Modern crisis – of responsible leaders

“You can have the most wonderful motives for what you do, but if what you do harms other people, you’re fooling yourself”

~ John Carroll Lynch


The year was 1905, Wright brothers took a half hour long flight in their Wright flyer. And this Wright flyer ran down in history as human civilization’s first practical airplane. Wright brothers found a chance in darkness, and through their wit, led the humanity towards skies. Until then, touching the skies and watching clouds from top was a tale written and read in novels and colourful hard-bound yet thin children books. Presence of mind and sincere problem-solving approach of the Wright brothers gave us an unthought-of and unasked Christmas gift. The aviation industry today contributes $ 2.7 trillion (3.6%) of world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs around 65.5 million jobs around the world. If aviation were a country, it would rank 20th in size by GDP. That equates to the GDP of Switzerland or Argentina. So, in an unnoticed way, the Wright brothers helped build an entire country, though in a metaphysical way, but still. Wright brothers cemented initial bricks of aviation industry, an entire new industry worth billions and trillions in near future. They did this not by disrupting an already existing and thriving industry, but hatching an entire new industry with help of human’s magnificent human-like intelligence. This is a solid example of anti-uber business model. May the ‘valley of silicon’ retrospect the real States’ spirit of liberty, unity and freedom. Innovation too. There’s hardly any business model alike Uber, which by disrupting an established industry, flourishes on free money and without any solid assets. Once I read an article on ‘disrupting industries by startups’ on MIT Sloan website. It focused on the new trend in business world – startups demolishing already established and thriving businesses and tormenting them ruthlessly. The internet boom gave the world much-needed companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook(just for connecting purpose and nothing else), etc. These companies created a whole new playground of opportunities and ambitions, but not on the expense of others. No doubt that many startups today are venturing into unchartered and unrecognized territories, kudos to those courageous and humble people. But, the amount of employment generated by new industries, is less compared to the ‘disruption industries’ cancelling the existing employees and rendering them helpless plus clueless sometimes.

we humans should have been evolved and enlightened to figure out liberals versus tyrants, responsible versus irresponsible, wise versus charlatan

The ‘Disruption industries’ are not built suddenly by some mad technocrats, they are gradually trending in the business world. Outside our Economic Times, it is hard to know about the disruption industries. These industries don’t pop up like bubbles and burst away, some really intelligent yet sly people beneath the rubble keep pumping CO2 upwards, regularly. These are the people which I want to talk about. Those exceptionally gifted and privileged guys and girls, who by their cunning intelligence, befuddle us the tax-payers in their luminous and ludicrous business offers, and then rest is the history (and present). The immortal spirit of ‘more’ in us makes honey-trapped in these traps now and again, without any significant learning.

The problem here, is not with the public who gets bamboozled by maleficent deals. But, the irresponsible and unempathetic leaders we as society are creating. In today’s highly influential ecosystem of back to back startups, it is hard to shoo away the leaves and see what’s behind. Talking about the leaders’ recklessness and stubbornness from ‘distance’ raises many eyebrows, but the world has facts to back this statement. If somebody lately is following news (on markets and businesses) then he/she may know about big blunders and fiascos in corporate worlds, both domestically and internationally.

I.

You can buy a fleet of 20 to 40 Airbus commercial planes, and still have money left to buy a couple of Rollsroyces, if you have $10 billion (of taxpayers’) money. Ten billion dollars is a staggering amount to imagine, leave alone banking them, especially for us Indians when the ridge between currencies is drifting. But the value doesn’t feel much skeptical to invest when one is surrounded by top senators of state, wall street kingpins and fortune 500 ceos. Yes, it’s Elizabeth Holmes from Theranos, whom I’m talking about. Elizabeth sold a stellar blunder to the world promising to elevate the humanity to previously-dreamed of highest health standards. Just a box, that’s all you need to know whether you are suffering (or not) from any disease. Elizabeth Holmes kept reassuring investors and other normal people about the magical box and its breakthrough health capabilities, till the wall street shook by the fallout of Theranos. Elizabeth on the fundamentals of skillful deceit and utter nonsense, was able to raise $10 billion of investors’ money. If ten billion feels a grain, then there’s more.

II.

The guy had a brilliant idea to help freelancers work in a place filled with like-minded community, no need of buying/renting spaces on high costs for startupers. But when cracks are deep, they can be momentarily covered, not sealed. While filing IPO, people saw the cracks the guy tried to cover up. The guy is Adam Neumann and cracked was his company WeWork. WeWork was a $47 billion fiasco. Adam Neumann sold the initial ‘we’ to his company for a mind-whopping $5 billion! Adam had copyright ownership of ‘we’ initial, which he sold to his company WeWork and paid himself with five billion dollars.

III.

If someone wants to get rich hard and fast then the way today is the crypto-currency. Crypto-currency is so complex and weary to understand that even the top heads of world’s financial experts and analysts succumbed to a well-articulated ponzi scheme. Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the founder of OneCoin fooled people in her cloudy business of mining crypto-currency with help of educational materials. The person had to buy a pack of educational material ranging from a few hundred Euros to thousands of Euros. These packs contained tokens which could be used to mine Onecoins. These onecoins then could be exchanged with Euros and then transferred to their virtual wallets. The onecoin miners were fake, currency exchanging organizations were fake, onecoins were fake, all in all, the whole business model was fake and aimed at looting investors off their money. With such mesmerizing expertise of building a fraudulent company which strips off investors of their money, and master oratory skills on pedal, Dr. Ruja managed to amass $15 billion, and then perish. Till date she is aloof from investigators, and public’s money too is aloof.

