Dec. 21, 2004
Kosovo And CEOs: Examining life's bottom line.

Tenuous seems the connection between Kosovo, a once-autonomous region within Serbia, and any number of CEOs. Kosovo, with an agrarian economy now in shambles, is neither an enticing market nor an attractive production base. Its roads and other infrastructure are inadequate to the demands of even the most rudimentary of manufacturing industries. Kosovo's proud people are nevertheless unskilled in the work of most industries. Indeed, in Kosovo, a place under siege for so many of these past months, the focus of life is on survival, not profits or productivity. The connection between Kosovo and any number of CEOs seems so tenuous, except for this: The questions that CEOs regularly ask in the course of their businesses are the 10 operating questions that they and the rest of the world now need to be asking and answering about Kosovo: 1. Why is this an issue for us? 2. What are the options for action? 3. What are the consequences of inaction? 4. What resources are required? 5. What are our constraints? 6. What are our goals? 7. What is our strategic direction? 8. Where do we expect to be one year, two years, five years, or even 10 years from now? 9. Do we understand our goals and strategic direction? 10. How well, and to whom, have we communicated our goals and direction? Tenuous seems the connection between Kosovo and any number of CEOs, except for this: CEOs are human beings, and not just the leaders of businesses. "We will need, perhaps, to create more activity outside the purely economic sphere, where the motivation will be unconnected with efficiency and more to do with intrinsic satisfaction and worth," writes Charles Handy, the one-time Shell International Oil Co. executive and London Business School professor, in The Hungry Spirit (1997, Broadway Books). It was human worth that former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Schultz was focusing on when he asked with barely controlled anger at an international business conference in Madrid a few years ago how the CEOs in attendance -- and all the rest of humanity -- could sit on the sidelines and do nothing about the genocide then being carried out in Bosnia. Schultz was not asking the question as a former U.S. Secretary of State -- or as a former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury or U.S. Secretary of Labor. Indeed, he was not asking the question as a former anything -- government official or anything else. He was asking the question as a human being. And he was addressing it to the CEOs in conference in Spain's capital city not because they were captains of industry but because they were human beings. Tenuous seems the connection between Kosovo and any number of CEOs, except for this: In the context of Kosovo, Schultz' question needs urgently to be asked again: Will we sit on the sidelines and watch a people be destroyed? It is a question rooted not in strategy but in humanity. It is a challenging question that not only CEOs should be asking and answering. It is a challenging question that every person should be asking and answering. It challenges us because it asks that we reexamine our core values, our core values as human beings. If necessary, one can begin the process by asking the 10 operating questions posed earlier in this essay. But, it is hoped, that no one will stop with them. Indeed, what seems to be needed is an ongoing dialog -- among people who believe there is a human purpose to be served by engaging in it, who believe that the purpose is both a "proper selfishness," to use Handy's phrase, and unmistakably selfless. Writes Handy: "We should trust ourselves to be both great and good, and if sometimes that trust is misplaced, more often it will be merited, for there is that within all of us which cries out for a better and fairer world." Ask Schultz' question in the context of Kosovo -- and the connection between Kosovo and any number of CEOs is not at all tenuous. It is strong and substantial, not slender or weak.

About the Author

John McClenahen | Former Senior Editor, IndustryWeek

 John S. McClenahen, is an occasional essayist on the Web site of IndustryWeek, the executive management publication from which he retired in 2006. He began his journalism career as a broadcast journalist at Westinghouse Broadcasting’s KYW in Cleveland, Ohio. In May 1967, he joined Penton Media Inc. in Cleveland and in September 1967 was transferred to Washington, DC, the base from which for nearly 40 years he wrote primarily about national and international economics and politics, and corporate social responsibility.
      McClenahen, a native of Ohio now residing in Maryland, is an award-winning writer and photographer. He is the author of three books of poetry, most recently An Unexpected Poet (2013), and several books of photographs, including Black, White, and Shades of Grey (2014). He also is the author of a children’s book, Henry at His Beach (2014).
      His photograph “Provincetown: Fog Rising 2004” was selected for the Smithsonian Institution’s 2011 juried exhibition Artists at Work and displayed in the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., from June until October 2011. Five of his photographs are in the collection of St. Lawrence University and displayed on campus in Canton, New York.
      John McClenahen’s essay “Incorporating America: Whitman in Context” was designated one of the five best works published in The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies during the twelve-year editorship of R. Barry Leavis of Rollins College. John McClenahen’s several journalism prizes include the coveted Jesse H. Neal Award. He also is the author of the commemorative poem “Upon 50 Years,” celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Wolfson College Cambridge, and appearing in “The Wolfson Review.”
      John McClenahen received a B.A. (English with a minor in government) from St. Lawrence University, an M.A., (English) from Western Reserve University, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University, where he also pursued doctoral studies. At St. Lawrence University, he was elected to academic honor societies in English and government and to Omicron Delta Kappa, the University’s highest undergraduate honor. John McClenahen was a participant in the 32nd Annual Wharton Seminars for Journalists at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. During the Easter Term of the 1986 academic year, John McClenahen was the first American to hold a prestigious Press Fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.
      John McClenahen has served on the Editorial Board of Confluence: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies and was co-founder and first editor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown. He has been a volunteer researcher on the William Steinway Diary Project at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and has been an assistant professorial lecturer at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.


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