO's errors that led to the shutdown.
If America is to remain an economic leader, its corporations must replace bureaucratic manager with real leaders. And real leaders in business treat the loss of employment as seriously as military leaders treat the loss of life.