Too Big to Manage

It seems lately that I am writing about things I have heard famous people say. I’m not sure I know why. Perhaps I have been in sponge mode unconsciously looking for ideas. Perhaps ideas I’ve heard have had a certain cache that caught my attention.

In any case I was listening to Andrew Ross Sorkin the author of Too Big to Fail at a lecture in my local library Friday night. He was speaking about his personal observation of the key players in the financial debacle of 2008. He mentioned that at the lower levels of the banks there certainly were employees motivated by greed. They wanted their time in the sun and their art collections and yachts. However, at the senior levels of the organizations it was not executive compensation that motivated the actions. Senior people already have money and art collections and yachts. Those actions were more about power and pride. Even in their phenomenal disclosures to him afterward, they wanted to have their ideas on record, have their side of the story told. Sorkin really didn’t think that there was any way to compel those players to “do the right thing” in the future. In other words there is no way to legislate morality or healthier egos.

He also said that one of the major problems is that the organizations are not too big to fail but that they are actually too big to manage. However, if the banks were broken up to smaller banks, they would not have the ability to finance the deals necessary for business today. He mentioned Morgan Stanley writing a 20 billion dollar check for the recent purchase of T-Mobile. In 2011 we have even bigger banks than existed in 2008. It is a conundrum.

I am left with the question of how we prepare leaders of the future to manage organizations that are not only too big to fail but also too big to manage and perhaps manage egos that are too big to be fully responsible for their actions.

Be sure to check out Linda’s new white paper: Leadership at the Edge of Business.

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