Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Some CEOs think being the boss is all about acting the part.

Often, that's exactly what it is. Acting.

They behave like CEOs are supposed to behave. They say the things that CEOs are supposed to say.

But leadership doesn't involve acting the part, but really being it.

There are moments when those who work for you need to know not just your status or your position, but the values you espouse. And the ones you don't.

Please watch then, Lt. General Jay Silveria, superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy.

He'd heard that some Air Force cadets had pasted racist messages on boards at the academy's preparatory school.

He could have "dealt" with it quietly. He could have announced that there had been reprimands.

Instead, he gathered all 4,000 cadets, made them stand to attention and then offered them five minutes not of discipline, but of the personal humanity he expects everyone to follow.

Unlike so many in public life, he asked all the cadets to grab their phones, record what he was about to say and use it as a template for their future conduct.

"You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being," he said.

He said he wanted to speak in order to respond to racist language with "a better idea."

Leadership begins and ends with offering a better idea, something that people can believe in and follow.

Some might observe that America rather needs that currently.

What Silveria believes in is the power of the diversity within the military. In his view, the fact that the Air Force comprises people from every walk of life, every race, every upbringing is what makes it more powerful.

"That's a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas," he said.

He added: "No one can write on a board and take away our values."

Then he offered the most important thought.

"If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out," he said.

Whether it's about gender or race, if you can't behave with fundamental human decency, Silveria wants you to leave.

You might think that his attitude and his very simple words don't apply to business.

But it's worth examining just how much racial and gender issues pervade even the most supposedly sophisticated of industries.

Hullo, Silicon Valley.

There, they spout many words about making the world a better place. Yet the behavior of far too many tech types reflects exactly the attitudes Silveria wants to dismiss.

In the end, this leader expects certain values to be embraced.

As all leaders should.

Published on: Sep 29, 2017
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