So, this above-mentioned page long excerpt of scams costs almost $70 billion (and it’s just one page). This amount can place you above Carlos Slim Helu and below Bernard Arnault, giving you a respected #5 position on Forbes’ billionaires list. Joke apart, this three scams are just a drop in the ocean, small-large scams are shaped every now and then in our capitalist world, some reported some unreported. Yet, tomorrow again we will be fooled by some other ponzi schemer at our doorsteps explaining how to be rich through their perceived fast-lane. And we will fall for them.

This dichotomy ‘septumizes’ us into two groups. Leaders and followers. Actually, irresponsible leaders and gullible followers.

There’s not much to do about gullible followers because it is inherent humanness to fall for something shiny and beneficial. We’ve always been like this, from the fire age. We fell for fire. We fell for weapons. We fell for money. We fell for technology. And will fall for AI. So, in the capitalist world, everything that shines is gold for people. Just developing a trait of research & analysis can save us of our hard-earned money and can help us keep our gullible nature at bay.

What’s more interesting are the irresponsible leaders. Our civilizations have given births to both liberal leaders and tyrannical leaders, so it’s not something avant-garde. It is swallowable that in past the reach and impact of tyrannical leaders was comparatively less due to absence of technology (that is before world wars). But today when the technology is growing leaps and bounds, people are living in the age of hyper-connectedness, and quintillions of data is ready for disposal at our fingertips, we humans should have been evolved and enlightened to figure out liberals versus tyrants, responsible versus irresponsible, wise versus charlatan.

But, with the advent of breakthrough technologies, instead of getting fortified, we became more susceptible to frauds and ponzi schemes. With so much knowledge and wisdom sitting in our living rooms, we should’ve been creating leaders who are empathetic and more aware of their responsibilities of leading masses on right pathways. In contrast, the society started churning out leaders who feel that they are supreme decision-takers on behalf of the masses whether they are right or wrong. Bull-headed leaders who feel morally correct to immolate people for achieving their personal greed and financial superiority. Leaders today don’t pack inclusive mindset for general public. ‘Dinosaurus corporations’ (immensely huge) today start on the foundation of ‘serving customers with heart’ spirit, and when their balance sheets start filling up with profits, they careen from heart to brain, and start ‘serving investors and shareholders’. After a certain point, making money ceases to be a necessity and becomes a habit.

Earning money by pushing others off the cliff is how much morally correct?

Leaders today in the startup-world have become more aggressive. Any idea which addresses a problem which has never been addressed before seems like a good business investment. VCs and AIs don’t feel the need to analyse the viability and sustainability of the idea which aims to solve an uncharted problem. It’s been a notion nowadays, drawn from past examples that any ambitious idea which promises to solve an unplumbed problem plus promises good ROI (return on investment), is a good idea, and worthy of investment (Theranos, WeWork). This notion has led to a blast of rise in numbers of unicorns. But, distinct numbers of these unicorns also file for bankruptcy and fail to uphold the sustainability they promised in the beginning. Not all these failure cases make it to the news headlines because they are simply not money-makers for media houses. And many a times even media houses have invested in them, so who would despise one own selves!

After such heavy failures, leaders of these fraudulent ideas don’t feel any remorse. They just cover their greed in the clothes of global uncertainty and lack of coordination. The real motif of theirs – making money, gets served by sacrificing thousands of people, and they feel it morally correct. Earning money by pushing others off the cliff is how much morally correct? But the capitalist environment has made this morally incorrect mindset seem ‘just practical’ in the money world. If businesses were aimed at solidarity then disruptive industries wouldn’t have born.

With hundreds of books printing everyday and thousands of articles published online, society have failed to impart these knowledge and wisdom to the future leaders. There is so much wisdom and knowledge upstream, but there’s not much in the downstream.

Who are the future leaders we fail to teach empathy, sympathy, and universality? The younger generations – the future leaders. It is those who we fail to ‘responsibilize’. Today’s tyrants were young once, and what they learned then, are giving back to the world now.

The young generations learn from their seniors. Parenting plays the biggest chunk of upbringing. If young generations grow up as irresponsible leaders then there’s a serious problem in parenting. Parents when will start teaching empathy, universality and share-with-all kind of teachings to their kids, we can expect responsible leaders in future.

With global advancements in technology and commerce, disruption of older traditional cultures is imminent. In these times, the goal of holding hands and uplifting as many as people possible to good heights (solidarity) should be given more importance rather than the orthodoxy mindset of amassing money on others’ sacrifices, and the greed of power and positions. Young generations should be taught not to fall for the lust of power, position and money. In contrast, a new definition of leaders should be taught to them. Leaders who empathizes with other fellow society-men and works with sincerity and integrity to eradicate societal and global problems by including others in the process, this new definition should be taught. And, also they should be taught that this definition could change in future too, but the spirit of universality shouldn’t.

Why we are witnessing leaders like Adam Neumann, Dr. Ruja Ignatova, Nirav modi, Elizabeth Holmes and several unreported ones, is because society still thrives on the post-industrialization mindset of bull-headed capitalism fuelled by greed and lust. This mindset could change only when we will inject the learnings of books into the upbringing of young generations.

The ship of world is sailing in tumultuous times where every now and then some big forces set up tides in ocean which crashes with the hull, unbalancing the ship. This time the big force rippling the ocean is the sudden and regular influx of technologies into societies. In these times, the world needs responsible leaders whose intentions are of gold and in the process are ready to hold hands with everyone. We need more of Wright brothers and not Elizabeth Holmes, Adam Neumann. We need responsible leaders. But, humans are full of uncertainties. The power of lust and greed has already done much worse to our societies, and it will, if we don’t focus on upbringing younger generations with perceived responsibility. Technology is promising, but are we, is the question.

Meanwhile, seeing present leaders and leaderships, my friend Naman says it true that ‘if you motivate a fool, you get a motivated fool.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s