Sunday, July 09, 2006

Peggy Noonan On Second Chances

There was a time when a guy like Ken Lay would be able to hide, change, make up a story and turn around his life says Ms. Noonan. That is true. Part of Mr. Lay's story that has bothered me is the complete lack of empathy with his position. How many leaders like admitting defeat? When the chips are down, smart people, optimistic leaders are like a gambler at the table. The next hand is a winner and they just know it.

Part of big business is gambling, pure and simple. Some of the biggest names in business: Lee Scott of Wal-Mart, Donald Trump, Ken Lay, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch from G.E. make billion dollar decisions that affect thousands of peoples lives. You do not inhabit this position without a certain amount of confidence and risk-taking nature. When a leader like this screws up, it's a big, big screw-up.

Remember when the Twin Towers went down and that whole group of business men and women at the top didn't leave and encouraged everyone to stay because "it would be okay". No doubt, their guts said "RUN!" But, people like this are accostomed to looking fear in the face and doing the unexpected and it all working out okay or even it being a winning decision. Columbia has profiles on those they lost in the Twin Towers collapse.

I have written before about the unevenness of punishment in cases like Mr. Lay's and Jeff Skilling's. Their cases represent so much more than crime. Like Martha Stewart, this is about class-envy and vengence and the satisfaction of the little guy taking the big guy down. And maybe Mr. Lay deserves it all. Maybe, in his heart, his desire was to rip everyone off, to drive his company into the ground and maybe, he enjoyed seeing the thousands of people who counted on his decisions suffer. Maybe he is stupid. Maybe arrogant. Maybe a heartless psychopath who "got his". Maybe. Maybe he's a guy who made a really horrible mistake. And maybe, like Ms. Noonan says, he's a guy who just died of a broken heart.

1 comment:

vj said...

Peggy Noonan's article is beautifully written. I so agree with her. All of us are far more fragile and sesitive then we would want others to know and see. Hurts go deep and with some so deep that they may never heal from it. Perhaps this is a lesson for all of us to be a bit kinder towards each other. To think that people do indeed die of broken hearts is sobering and it places greater reponsibility on all of us who strive to be mature.
Thanks for this post! Very nice!