The Washington Post reports that Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), during last week’s hearings, asked automaker CEOs if they’d work for a dollar a year. Chrysler’s Nardelli said yes, GM’s Wagoner said “I don’t have a position on that today,” and Ford’s Alan Mulally, who made $21,700,000 last year, said, “I think I’m okay where I am.”

In the immortal words of Dave Barry, “I’m not making this up.”

Meanwhile CNN’s Kyung Lah reported that the CEO of JAL rides public transit to work, eats in the company cafeteria, and cut his salary below that of his pilots as a personal response to layoffs and forced early retirements that JAL felt necessary to make.

A Financial Times headline on Citicorp reads: “Bank loses over half its value in past three days” “[CEO] Pandit moves to shore up his position as chief.”

As disgusting [DIS-GUST-ING] as Mulally’s “I’m okay” comment was-is, the Pandit headline in its own fashion affected me even more. Citi’s performance is awful—and there’s little or no doubt that Pandit is a major part of the problem. And hence his primary response, following an announced 50,000 plus layoff, is to try and save his own skin? (TP’s considered response: “You miserable, ego-maniacal S.O.B.”)

Have these guys (and they’re almost all guys) no sense of shame? No sense of service? No sense of honor? No sense of sacrifice? No sense of equity?

A little online research Cathy and I did shows that none of the Big Three CEOs had any military service. I do not believe that such service is a generic answer to any particular problem. But I do believe that the uniform absence thereof is perhaps indicative of a lack of a life-as-service, servant leader ethos in general among these three? (The “no military service” piece is almost amusing, in a perverse way, in the case of Nardelli, who is a fanatic believer in some twisted notion of the “military model” of doing business—his willy nilly application of his abominable interpretation of military leadership was one of his many screwups at Home Depot. Part of Nardelli’s, yes, admirable willingness to work for a buck at Chrysler may be the $200 million he took home as a prize for being fired from Home Depot.)

In summary:

Have they no shame?
Have they no sense of service?
Have they no conception of servant leadership?
Have they no soul?
Have they no honor?
Have they no ethos of sacrifice?
Have they no conception of-perception of equity?
(Did any of them go to Sunday School?)

Does it sound like I’m in a pissy mood, maybe still suffering from jetlag following my Middle East trip? Well, I am in a pissy mood, and part of it may indeed be 66-year-old-body-meets-jetlag. But part of it derives directly from Pandit and Mulally and the association of their flavor attitudes to our unfolding economic catastrophe. I’ve spent 40 plus years directly or indirectly on, effectively, one topic: profit through people-centered, people-obsessed leadership. Mulally and Pandit and their not insignificant ilk make me wonder if I pissed away my life in pursuit of an improbable, or even impossible, ideal?

Tom Peters posted this on November 24, 2008, in Leadership.
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