Author Archives: bobmac

Trump is Right – The System is Rigged!

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Trump is on solid ground to suggest that the political system is rigged against him, but he is off-base to suggest that if he loses, it will be because of fraud in the voting process. It is not widespread voting fraud that threatens to corrupt the election, it is the system itself that is rigged against candidates like Trump. In truth, there are few elections – at any level – that are pure and without some modicum of mistakes or fraud. But Trump does harm to his cause by focusing on insignificant voting irregularities rather than the core issue that the system itself is rigged.

By focusing on “voter fraud” and petulantly suggesting he may not accept the outcome of the election, Trump opens the door to vituperative criticism from both the Republican and Democratic establishments who want to divert attention away from the uncomfortable truth that the system itself is rigged.

Those of the establishment power elite echo the same criticism that, “Trump’s comments threaten the very core upon which American democracy is based.” The critics are correct on that point, but the inherent fallacy in their argument is that the American system of government is a “democracy,” because it is not and was never intended to be one.

The writers of the American constitution wanted to create the illusion of a “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” but the truth is they feared true democracy as much as they detested a monarchy. Those who constructed the constitution – the elite of American society at the time – did not believe that the “common man” had the knowledge or temperament to be granted the power to govern themselves. But they did recognize that if they were to govern the country effectively it would require the trust and support of the people. The ingenious solution was to create a republic governed under a “representative democracy” and “sell” the illusion to the people that it was a true democracy.

This political slight-of-hand was accomplished in a number of ways: The people would be allowed to directly elect representatives – though not senators or the president – who would be empowered to govern the people. Even at that, initially only about eight percent of all Americans (mostly white male landowners) were eligible to vote. Senators would be elected by state legislations. The president would be elected by a complicated new contrivance – twice removed from the voters – called the “Electoral College.”  All of these machinations were intended to give the illusion of a democracy, while in reality they were mechanisms rigged to keep the elite establishment in power; and it has worked for 200 years.

Those who defend the system point to how it has changed and adapted over time. They cite “universal suffrage” enabling any American citizen to vote as an example of greater democracy. But even so, it is voting within the same “rigged” system. But there are still vestiges of fear over giving the “common man” the power of the vote. Evidence of this attitude is exhibited in the recent systematic efforts (mostly by Republicans) to inhibit the right to vote. Under the suspicious guise of preventing “voter fraud” (very little of which has been shown) there have been efforts to purge eligible voters from registration rolls and unwarranted use of stringent voter ID requirements. All of these actions suppress democracy by making it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote.

There is a very thin veneer separating myth from reality when it comes to “power for the people” and for this system to continue to work, the “common man” must continue to buy-in to the belief that they live in a democracy and that their vote gives them power to determine how they are governed. Think about it: There are maybe 3,000 people making up the politically powerful elite in this country who seek to govern, control and determine the future and fate of over 300,000,000 citizens. For this to work, those 300 million must buy the myth that their government is a democracy “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

And this is the rub when it comes to Trump calling the system “rigged.” Even though Trump is focused on perceived fraud within the system rather than the system itself, his criticism is so close to the truth that those who control and benefit from the status quo have a near-panic fear that the illusion of a democracy will be peeled away and it will become impossible for them to effectively govern the country.

It is not my intent to suggest the system is bad. (Although I do believe it has been corrupted by convoluted gerrymandering of Congressional districts that reduces the power of the voter; restrictive voter ID requirements and a lack of term limits for Congress.) The inspired efforts of those who wrote the constitution creating a representative democracy fit the needs of the country at the time and considering the size and dynamics of America today, it is still the best system. But the best way to protect and preserve it – maybe even improve it – is to admit what it is, rather than hiding behind the myth of what it is not.

The problem for the power elite is that today’s “common man” is much more educated and sophisticated than their counterparts in the 18th century. In short, the common man of today can recognize when they are getting the short end of the stick. When the average person can see the elite getting more and they getting less and the effort to bring about real change is thwarted by the system, it becomes more and more difficult for them to buy-in to the myth that they live in a democracy. This explains why the financial and political elite have such a visceral panicked reaction when one of their own suggests the system is rigged. When this happens, the response of those who control the system is to mock, deride, castigate and degrade the evil apostate in a full-frontal assault intended to protect and preserve the myth of democracy. Such is the fate of Trump.

READ THIS ONLY IF YOU WANT TO MAKE HISTORY AS A BUSINESS LEADER

 

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Today times are different and making history as a business leader, calls for a distinctively different approach. The long-held dictum that if you do what is expected of you, you will do well, is no longer the sure path to history-making success as a leader.

We are not even 20 years into the 21st century and there have been more changes in business orthodoxy than occurred during the entire 20th century. The American economic system (if not the whole world) has been at war with itself. The world of accepted business mores and the time-honored requirements for making history as a business leader has been hit with the unannounced suddenness of a 9.2 earthquake. This tremor of transformation shook the traditional concepts of business and leadership to the core, and the resultant tsunami of change washed away all that had been customary and comfortable.

The game is different now; meaning that for individuals to make history as successful leaders in this environment, they are going to have to be different too. The conventional concepts of leadership skills are not going to be enough to make business history. The history making leaders of tomorrow will be those who employ new theories and altered skill-sets.

