Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Where Are the New Leaders We Need?

Talk about the spectacle of failed leadership, I'm sure you've been following the circus surrounding our governor here and the brazenness of his corrupt practices and his defiance. In Chicago we see abundant evidence of gross corruption and incompetence of the state, county and city government on a daily basis. These people are clownishly venal and are literally bankrupting our local government,

The collapse of our financial system and the $50 billion rip-off by financier Bernie Madoff underscores the need to develop a new cadre of leaders who have a different set of values and a different mindset about public stewardship and the concept of "value." Clearly, the business leaders, lawyers and politicians who have run the economy - people who are supposed to know what is "valuable" have been either terribly wrong or have perpetrated a massive fraud on the public.

Artists and creative folk, I maintain, among their sets of values and mindsets, have a quality that would have poised a counter-weight to this point of view - namely, an appreciation of intrinsic worth. It seems that what was "valued" so highly and treasured by business, legal and regulators was a mirage - a soap bubble - it seems that what we were told was "valuable" - was, in fact, worthless. Artists, I maintain, create out of a sense of giftedness - they generate, and appreciate, things that seemingly have no worth - yet are extremely valuable. What, after all, is the "value" of the air we breathe, the smile of a young child, the gasp of surprise while watching a great ballet or the feeling of connectedness from listening to a song from another country? But we clearly need leaders who get the value of the intangible and appreciate the intrinsic worth of things and concepts that can't be placed on a balance sheet. Many have argued that a blind trust of the "market" has led the planet to the precipice of ruin.

Would it be fair of me to challenge business school deans and law school deans to defend the curriculum and the values they are instilling in our future business and government leaders? Allan Greenspan admitted he got it wrong. Oops. The University of Chicago is embroiled in some controversy because it wants to establish an institute in honor of Milton Friedman. This seems like a very appropriate time to debate what, exactly, do we mean by "value" and whose values are driving the major economic and political decisions of the country.

Failed political leaders plus a collapsed financial system. What a mess. It seems like the right time for new leaders to come forward and offer their ideas and talents for the public good.

Could YOU be one of them?

1 comment:

Scarlett said...

I stumbled on this post through one of my Google Alerts, and I want to tell you, great post. I believe that business has something to learn from artists and arts organizations: creativity and intuition.

You may be interested in a forum we're hosting with the Cultural Center and the Arts and Business Council: "Break on Through: The Creative Response to Tough Times." Our keynote speaker, Paul O'Connor, will be touching on some of the themes you raise in your post.

Keep up the great blogging,
Scarlett Swerdlow
Illinois Arts Alliance