Russ interviews the former president, Shell Oil Co., founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy and author of “Why We Hate the Oil Companies.” Hofmeister makes the point that we are in a “leadership crisis,” that the leadership qualities we need in the 21st century are different from the qualities that were effective in the 20th century. He believes it so completely that he is writing a new book. And we’ll hear it first on The BusinessMakers!
Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com. It's Featured Guest time and our topic today is leadership. My guest is the former President of Shell Oil Company, the Founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy, Author, and sought after Speaker John Hofmeister. John, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
John: Russell, glad to be here.
Russ: Thank you. Well I love it when you're here but I'm curious about this. I am aware that your next book tackles this topic leadership; what triggered the idea to go down that path?
John: When you look around the world today - and I visit all over the world, I visit states all over the country - it's hard to find people that are happy, content, satisfied with the way things are. And if we think about the last decade or so of our collective existence, we are suffering geopolitical upheavals, radical fundamentalism, economic non-growth, divisiveness in our society between haves and have-nots, communications is at an all time divisive level of the right and the left and whether it's corporations - which are seeing more rapid turnover of CEOs who are being fired - whether it's institutions, whether it's not-for-profits, whether it's our elected officials, I think leadership is in a crisis period because it's not working.
Leadership is supposed to fix problems. Leadership is creating problems and there are no solutions visible yet for the problems that our leadership are creating; whether that's in the corporations or in the government or in the institutions, I'm very worried about the future of society under these conditions. So there's a lot to be learned about transitioning from what I call the twentieth century leadership model to the model that I'm promoting in my new book which is about twenty first century requirements of the leaders of today and tomorrow, different than the leaders of yesterday.
Russ: Well that's so interesting and - and frightening at the same time. I couldn't help but - as you were describing the way the lay of the land is right now - I couldn't help but think of the - the old era of - there were Reagan Democrats and I think about JFK and his fa-famous speech - Ask Not What Your Country Can Do but What You Can Do For Your Country and there doesn't seem like there's any sort of feel like that in the U.S. political spectrum these days; it's just pulled to both extremes top to bottom.
John: Well it's not just government sector either it's not just the political world, it's the corporate world; look at the brutal, uh, competition that's taking place. Apple and other companies in court all the time over intellectual property and Samsung and Apple right now and it's just one thing after another where hyper-competition, global competition versus national or regional competition. You have sudo-capitalism coming out of China where it's state-supported capitalism or Russia - state-supported capitalism in many respects - going up against, you know, the capitalist companies that exist out there looking for their own level of state support; whether in France or Germany or the United States.
So it's one thing after another. We have sharper edges, time is compressed, we have instantaneous information and we have seven billion neighbors who's facial images could be brought to us instantly from anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. And so we're - we're - we're seven billion people trying to inhabit this earth, two billion have what they want, two to three billion want more than what they have, and two plus billion people have almost nothing and so this is a different world than the last century.
Russ: Okay, so what is your formula for twenty first century leadership?
John: In the first instance, we don't throw out the baby with the bath water. So there are good things to be taken from the prior century leadership model which we can embrace in the twenty first century, twenty second century and beyond. Let's start with values and behavior. Values and behavior of leaders matter and if those values aren't consistent with behaviors - and let's call three basic values; honesty, integrity, respect for people. I hear those words all the time - but let's see the behaviors that go along with honesty, integrity, and respect for people. And when you have CEOs in the financial arena - or in any arena - cheating customers, hiding money, falsifying accounts, creating Ponzi Schemes, it's a little hard to demonstrate honesty and integrity and respect when you're cheating your public; or - that's in the corporate world, that's not everybody. I don't mean to impl-implicate everybody, but let's stay with the values and behaviors, that's important. Let's move on.
Because of the changing world we live in, people have to understand context; what is the context? That's a complicated term and context is everything. Another factor is how is the cognitive complexity of the individual shaping up to handle the tremendous, uh, need for intelligence and judgment and time horizon - time horizon meaning short term, medium term, long term. There will always be short term, medium term and long term. Is there a balanced perspective on short, medium and long? And if there isn't, something's missing.
