If the need for corporations and their CEOs to play a bigger role in civic leadership wasn’t clear before, the events of this week must surely remove all doubt.
The specter of mobs overrunning the U.S. Capitol, of an unstable president hunkered down in the White House, and of democratic institutions barely functioning in the face of irrational public chaos is the culmination of years of failing government: Scorched earth politics, legislative gridlock, public deception and eroding competence at the top.
As they began to over the long hot summer of COVID-19 and racial equity protests, many companies and business groups have stepped up to address what happened on Wednesday. They quickly fired employees caught participating in the Capitol riots. They issued statements condemning political violence and reasserting corporate values. Some associations — most notably the National Association of Manufacturers — called explicitly for the president of the United States to be removed from office, a demand that would have been unthinkable even six months ago. …
We will remember 2020 for years to come.
The body blows seemed never to end: protests in the streets, an electoral crisis, wildfires, conspiracy peddlers, food lines and — looming over everything else — a virus that has killed some 340,000 Americans so far while turning the lives of millions upside down.
A question running through it all is who was in charge? Where were the leaders this year? Who was responding to the call of public need in the face of collective danger and compounding crises?
On the national stage, that kind of leadership may have been in short supply. …
Yes, I know, it’s supposed to be all about STEM these days.
The economy depends on disruptive technologies, big data is seeping into every cranny of our lives and Artificial Intelligence will eat the lunch of tomorrow’s workers if they can’t stay a step ahead of the robots.
According to at least one estimate, corporations are investing a total of $350 billion annually in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education programs to meet their shortfall in technical skills. That’s a good thing.
But spare a thought, also, for what actually makes us genuinely — not artificially — intelligent. Then consider the qualities of leadership needed to keep the human fabric of our businesses and government from unraveling. …
In July of this year I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands.
To be sure, the sabbatical wasn’t exactly planned. I was stepping down from my role as a Chief Communications Officer for one of the world’s biggest companies because of an essay I had published in 1987. I was a 29-year-old junior navy pilot when I wrote it. The essay was an archaic, awkward and wrong-headed argument against women in combat, one that I grew out of even before the Department of Defense did. …