Who Can Lead the Economy to Recovery?

by Mark Faust

It’s time we stop the cycle of complaining — politicians complaining about President Obama, Obama complaining about Congress and Congress complaining about taxes — when it comes to the stuttering economic recovery.

The truth is, none of these people have that much to do with the growth of our economy. Tax and monetary policy can influence growth, but the onus is on business leadership to take steps now. It’s the leaders in business whose shoulders prop up the economy, and, while they tend to be even more demonized than politicians these days, they are the ones who hold our economic salvation in their hands. The leaders of companies are on the front lines of an international economic war. Their chief strategy to fight this war must begin to encompass a mindset that includes a turnaround mentality to put every facet of American business into an accelerated growth mode. As in war, failure is not an option, and there is only one mission for business leadership at this time — growth.

Based on my consulting experience with such major blue-chip corporations as Proctor & Gamble, IBM, Monsanto, Apple, Syngenta, Bayer and John Deere, I believe that business leaders have a far greater responsibility to Americans than any elected official, and now is the time to own up to that responsibility.

The fate of the jobless, families and children is literally in the hands of business leadership. To not accelerate growth and innovation is to abandon those in dire need. Our C-level executives must begin to adopt the attitude that tolerating mediocrity in their leadership and growth is a sin. In a free market, the recession is a burden on the people but a blessing to business, because it eradicates complacency, which is the opposite of innovation and true growth. It also destroys the enemy of growth and innovation — hubris and pride. It gleans the herd in business, which can sometimes have short-term ramifications for everyone but, in the long run, it creates jobs, opens opportunity and strengthens the economy as a whole.

CEOs should be held responsible for their roles as leaders, more so even than politicians. CEOs and company presidents need to be held to the same type of productivity yardsticks that production and others are held to. However, rather than productivity, the yardstick boards of directors must use with top leadership is the rate of innovation being facilitated throughout a company. Cost-cutting as the only means of growing profits is the tool of inept, derelict and uncreative leadership. When there is a consistent level of mediocre performance in the innovation of a company, the board has only one option with the CEO/President: to allow him or her to leave the position the same way he or she came into the position — fired with enthusiasm.

Since founding Echelon Management in 1990, Mark Faust has worked with Fortune 500 CEOs as well as many turnaround CEOs — from P&G, IBM, Monsanto, Apple, Syngenta, Bayer and John Deere to smaller, closely held organizations, government agencies and nonprofits — on growth and turnaround projects. He has been an adjunct COO, VP of sales, board member/advisor and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and Ohio University.

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