Bill Robinson has been president of Whitworth College for the past decade. Few leadership scholars are actually leaders, and few leaders are leadership scholars, so the author has a rare perspective to offer, a unique blend of academic theory and practice. The title comes from the common theme of the book: leaders get isolated when they lose touch with the people they lead. Decisions can suffer, accountability can disappear, and leadership failure is the result.
Robinson presents serious ideas packaged with a marvelous sense of humor. Key points of the book are broken out in clearly delineated form, not as simplistic answers but as guides to the arguments. Frequent illustrations offer both clarity and insight into the principles. Robinson is very comfortable with ambiguity and paradox, recognizing the messiness of leadership in “real life” tough situations. He analyzes many well-known styles and attributes of leaders (eg., personality driven, participatory, authoritarian), but concludes leadership calls for many of these tools applied at the right time, rather than choosing a single answer. It is important for the leader to understand when to apply which tool. He pulls many of the ideas together in a chapter entitled “Follower-Driven Leadership.”
Robinson uses illustrations, often personal. But just when you think he might be suggesting he “has it all together” as a leader, he tells an embarrassing story on himself to underscore a point.
A nice feature of the book: the author shares musings from his personal journal at the end of many chapters. In these sections, he acknowledges the difficulties, struggles, and ambiguities in tough issues. That gives a strong feeling of reality. The author is unabashed about his Christian faith, yet does not preach or impose his views on others. Rather, he sometimes calls on his faith position in defining personal conclusions.
Quibbles? The book would have benefited from another editing pass–it has too many typos. You can read past them, but it may interfere with market acceptance, which would be a shame. I found the book insightful, challenging, and fun to read, and I recommend it highly.
Reviewed by Al Erisman
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
No Logo: Money, Marketing, and the Growing Anti-corporate Movement by Naomi Klein; New York, Alfred Knopf, 1999;
Naomi Klein is an award winning Canadian journalist with articles in The NY Times, Newsweek, and elsewhere. No Logo is a classic articulation of anti-corporate, anti-globalization sentiment, remaining relevant through the events of 9/11 and the corporate accounting scandals. No Logo has four sections: “No Space” details the world of marketing and “branding” and its expansion into public space. “No Choice” details the merging of news, entertainment, and consumerism. “No Jobs” analyzes how jobs are changing, and owned factories are discarded in favor of more casual employment relationships. “No Logo” summarizes how these trends fuel the anti-globalization movement.
On modern marketing and branding, Klein quotes Nike CEO Phil Knight: “For years, we’ve thought of ourselves as a production-oriented company, meaning we put all our emphasis on designing and manufacturing the product. But now…the most important thing…is market the product” (p. 22). The companies most aggressively marketing their brands also distance themselves from running stores and manufacturing products. Developing a brand is creating an exciting lifestyle statement. So we arrive at a Logo — the one word “brand” that symbolizes and creates good feelings (and buying impulses).
This branding/marketing is overtaking what used to be public space and public discourse. Klein asserts that serious social movements, such as civil rights and efforts to expose and correct injustices around the world, have simply become fodder for branding. “Though girls may indeed rule in North America, they are still sweating in Asia and Latin American, making T-shirts with the “Girls Rule” slogan on them …” (p. 123). “The Tibetan people seem nonplussed by their popularity with the Beastie Boys, Brad Pitt, and designer Anna Sui, who was so moved by their struggle that she made an entire line of banana-print bikini tops and surfer shorts inspired by the Chinese occupation” (p. 85).
In “No Jobs,” Klein asserts that “our” jobs being sent overseas are not just the same jobs at lower pay arriving in a third world country. The jobs themselves morph into something quite different — short-term, casual, yet predatory, labor contracts, requiring overtime as well as residence in crowded, isolated dorms near the factories. Klein argues that lots of documented evidence accuses the garment and footwear industries, in particular, of harassment and abuse by supervisors seeking increased production, poor ventilation, poor safety standards, and violent suppression of unionizing attempts.
In No Logo, the final section, Klein draws these various strings together, explaining “The volatility is the unintended consequence of brand managers striving for unprecedented intimacy with the consumer while forging a more casual role with the workforce… These companies may have lost something that may prove more precious in the long run: consumer detachment from their global activities, and consumer investment in their economic success” (p. 335). No Logo is an important read if one is to see beyond the media focus on the demonstrations and violence of the anti-globalist movement.
Reviewed by Tim Gammel
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Business Ethics Web Resources
Reviewed by David W. GillEoa.org is the web site of the Belmont, Massachusetts, based Ethics Officers Association, founded in 1992. The EOA, with 860 current members, is the leading organization of corporate ethics officers, with a significant and growing presence among Fortune 100 companies. Based on the EOA’s own reports at their web site, their ethics officers have many more lawyers among them than people trained in ethics. The EOA was formed initially as a way of putting compliance programs in place in companies not only to prevent wrongdoing but because companies with such programs in place had their fines reduced by as much as 95%! One of the EOA’s current major projects is to develop a comprehensive Business Conduct Management Standard by which compliance can be measured. This “damage control ethics,” as we call it at the IBTE, is now being augmented by more holistic approaches as the EOA expands its contacts and partnerships beyond the legal departments to include individuals and organizations trained in ethics. EOA membership is open to individuals for $750 per year and to organizations for $3000 per year. The EOA sponsors various conferences and courses for ethics officers. The web site makes some interesting information available to non-member visitors but it is rather meager. This is a young organization with a growing importance and some Ethix readers will want to get involved.
edited by David W. Gill
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Ethics.org is the web site of the Washington DC based Ethics Resource Center. The institutional roots of ERC are in American Viewpoint, founded in 1922 to help immigrants to the US get oriented to American culture and values. In 1977 the mission was refocused under the Ethics Resource Center rubric. The vision is to foster a more ethical world. ERC publishes a monthly electronic newsletter called Ethics Today. ERC sponsors research on individual ethics (especially character development), organizational ethics (especially for business), and global ethics. This is a great organization with a web site that is a gold mine of helpful information on business ethics. They don’t seem to do a lot on the technology side of business and ethics but you will notice that under that topic they have placed a link to IBTE’s www.ethix.org. www.ethics.org is well worth book-marking and visiting periodically.
Business.com is a major web site (“The Business Search Engine”) for anyone seeking links to information on almost any topic in business today. The sub-section on business ethics (in the management section) is a large and valuable catalog of organizational web sites, some offering sample codes of ethics or ethics consulting and education services, some linking you to university centers and professional associations focused on business ethics. A line or two of description is given for each link but no evaluation or rating helps a first-timer to know which sites are better or worse, more or less reliable, etc.. This is a very helpful site.
Ibe.org.uk is the web site of the non-profit Institute for Business Ethics, established in 1986 in London. Part of the value of this site is that it provides a perspective from outside the USA. Most of the concerns are common to businesses in most parts of the world, of course. The IBE web site provides some simple, very concrete outlines and strategies for companies wishing to formulate and implement ethics policies, procedures, and codes. The IBE sponsors various seminars and discussion groups and publishes material on various business ethics themes. The IBE view of ethics tends to focus on dilemma and crisis resolution rather than on broader issues of mission, values, and corporate culture, but this is a good organization with something to teach us.