Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, April 17, 2023
by Neil Senturia
Do we no longer value the truth?
Entrepreneurs start their adventure with a commitment to “change the world” or at a minimum to make it better. Much has been written about building teams that have a purpose, and the leader needs to be the beacon that lights the way.
The CEO or the founder lays out the goal and the path. This person is required to lead with courage and integrity. It is that last characteristic that seems to have fallen by the wayside of late.
The list of disappointments in the area of integrity is lengthy: Elizabeth Holmes, Sam Bankman-Fried and George Santos, along with current poster child, Greg Becker, former CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, who sold millions of his stock the day before the Fed took it over and then flew to his $3.1 million townhouse on Maui with the wreckage in his rearview mirror.
Getting out of town seems to be a common way to flee the consequences. I do not do politics, but we do not have to look too far in our own little town to find chicanery and obfuscation and bad behavior.
I recently read a piece by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, who asked the following question, “Why do failed leaders get so much more attention than those who are doing things the right way?” I am not sure about the media, per se, but I believe there is a pervasive sense today that the truth doesn’t matter, and if you can get away with it, more power to you.
The media often calls it out, but where is the collective outrage? My sense is that we have become inured to wrongdoing. It is the lament of “so what.”
George lists a few of the usual suspects for his hall of shame.
Frank founder Charlie Javice conned J.P. Morgan out of $175 million by claiming that she had 5 million customers, when in fact she had very few, and not only did she fake her customer list, but she then hired a data science expert to complete the wool-pulling-over the bank’s due diligence team. Litigation is moving right along.
He details Elizabeth Holmes, Sunny Balwani, Sam Bankman-Fried, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Easterbrook (former CEO of McDonald’s who lied about sexual relationships with employees).
He goes over the Boeing 737MAX crashes and the subsequent cover-up. He calls out the Roman Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America. His list is extensive. The key question he asks is, why is it so hard to tell the truth?
The Silicon Valley mantra of fake it ’til you make it strikes me as nothing more than an elaborate excuse for lying.
What I am really feeling is ennui. I read the headlines and then move on. I would like to have accountability and transparency, but frankly, even when wrongs are called out, there is quiet despair and a belief that nothing will change.
I am done with my rant. I hope the next generation of our leaders holds more dearly the commitment to truth.
Now to end on a lighter touch I will channel Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, and his rules for email etiquette “Don’ts.”
Don’t ask me for an acknowledgment to your email. It suggests “an inflated sense of your own worth or just plain paranoia,” he writes.
Don’t ask me to “post your content.” Not my job.
Don’t ask me for “feedback on something you’ve created.” If I feel the desire to comment further, all well and good, but don’t give me work to do for you for free.
Don’t do that “let’s jump on a call today.” Stop the madness. And don’t tell me when you are available for a meeting that I have not even agreed to.
Don’t email people daily. All it creates is an immediate desire to hit delete and then go with the permanent shot-blocker.
Just a quick reminder about Adam Grant. He is the famous author of “Give and Take,” which categorizes people into three buckets: givers (they proactively help others without asking for anything in return); matchers (you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours) and takers (suck-ups and backstabbers of the world).
Which one are you, and which one do you want to be? And tell the truth.
Rule No. 756: “Do the Right Thing.”
— Spike Lee