I attended the Council of PR Firms’ Critical Issues Forum last week. It was terrific from start to finish. The lunchtime interview was with David Gergen, American political consultant and presidential advisor during four administrations. He is currently Director of the Center for Public Leadership and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. I often watch him on CNN too and am always interested in what he has to say. Several of his comments are worth repeating:
- Business is on probation. Perception of big business is at an all time low. CEOs are needed who can play a role in rebuilding the image of business. CEOs might give some thought to gathering all their industry associations to attend the ultimate summit on rebuilding this country’s business reputation once and for all.
- Subprime leadership, not subprime mortgages, brought down this economy. One way to restore leadership reputation would be to spend more time committing resources and time to the greater social good. Many companies now understand this and should be proud of their efforts to be good corporate citizens. Gergen mentioned how the graduating class of 2009’s Harvard MBAs developed an oath to create value ethically and sustainably. This idea appears to be gaining ground and other universities are committing to its principles. Maybe business leadership can be restored from the ground up.
- The death of Walter Cronkite was more than it appeared on the surface…it was the passing of an age. There is a growing viciousness on the blogosphere that is pervading our political culture and media outlets. Gergen mentioned that it is getting increasingly difficult to even know where to advertise due to the unpredicatability of various media environnments. I have to agree with him that this age of name-calling has grown worse under President Obama than it was under former President George W. Bush. And that is no easy feat. Media’s reputation is falling faster than business leaders’ because of the mean-spiritedness that we see all around.
- Civility has left the house. Gergen remarked that he heard President Obama mention recently that he had to figure out a way “to make civility interesting.” This is a very big idea that might take the heavens to turn around but would be well worth the try. Presidential thought leadership at its best.
The interview touched on many points that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about. How do we restore the reputation of business to benefit us all? How do we restore the reputation of media that seems to enjoy attacking people’s points of view? How do we build our reputation for resilience when we appear to be so intractable?