Another area is, it's time to change the game when it comes to the importance of social responsibility. Our neighbors are obvious to us and the people in our communities, the people in our state, in our region, in our country, in the world, they all matter; because if you think they don't, just wait till tomorrow and they will, people matter. And people issues, whether it's environmental, whether it is, uh, you know, public policy, whether it is, the rules of the game, the rules of the road, all that matters and we have to have leaders who are cognizant of it and who operate that way. And then if you're the leader of an organization, you'd better understand simultaneously strategy, structure, processes by which you run your business; you better have the right people and you better measure what you're doing if you want to get something done.
That's another aspect of leadership. You can move on, you can talk about emotional balance, emotional balance. You know the days of treating people like dogs, the days of exploding and thinking you can get away with it cause you're the boss, the days of unloading your burden on the shoulders of others who are already carrying huge burdens in their own right, those days are long over. You have to be sensitive and respective of what other people are putting up with.
And there are other aspects too like I love the Olympics and the Olympics happen to be taking place this summer, when you watch athletes get in the groove, wow. And without naming names, when they're swimmers, they're runners, they're bicyclists, they're football players, they're boxers - you name it when they get in the groove, that's called flow. Leaders need to get in the groove. And when you're in your flow moment - Katy bar the door - you can do anything, you're on - you're really moving it and that's what we need from leaders is that flow.
And then the final piece, coherency. Putting all those elements together, that's called coherent. So my new book is called The Coherent Leader. What we don't have enough of are coherent leaders, they're missing one of the previous items or more - one or more of the previous items. And coherency is what people are looking for. The world's so complex, it's so different, it's changing so rapidly, can anybody put it together? A leader can if he thinks about it, if he works on it - or she so they put it together - a coherent program - where it's comprehensible, it's intelligent, it hangs together, and it's rational. That's what we need.
Russ: Okay, okay. Well I know John, it sounds like it makes sense for sure and I know you share this perspective with quite a few audiences, do you get feedback from leaders about noting that, wow, he made a lot of sense and I need to even perhaps make a correction course?
John: Most people I talk to who are leaders I would say they know something's missing in the current formula. A lot of people have been through ed-leadership education, executive education and they know that the tools that they have to work with aren't enough, but nobody has yet articulated well, what are we missing? That's what I'm attempting to do. This won't be the end all beat all book on leadership because leadership evolves, but at this place and time, at the turn of the twenty first century, when so much is happening so quickly, when instant communications put us in touch with everyone around the world all the time, when radical fundamentalism is attacking basic institutions, when we have such a political divide in our own country between the right and the left and the manner in which that plays out with - which is disrespectful, not respectful - and the fact that we can't get anything done as a society, that ought to tell us something's missing.
And so what I'm trying to do is get at what's missing and help people think about it more broadly, because we can't go on the way we're going because we are headed for crisis after crisis after crisis; whether it's financial, whether it's energy, whether it's healthcare, whatever it is, we're headed for crisis cause we don't have the means by which we can solve our problems.
Russ: Well I couldn't agree more, you know, even particularly when you talk about our - our politics right here in the United States, I mean, and it's so predictable on almost any issue what either side is gonna say a-and it's never even showing an inkling of a concession to give in to the other side. I mean it's consistently that way all the time.
John: There's an old principle that we got from the Greeks and the Romans and their successors, it's called Might is Right. Might is Right is a short term solution that doesn't really solve anything other than demonstrate who's more powerful in the moment, but it doesn't solve the real underlying issues of we have big problems, we need big solutions and we can't keep pushing solutions into the future cause it's not just about us. If it was just about us we could maybe muddle through. This is about the next generation and the generation after that and we are embarrassing ourselves with what we are setting up the next generation to have to deal with. We can do better than that and we must.
Russ: All right well, I really appreciate you coming in here today and sharing your perspective and I encourage you to get out Coherent Leaders as soon as possible, I know you have a very busy schedule. In fact, what is a target time frame when we might see this?
John: About a year from now, realistically. I got a lot more work to do to put words on paper. The concepts are all there, but I have to figure out now how to tell the story. The good news is that the publisher is waiting.
Russ: All right, cool.
John: So there is a publisher, that helps.
Russ: Well I say hurry cause it all sounds right and thanks again John for coming in.
John: Thank you Russ.
Russ: You bet. That's John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company, Founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy, and this is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.