The business world is filled with thousands of well-intended, dedicated individuals working diligently to meet the standards and apply the accepted techniques of successful leadership. That is good, but it will not be enough to stand out and make history as a leader in these new times. If you want to be the one making history, you first have to come to grips with the understanding that it is no longer enough to simply follow the rules and lead like everyone else. Instead, history will be made by those willing to take a different approach than other hard-working individuals trying to achieve success.

Believe it or not, it is possible – and not all that difficult – to absorb what has been learned in the past regarding leadership requirements and then take it just one step further. Being willing to go the extra mile is what will distinguish the average leader from the exceptional one.

Traditionally, success came from doing the right things that were required to be done. Individuals seeking leadership roles were admonished to follow the rules, be ethical, do what others have done and go along to get along. That has always been the formula for success. However, to distinguish oneself as a leader who will make their own brand of history, it will require taking actions that are not required to be done. It is a different philosophy of leadership that embodies the notion that leaders should do more than is required to be done and instead focus on what should and can be done.

As just one example of what could be many, consider that everyone accepts that it is the right thing to treat employees fairly. Employees should be paid fair wages, provided with good working conditions and know clearly what is expected of them. This approach was fine for the last century, but if a leader wants to make history in this century they should do more. It’s not required by the old ways of doing things, but if employees are treated with respect for the talent they have and are rewarded for the value they add to the effort, they will be encouraged to do more and help the leader achieve success. It is not tradition, but if employees are empowered by allowing them to influence decisions and make a difference, they will take ownership, not only of their jobs, but will be motivated to help the leader make history.

It seems too simple to make a real difference, but this leadership attitude of doing more than is required to be done is what it will take in today’s changed environment to empower a leader to make history. And just remember: If you’re not making history, you are history.

Vision Is Not A Team Effort

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Rarely is there a discussion about leadership – successful or failed – that does not include what President George H W Bush once referred to as “the vision thing.” President Bush snapped off this phrase in frustration to criticism of his perceived (which in leadership becomes reality) inability to express a clarity of goals and principles that would allow him to shape public opinion and influence action. In short, Bush was chastised for lacking vision. Fair or not, if a leader is unable to effectively define and communicate a clear and concise vision of where and why they are seeking to lead others, they will ultimately fail. An individual who lacks vision can be a good manager, but they make for lousy leaders.

And that’s the point: If a leader’s success is going to rise or fall on the basis of the “vision thing,” shouldn’t they make sure that it is their vision and not the product of “group-think?” Vision is the responsibility and domain of the leader; it cannot be the product of a committee.

Despite this, there are still many in the business world who believe that a vision – cloaked under what is called a “mission statement” – should emerge from the ideas of a group. Business consultants are famous for setting up a series of “planning sessions” that discuss, dissect and debate what the “vision” should be. I was serving on the board of directors for a company when the chairman of the board decided that it was the purview and responsibility of the board to develop a “corporate vision” for the CEO. The results of these efforts always end up with a long complicated, convoluted and superficial “vision” for the company. One that is rarely understood and soon forgotten.   

The Work of an Artist

Ask yourself this: How many great works of art are the product of a committee? What many fail to understand is that in essence the successful leader is an artist. They paint the picture – a vision – of what the future will be under their leadership and then they hang that picture in front of their followers so they can see, understand and be constantly reminded of what their efforts are building toward.

The truth is that the vision of a leader comes more from their heart and soul, than from the brain. A vision is something they are passionate about; something they believe in down to their core. True leaders don’t lead because they want something, but because they want to do something. It is this passion that inspires the individuality of their vision. A leader’s vision can be created for a group, but it can’t be created by a group.


The leader’s image of what they want to do is so vivid and so alive for them, they can communicate it in such a way that followers can not only understand it, but can believe in it. That’s why a vision that expresses a clarity of the goals and principles of the leader is so critical to effective leadership. Once the leader has captured the hearts and minds of the followers with their vision, the brain takes over to determine and implement the ideas and actions that will make the vision become a reality. If you understand this, you can understand why the vision must be the domain of the leader, not a committee.

Visions of the Past

In 1962 President Kennedy famously outlined his vision for the American space program as “landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade and returning him back to earth safely.” This vision was clear, concise and easy to understand. Once the vision was laid out, the challenge was to figure out how to make it happen, but there was no confusion as to the intended goal. Can you imagine when, if ever, we would have landed a man on the moon if Kennedy had turned to Congress or some highfalutin special panel to create a vision for the space program?

When I led the founding of LifeUSA – a startup life insurance company in an industry dominated by giants – my vision message was simple: “Within five years LifeUSA would be competing successfully, on a national basis, against the very largest companies; and all those who contributed to achieving that goal would share in the success.” Everyone who joined with LifeUSA clearly understood what we were about and the benefits of achieving that vision. With the vision in place any and all ideas and actions could be measured against the vision to be achieved.

Maybe the most famous business vision of a leader might be the one Bill Gates had for Microsoft when in 1980 he said his goal was to “have a computer on every desk and in every home.” At the time computers were housed in warehouses and only an inspired individual could dare to have such a vision of universal expansion. We know the rest of the story.

What this boils down to is that those with a true, deep-seated, achievable vision lead, while the best the rest can do is manage the achievement of the vision. It is the passion of an individual’s vision that creates leadership and ultimately drives success. Doing what needs to be done is often done best as a team effort, but visualizing what has not been done, but could be done, can never be done by a committee. 

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