Business Thoughts and News30 Jan 2006 10:47 am

Jury selection starts today in the trial of former Enron Executives Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a full roundup of the kickoff to the trial. I have followed this case closely, as it coincided with Worldcom, where I knew people who were convicted, and where friends worked.

Make no mistake about the temptations inherent in the halls of the powerful. Million dollar CEO packages seem outrageous, but the power that these men and women yield is enormous. The money, power, and ability to significantly influence others is a powerful drug that lead many astray.

In the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas plays a tough financial baron named Gordon Gecko who coldly declares “Greed is Good”. On the face of it, this seems plausible, even admirable. Without ambition to find new frontiers, new drugs, or new technologies, where would we be. Is ambition wrong? Does power corrupt?

Ambition is a word that I have struggled with. Certainly it would be nice to be financially comfortable, and the ability to lead others is something that is always exciting. I have been blessed with skills useful in leading teams, and helping businesses grow. My answer to the ambition dilemna came when I realized that the key idea is purpose. Why do you want to grow, to progress, to do more? It is similiar to money. The love of money is the root of all evil, not the money itself. We accept money in exchange for our services. The more valuable those services, the more money we accept. How we use that money, reflects how we viewed our service, and where our hope and future lie.
My grandmother was a school teacher, and a sweet lady, who in her last years saw her mind become clouded. She would move between lucidity, and darkness, but she would always remember to send us off with the admonition: “There’s good and there’s bad. Be Good”.

As Business Leaders, we must work to make sure that we are on the right team. The world has seen selfish leaders, who enriched their own coffers, while leaving shareholders with the bill. We cannot continue business as usual and expect different results. We must Be Good!

UPDATE: 2:40pm and Exxon announces record profits, the largest in US Corporate History.  Certainly glad to see profits being made, but I am having trouble reconciling this with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when 2 and 3 hour waits for gasoline were routine.

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