InReview – Issue 54

Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud. New York, Harper Collins, 2006; xii, 292 pp.

Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist with a background in both clinical work and professional consulting. He is co-author of Boundaries and numerous other books.

Integrity is often regarded as synonymous with honesty, end of story. Drawing on interviews and discussions with business and nonprofit leaders, Cloud goes deeper and identifies six qualities that characterize people of integrity:

  1. Build trusting relationships
  2. Are realists
  3. Finish well
  4. Embrace the negative
  5. Are oriented toward increase
  6. Have an understanding of the transcendent

Cloud devotes a chapter to each of these qualities, mixing stories and interviews to illustrate his points.

I found the fourth quality the most intriguing. He argues that a person of integrity does not shy away from bad news, but confronts it realistically and boldly. He or she works toward a solution rather than hopes the problem will go away. I was reminded of Ken Lay, the late former CEO at Enron. It was frequently said of him that he did not like bad news. Psychologists make a similar distinction between character traits of optimism and resilience. Optimism can lead to unrealistic aspirations and eventually, disappointment. Resilience involves realistic assessments of one’s situation, and an ability to overcome adversity.

My one frustration with the book was trying to understand a broader basis for the six qualities, and I concluded it was simply the observation of the author. It would have been good to see an argument for why there should not be seven or five qualities, and to see some demonstration through experimentation that these six formed a more rigorous basis for integrity.

This point aside, I found the book engaging, thoughtful, and well written. I’d recommend it to any leader.

Reviewed by Al Erisman

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iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak with Gina Smith. New York, W.W. Norton, 2006; 313 pp.

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer with Steve Jobs, has been inducted into the Nation Inventors Hall of Fame and has received the National Medal of Technology. Gina Smith is an award-winning journalist from California.

This book is a fascinating first-person account of the life of Steve Wozniak. The journey starts at childhood and his developing interest in science and electronics. He talks about his plans to be at Hewlett Packard for life, as an engineer, but he finally left when they did not take an interest in the personal computer that he had developed on his own time. He took his PC design capability to Apple, and was amazed at the dollars they were able to attract. His desire was to be an engineer and inventor, but to get things done he had to make his opinions known. This spilled out into good times and bad times at Apple, and Steve tells his side of the story.

In a November interview (authors@Google), Wozniak talks about the style of this book. The desire was to tell his own story, so he and his co-author wanted each sentence to sound like him speaking, even changing well-written sentences to shorter, first-person accounts. This structure is distracting at first, but as the story moves along, it is as if you are having a personal conversation with him.

People may respond to this book in at least two distinct ways. Those in managerial roles with whom I’ve discussed this book said they thought he was arrogant. Technical people might connect more easily to Wozniak’s account. I saw him with almost childlike enthusiasm talk excitedly about some of the things he had the opportunity to do. He loves computers and electronics, and his passion comes across on almost every page.

Many large corporations have a difficult time retaining talented people such as Wozniak who are highly technical, enthusiastic, and uninterested in managing people (though there is probably no one quite like him). Too many managers assume that it is money or power (as management defines the term) that everyone wants, and they can have a hard time relating to such people. Yet in order to innovate, companies need to attract and retain top-notch technical talent.

This is a wonderful book for technical types to read. They will share in the joy of discovery as Wozniak recounts his journey through Apple’s history. But I think it is also an important book for managers to read. Managers who miss the importance of Wozniak’s capabilities and see only arrogance probably should be fired for their own arrogance!

Reviewed by Albert M. Erisman

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Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuarón

I’ve always been a fan of anti-utopian films. For the like-minded, Children of Men won’t disappoint. The year is 2027. The location is England. For some unknown reason, the human race has lost its capacity for reproduction; it’s been 18 years since the last child was born. With the world having regressed into chaos, “Britain soldiers on” in the form of a police state in which even champions of individual rights are considered terrorists. Illegal aliens are kept in cages until they can be shipped out of the country or into squalid refuge camps. Theo (Clive Owen) is a burned-out activist turned low-level government bureaucrat tormented by his abandoned ideals and the half-tone gray of his day-to-day existence. He rediscovers life as he’s summoned by a former lover (Julienne Moore) and alleged “terrorist” to help a miraculously pregnant woman gain safe passage to the mysterious “Human Project.” Why he accepts the call is not clear. What is clear is that along the way he embraces a mission that transcends his psychological pain.

The brilliance of this film is its vision of the future as a mere amplification of the present. In 2007, Great Britain already leads the world in keeping DNA records of its citizenry and in public cameras per capita, making it the most obvious candidate in the developed world as a future police state. Such practices are extended as terrorism, pluralism, and religiously inspired hatred overwhelm the state’s ability to maintain both order and a free society. In the future, all illegal aliens are treated as terrorist insurgents. Baghdad becomes a window to not just a splintered Iraq, but to a splintered world. Yet true to human nature, tomorrow always holds hope. Thus even the anti-utopian future posed by Children of Men ends on a mildly upbeat note. Definitely worth renting.

Reviewed by Gerard Beenen

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A Good Day’s Work: Sustaining Ethical Behavior and Business Success by Alice Darnell Lattal and Ralph W. Clark; New York, McGraw Hill, 2007; xxiii, 276 pp.

Alice Darnell Lattal is president and CEO of Aubrey Daniels International, an international management consulting firm. She is an adjunct professor of psychology at West Virginia University and the co-author of a book on workplace ethics. Ralph Clark is a philosophy professor at West Virginia University and has numerous journal publications.

The authors build the case for ethics in business by arguing the economic benefits of acting ethically. They build the case that it is possible for a company to become more ethical and also more profitable. The book starts by defining what an ethical company looks like. They then develop basic considerations for ethics in a business, focusing on sales and decision making. In setting the stage for ethical behavior, they discuss how change, loyalty, and the globalization of business have impacted the ethics agenda. Finally, they develop some prescriptive steps for creating change in an organization toward a more ethical framework.

Throughout, the authors include research and examples to support their arguments. For example, they site survey data showing an increasing trend in socially responsible investing (p. 21) when making the point that socially responsible business practices may pay off in the bottom line in the long run.

I admit to being a bit skeptical of anyone who promises profitability from ethics. In that case, ethics becomes simply a management tool to help achieve the bottom line, a means rather than an end. I was encouraged to see the authors were more careful than this. On page 12, they offer this important premise:

“… being moral purely for the sake of profit is a debasement of the very idea of morality. However, this does not mean that we cannot put ethics to work in the hope that by running an ethical business we will be rewarded financially. In order to do this without selling ethics short, we must be willing to forego financial rewards if the time should ever arise when we must choose between doing what is right and doing what is profitable.”

I recommend this thoughtful book to any business leader.

Reviewed by Al Erisman