Posts Tagged ‘Leadership in 1980 vs 2012’


Another Republican Convention; Another Reagan Canonization

August 31, 2012

I admit, it was comforting, that there was honor paid to something other than the Tea Party, and it almost made me yearn for those days to return.  Ah yes, the 1980s….

I know time distorts facts, especially as one ages, and these are quick thoughts, not fact-checked, but I think I remember them fairly accurately:

  • We were ecstactic if unemployment fell below 7.5%
  • I paid an interest rate of over 10% (feels like I remember heading towards 13% – but maybe not) when I purchased my home.
  • I paid more for my new 1985 Pontiac (with no adjustment for inflation over more than 25 years) than I paid for the 2010 Mini-Cooper Clubman.
  • As a Vice President of a start-up division at Carlson Companies, my salary was in the low $40,000s. (yes, I KNOW all other Vice Presidents made significantly more – but I was the first Woman VP in CMG- in those days, you took what you could get.  Only because I out-smarted the boys when I wrote the marketing plan to create the division, and got unanimous consensus that the position I eventually filled had to be equal to the VP of Marketing for traditional services was I able to hold out for the title. (Shame on me for not getting salary consensus ahead of time!). 
  • I don’t remember the price of gas, and do not want to risk the distortion falling off lips of today’s Republicans as they shout that gas prices have DOUBLED from Bush to Obama.  Again, I admit, details are starting to evade my brain, but I sure do remember every week in 2005 filling up my tank for $75 as I drove to Rochester to spend time with my mom – in a time when I was only working part-time, recovering from a devastating fall, and surviving only because of assistance from my family.  Maybe Minnesota is just different – I have not found the  $6+/gallon gas prices  Republicans swear we now  have anyplace this year.  But, unfortunately, what I paid for gas in the 1980s escapes me.
  • I read the daily Jeanne Dixon horoscope so I would know ahead of time if Mrs. Reagan would allow President Reagan to venture forth and make some news – now that whole thing was most likely a Democratic myth, but it made for good humor, and was a great diversion from my own worries as I started each day!
  • I respected President Reagan although I did not necessarily agree with all his views.  No one called me a traitor if I did not bash him.  Yes, in those days, respect for one another was allowed!  We tried to debate on issues not necessarily personalities; of course, it did not always work, but we did try and we did respect one another.  That change in America did not occur until Gingrich arrived on the scene during the Clinton Administration…and the rest is history as it’s been a downhill spiral ever since.
  • I was then, like now, an engaged citizen with a strong personal interest in European affairs, so I remember carefully following news on both the USSR and East Germany and their pending crumble. So, I understood and applauded the Great Theatrics and (low risk) of Reagan’s symbolic stance in Berlin as he demanded “Tear Down This Wall.” Like all Americans of the day, I think, I was proud of his ability to pull it off.    I was also bright enough to understand the gesture as taking advantage of a great PR moment while signaling “we’ll stand with you” to those taking the risk to apply the pressure to our “Cold War’ enemy. 
  • I did not buy-in to “Trickle Down” economics and felt exonerated when Reagan indeed, had to raise taxes to stall off the rising debt and make our country work.
  • And near the end of his administration, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, when on occasion, he did not seem to be tracking with what was immediately happening around him…I innocently thought the shooting and the pressures of the Office were simply starting to take its toll on a man of his age.  Taken in perspective now that I have some experience with dementia in parents and siblings, I wonder if the fun we had with the horoscope stories were simply Nancy Reagan trying to protect the country and the man she loved from publically acknowledging the beginnings of a dreadful disease.

Every party has its heroes so if the Republicans feel they have to reach back to Reagan to find successes they are proud of, so be it.   But from my perspective, those days were not Nirvana nor have subsequent Republican administrations achieved that status, and we should not be deceived into thinking they were or will be again.

And in this upcoming struggle, after six years, I now know WHO Romney is – a nice guy who somehow must have been “tricked” into using his money to conduct the most destructive and negative primary campaign I have ever witnessed…but I STILL do not know what he thinks about the issues, what his plan is to fix the problem, or how he expects to accomplish it.  I’ve lived in the corporate world, too.  I know a lofty plan is nothing unless it is backed up with facts and a detailed budget…so that a simple test I learned in business in the Seventies can be applied:

Is it REAL?  Can we WIN?  What’s It WORTH?  What’s the RISK?

Romney is begging us to TRUST his 20th century business acumen and let him apply the same to the issues we are facing in the future as we move forward on a NEW playing field, in the 21st century. 

Unfortunately, I am still a player in the business world; recognizing the changes; trying to learn how I can do a better job of collaboratively managing that business, trying to absorb the last 20 years of brain research that throws most of what we knew about learning, motivation, commitment and leadership out the window. Even when I am committed to it, I find it hard to deliver, without occasionally defaulting to a style that is old-fashioned and ineffective.

Go for it buddy, but if you win the election, you will still have to learn the world that lays before you. And you will be surprised when you learn that 1980s employees trained to do as they are told by the boss are not the same as “We the People” in the United States today.   And even you do not have sufficient funds and support for all the negative campaign ads you may want to wage against the “people” to get them to reluctantly fall in line.