Wow, 17th/18th century business lessons from the English Daniel Defoe as well as the US alternative Benjamin Franklin. Adding to that the cynical take from Marx’ “Economic and Philosophic manuscript of 1844” describing the power of money. Topping it all off with lessons from Shakespeare’s Achilles. And that for a Master student of creativity and change leadership, whose focus in the past months has been on current academic readings, no older than three years, as a rule of thumb. That is some elective course I chose here… And I’m enjoying every aspect of it. I’m positively surprised by the ease in which three hundred plus years of history blend into current issues and how it gets me to think differently about here and now.
In this blog I mainly focus on bringing all the insights from the readings and the fifth leadership class together. So basically just summarizing what we discussed. Not very innovative, but it is what I need to extend my learning at this point. But ok, I will add one thing, because there is one aspect that has been the center of my attention during all these discussions and readings and that is: the power of love. I feel the importance of falling in love with something is key in all the century-old lessons and continue to be key in our current time. So I will connect this notion to the readings…
Both Defoe and Franklin make a statement for virtue. When you want to get credit for a business in either England or the US, you need to demonstrate credibility. Good virtue will buy you that. Tradesmen who behave well, who show they are trustworthy and who show they work well stand a better chance of getting a loan to start/do their business. Defoe engages in a more theoretical take on the matter in “The Complete English Tradesman”, where Franklin shares his own experiences in “The Portable Benjamin Franklin”, without holding back. He’s not showing any form of modesty. Both writers stress the importance of “a good name”. Reputation is and always has been important. Being at your best behavior is one way to get there. And making sure you’re not the subject of bad gossiping is another. Defoe shares this beautifully in the old fashioned example of the gossiping ladies who demonstrate the ability to ruin the business. These “ill neighbours blackening and blasting” can be stopped or avoided by great behavior, once you get them in your store AND by staying away from gossip yourself.
Defoe and Franklin’s tips in a nutshell: work hard, don’t engage in gossip, be the best there is in your area of expertise and show trustworthy towards your investors by using their investments smart and paying back any loans.
And what about when you don’t need a loan, but you’re so rich, you can simply buy a good reputation? Than you end up in Marx’s “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”. He states that money is the supreme good and that therefore the possessor is good. When you have money you don’t have to be dishonest, so you are presumed honest. You don’t need brains, because money can buy clever people. Even being ugly is no problem for the rich, because they can buy a beautiful partner to make them look better…
So the tip from Marx’ reading could be, just make sure you get rich and the world will turn into one happy Disneyland…
And now we’re getting somewhere. We’re getting to a place where I think we shouldn’t be. In class we had a discussion that to be in the lead of your area of work, you need to be willing to sacrifice everything. You need to work as much as you can and as hard as you can, because if you don’t there will be others running past you to take your place. Also referring to Achilles’ who gets a kick in the butt by his Greek generals who place Ajax in front of him to crack his ego and get him to get back to being the best he can in slaughtering more Trojans. I also see people sacrifice everything just to make money, maybe because they too believe the cynical Marx theory that money can buy you everything. From what I see it cannot buy you happiness…
Either I’m naïve, or it’s a cultural difference. I feel working 24/7, alienating from your family and friends and basically acting like a jerk is not the best way to taking the lead… I agree that there are still (corporate) cultures where this behavior is modeled and followed, but thank god there’s more and more examples where it’s the result that counts and not the amounts of hours you spend at the office or elsewhere online.
I feel the way to really take the lead is to simply be the best at what you do. And that is through doing what you love. And NOT doing what gives you the biggest paycheck. I have read an incredible amount of books and articles in the past year that prove the positive effects of passion. This is not new. It has been researched for decades in all parts of the world.
Being passionate about your work gives you joy. So if you’re going to be working 24/7 at least it will feel like 365 vacation days. When people are more passionate for their work and get more positive feelings, this expands their repertoire of tools to solve task-related problems. And being passionate about work makes the bad things at work seem not so bad. Passion for work would mitigate the negative effects of task conflict and that it would increase job satisfaction. The chances of full engagement are higher with employees with passion than with the ones who lack this.
These are just a few insights from researchers. Not made up by me. But I truly believe in them and I see how the ability to solve problems, full engagement and happiness can make you the leader.
Who would you trust with your money? The passionate entrepreneur who is intrinsically motivated and has the drive to make things a success because of his belief in what he is doing?
Who do you admire more and do you label a better reputation? The jerk who’s powerful because of his money for which he did nothing to deserve it? Or the Marc Zuckerbergs of this world who put their heart and soul into something that gave them their wealth?
And I could ask many more questions like this. They will all lead to the answer that the passionate can obey by Defoe/Shakespeare and Franklin’s rules, simply because they want to. It comes natural. They are authentic.
So stop following the money, but follow your passion and the money will follow. I’m convinced of that!
Vanaf de prachtige campus op Harvard schrijf ik voor mijn Leadership course blogs waar ik met mijn mede-studenten over discussieer. Om geïnteresseerden een inkijkje te geven in wat ik leer op Harvard deze zomer, deel ik mijn blogs, of wanneer het te inhoudelijk wordt het te volgen als je er niet bij was, zal ik er fragmenten van posten. In deze vijfde blog verbind ik de wijze lessen uit eeuwenoude literatuur met de leiderschapslessen die ik uit mijn vijfde les meeneem.