CEO’s: What will we show the world?
There’s a saying I learned a long time ago — “people show you who they are.” In essence, it’s not what someone tells you that matters. Rather their actions tell you who someone really is and what they value.
I’ve been reminded of that saying a lot this week.
First, amidst all the talk by tech leaders that diversity matters, we learn of yet more sickening sexist and discriminatory behaviors permeating Silicon Valley giant, Uber. And again this morning, when I learned that the immigration reform group founded by Mark Zuckerberg, FWD.us, had made a $5,000 donation to Trump’s Presidential transition despite having spent months verbally skewering Donald Trump for his viewpoints on immigration.
Words don’t mean much when your contrary actions scream your true beliefs. And in these cases, one wonders: what do technology and Silicon Valley CEO’s really value?
Do they really belive that all people are created equal? And that all humans have iherent gifts and talents? If so, they wouldn’t just give lip service to diversity or immigration. They’d be taking aggressive action to make sure their companies benefitted from the array of contributions that can come from a truly diverse workforce (and leadership team). They’d not only be recruiting, but be welcoming to and highly valuing both men and women, people of every race, country of origin and sexual orientation. They’d make sure to recruit across the country rather than clustering in coastal mega cities. And, they’d make sure they structured operations, meetings, and incentives to truly encourge everyone to raise ideas and contribute.
And this cuts to a very large elephant in the room that I’ve observed — not only in giant tech companies but across our entire economy.
We worship scale and profits; we don’t actually believe in the idea (or value) of everyone.
We’ve created huge institutions with hierarchies, where the people at the top make the decisions and the job of the people below is to simply follow. In a system designed to function with machine-like efficiency, the people become nothing more than tiny cogs in the giant machinery. Over time, the elite leaders have seperated themselves from everyone else. Economically, buying palatial mansions in gated communities, never venturing out to really get to know people who don’t look like them or live like them. And geographically, clustering in mega cities and looking down their noses at anyone who didn’t have the fortitude to make their way out of their middle America lives.
So, while the industrial mind set has created major shareholder wealth and multi-billion dollar, global businesses, it has had one massive, troubling unintendend conequence. We no longer see every single person as unique and valuable, with gifts and skills to be unlocked for the benefit of our world. If we see them at all, we simply see them as a resource to maximized within the machinery of the institution.
Sadly, that’s left our nation in a very scary place.
Politically, wide swaths of the country demonstrated just how fed up they were with the elitist system that they voted for a wildcard Presidential candidate just to upset the system. Economically, companies are desperate for innovation to stay competitive, but find themselves stymied with a workforce that is ill-equipped (or motivated) to be a key contributor to the entrepreneruial engine. And socially, we are tearing ourselves apart rather than finding common ground around a shared future.
The fact that tech leaders and elite CEO’s have to go on “listening tours” across America (and hire professional photographers to chronicle and publicize it) tells me everything I need to know. (And it speaks volumes about their white, male privilege, but that’s for another post…).
It’s time for our nation (and especially our leaders) to have a moment of clarification. What do we believe?
Do we believe in standing up when we see injustice? Or will we only stand up as long as it doesn’t cost us (or our company) something?
Do we believe all people are equal and desire the same things for ourselves and our families? Or do we believe deep down that somehow some of us are better? Smarter? More capable?
Do we believe in profit at all cost? Or do we believe business has a greater purpose, and that our employees, our customers, and the communities in which we operate matter as well?
Maybe our words say all the right things, but do our actions?
I for one believe that tech leaders and CEO’s like myself have incredible potential to lead our nation today. But without values to root us — like integrity, truth, truly valuing others — words are nothing more than coats to be shed whenever the winds change.
We will show the world who we are and what we value by the actions we take. What will we show them?