Smart Choices

Posted 09.24.2008

Friedman  After absorbing all the news I could about the Wall Street bailout, I thought it was time to move on to another large problem.  So, last night I took up the invitation of my friends at Hooks Book Events and attended a lecture by Tom Friedman, New York Times columnist, author of The World is Flat and his new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded. (Click here for a discussion guide on the book.)

In my last post, I noted that a leader’s job is two-fold: to define reality and offer hope.  By that definition, Tom Friedman is a leader.  The title of his new book sums up his analysis of reality.  The world is becoming increasingly hot (global warming), flat (global connectivity), and crowded (global population growth).  Friedman’s vision of hope is that the United States makes the smart choices needed to lead the world in what he calls the “ET (energy technology) revolution.”  The role of the private sector, he says,  is to develop and deploy the new energy technology.  The government’s role is to tax the old technology and subsidize the new technology.

Flat hot crowded

Friedman told a great story about speaking last year to a group of Chinese auto manufacturing executives.  Through the simultaneous translation system, one of the execs challenged Friedman to acknowledge that after years of Western economies using up resources and emitting CO2, it was China’s turn to do the same thing so that it could catch up.  Friedman’s response was to say, “Sure, it should be your turn. Take all the time you want.  In the meantime, we’re going to clean your clocks while we develop the next great industry in the global economy.”  He noted that the translators apparently had a challenge in translating the phrase, “clean your clocks” into Chinese.

So, what does all of this have to do with leadership?  Maybe a better question is what doesn’t it have to do with leadership?  One way or the other, the U.S. is close to spending $700 billion to resolve the financial crisis.  Clearly, we need to do something about that.  At the same time, there are other issues we need to address to deal with short term pain and create long term gains.  Read Friedman’s new book and then make some smart choices about what you can to do to either lead on these issues or influence those who do.