Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln
Lincoln’s birthday is upon us and as we look back in rememberance, we can appreciate the benefits of having had a leader with such genuine strength of character, bold sense of purpose, and lifelong passion for defending American values and ideals. If only he were with us now, at the advanced age of 206, what would he think of how his beloved United States has evolved in the 150 years since that fateful night at Ford’s theater? How would he feel about the way that the federal government has expanded since his death? What would he think of the Oval Office’s current occupant?
Speculative questions like these have no definitive answers, of course, but as we take a moment to reflect on the gratitude we owe to the man who steered our country to safety during its most difficult period, it is still worthwhile to consider the possibilities.
On July 4, 1861, as the Civil War began and the federal government found itself dangerously short of cash, Lincoln asserted, “The people will save the government, if the government itself will do its part.” He was referring to the Revenue Act of 1861, when for the first time in history, the U.S. government levied an income tax on its citizens. The act was replaced and superseded shortly thereafter by the Revenue Act of 1862, requiring those with over $600 in annual income to pay 3 percent in income tax, and those with over $10,000 in annual income to pay 5 percent.
While it may be of interest to translate these numbers into comparable 2015 dollars, or discuss the irony of how the first federal income tax came about with a Republican Congress and a Republican President, what speaks the loudest about this legislation is that it had an expiration date. It was assumed by both Congress and the President that the government would need money in the short term to fund the war; there was simply no alternative.
Our nation was on the brink, so the government, reluctantly and against all precedent, found it necessary to temporarily dip its hands into the people’s pockets with the singular intention of funding its efforts to preserve the union. Thaddeus Stevens, the chair of the House Ways and Means committee admitted, “This bill is a most unpleasant one.” By 1866, this tax was meant to disappear.
Imagine Abraham Lincoln looking at Barack Obama and his four trillion dollar budget proposal with its multitude of tax increases and its aim of indefinitely expanding government bureaucracy. What might Lincoln’s first reaction be? Maybe he would ask what the national emergency is that the government should feel entitled to confiscate such a hefty portion of its subjects’ wealth. Maybe he would focus on the government’s fiscal irresponsibility, and ask why, with all the tax dollars it intends to collect, it is still planning on increasing the budget deficit every year for the foreseeable future. Or perhaps he would be curious as to know when all of the proposed taxes were meant to expire.
More fundamentally, Lincoln would most likely want to know what happened to the role of government, and why it sees fit to intrude so regularly in the lives of its citizens. Progressives will counter that the world has changed in the last century and a half, and that people both expect and demand more of the federal government than they did in Lincoln’s time.
But in the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln made reference to a “government of the people,” not a people of the government. In our nation’s early years, there were but handful of federal laws; today there are thousands. Government was once merely on the periphery of our society, preserving the peace and maintaining law and order.
Today, government is everywhere. Everything is regulated, except of course government growth. Neither Lincoln nor our Founding Fathers would recognize what our federal government has become.
So what would Lincoln say? If he were president, would he enact laws through executive orders that the people through their elected members in Congress would never pass, in direct violation of the Constitution?
We can only speculate. But a statement he made in Obama’s hometown of Chicago back in 1858 might give us some insight:
“Let us then turn this government back into the channel in which the framers of the Constitution originally placed it.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.