Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why's Jeff Bezos is a leader

In the current issue of Fast Company,'s CEO Jeff Bezos is asked how he justifies his company's big investment in its Kindle portable e-book reader even though it accounted for only $136 million of the company's $19 billion revenues last year. Bezos replies: "We want to plant seeds that grow into big trees, and that may take five to seven years. You also have to be willing to repeatedly fail -- and to be misunderstood for long periods of time."

At a time when so many major companies and even entire industries are collapsing because of the failure of their so-called leaders to invest in the long run, Amazon stands out as a rare exception.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Walk the Walk" Watch: Are bank CEOs investing their own money in the banks they run?

Are the chief executive officers of major banks investing their own money in their companies alongside the massive infusion of capital from the taxpayers? For the most part, they're not. In his Moneybox column today on, Daniel Gross writes about "the spectacle of eight bank CEOs filing into a House committee room on Wednesday to describe precisely what taxpayers are getting for the hundreds of billions of dollars they've pumped into the financial system...

"Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., noting that the government had injected $165 billion into the eight banks represented at the hearing, asked how much each CEO had invested in his company in the past six months. 'And zero is a number,' he said. For five, zero was the number. JPMorgan Chase CEO James Dimon and Citi CEO Vikram Pandit noted that they had put $12 million and $8.4 million into their respective companies. Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, recalled that he bought 400,000 shares but couldn't remember the dollar value of the purchase."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will Michelle Obama be more like Hillary Clinton as First Lady--or Eleanor Roosevelt?

A recent New York Times article on Michelle Obama looks at her emerging role as a close adviser to the president as well as a compelling public advocate for his proposed policies. While the article compares the new First Lady to one of her predecessors, Hillary Rodham Clinton, it already seems to me that a better comparison may be to Eleanor Roosevelt, who didn't hold an official policy-making position but nonetheless was a forceful and effective public presence, especially on issues involving compassion and caring for the less fortunate members of society.

I would't want to push the comparison between Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt too far, though. For one thing, ER's political positions were often much more progressive than FDR's, and ER didn't hesitate to oppose her husband's policies in her own articles, books, and speeches. The Obamas seem much more closely aligned politically, and Michelle's early role has been as loyal supporter. Also, ER had already raised her children by the time she was First Lady, while Michelle Obama's role as White House mother evokes images of the Kennedy era. Still, I suspect that Eleanor Roosevelt's highly effective role as public crusader and behind-the-scenes counsel will be the best model for how Michelle Obama will exert her influence in this administration.