Is there anything Australian business can learn from a poor 2nd world country in the middle of nowhere?
This is a tale from Kyrgyzstan. Wanna visit?
From the south just go up through Pakistan, Afghanistan, through Tajikistan and stop before you hit Kazakhstan. Or from the West go through Armenia and into Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea and through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and stop before heading for Mongolia.
You get the idea. It’s sorta like middle earth…it’s the centre of Eurasia but nobody much knows it exists.
Up till the early 1990’s it was the Kyrgyzstan Socialist Republic…one of the outer satellites of the Soviet Union. Russian was the official language and Russia controlled it (though less than 20% Russian population).
Up to the late 1980’s, the USSR was engaged in the cold war and always out to impress. So Bishkek, the capital, (named logically and historically after the back end of the handle of a horse whip which was used to stir goat’s milk!) is full of grand soviet monuments and grand buildings… statements of power and importance!
It was Corporate leadership (at the National and Empire level), out to show its stuff… You couldn’t miss the point… This is grand! Look at me! Look at my power and leadership skills! See what I can do! It was ego enhancement on a global scale!
But the empire was built of cardboard, smoke and mirrors… and it failed.
The USSR collapsed under its own hubris and the economic dysfunction that tried to prop it up.
Those managers and leaders of those grand schemes doubtlessly impressed the party apparatchiks and probably got promotions to the Central Committee or whatever, or a prime dacha on a black sea beach and multiple gold watches at retirement.
But the legacy of that type of corporate leadership is what you see in Bishkek today: Most buildings are crumbling messes, the designs were inadequate, the materials poor and the workmanship shoddy to say the least… And today it’s just so sad to see.
What quickly (and briefly) impressed people then, so lastingly depresses people now.
Just a story from Kyrgyzstan?…Nup! Look around, and in our own style and form, in commerce, industry and government you will still find – even in Australia – this form of ego enhancing self-serving leadership that can also leave such sad legacies. It’s seductive when it seems to be showing results but empires built this way crumble all too soon.
Corporate Leadership practices that are built around ego-enhancement for the leader (or leaders) or aggrandise an ideology or fashionable theme, are good candidates for providing poor long-term outcomes.