To say this has been a remarkable couple of years on Wall Street is an understatement. Amid all the turmoil, one question comes up again and again – how could the stumbles, trials and tribulations keep happening? One could frame this question another way – where was the leadership?
Last night, I was talking with my mother, who was born during the Great Depression and grew up on a farm in rural South Dakota. She was understandably worried about her retirement investments, and was more than a little upset by the current crisis. “It just comes down to greed, plain and simple” she said. It’s hard to argue with that explanation.
Like many of her generation, Mom has lived her life by a few simple principles, which got me to thinking that we ought to require all corporate CEOs to read the “Mom Creed” each morning before they go to work. If your Mom is like mine, it might include some of these simple rules:
Do the Right Thing. Apply this litmus test – is this a decision that Mom would be proud of?
- Save for a Rainy Day. Save your money - you might need it one day. You never know when bad times might come back around.
- Pull Yourself Up by Your Own Bootstraps. You are accountable for your actions, and for making your own way in this world. Don’t count on others to bail you out.
- Measure Twice, Cut Once. Take your time and do the job right the first time. Do your homework, plan and prepare. Make sure you know all the angles on a job before proceeding.
- Learn from Your Mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. As you make mistakes in life, learn from them – there’s no reason to repeat them.
- All You Have is Your Reputation. Be honorable and tell the truth. The respect of others is everything. Your reputation is all you really have; build and nurture it – once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
- Serve Others. You’re not in this life just for yourself. What did you do today to help others? How did you contribute to the greater good?
Could we have avoided this mess if everyone followed Mom’s advice? Maybe not – maybe it’s more complicated than that. But I have a suspicion that some of these “rules to live by” were severely violated over the past several years. It seems we’re overdue for a dose of Mom’s simple wisdom. What do you think?