Leadership in Washington
Written by Daniel Burrus, Business Expert and Futurist
The downgrading of the United States’ credit score after the recent debt-ceiling negotiations is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come. In fact, there’s a predictable cascade of events that this situation cost us. The question now is, can we turn the situation around, get back on a growth track, and avoid some of the negative effects?
First, let’s get to the real issue we’re dealing with. It’s called “indecision.” Leadership in Washington on both sides failed to come to a decisive conclusion on the raising of the debt ceiling—something that, historically, was quite easy. And even though it may seem that a decision was made, in reality it was an indecision that occurred—a decision to postpone the final answer and send it to a committee made up of people who fundamentally disagree with each other.
In other words, instead of the problem being resolved, it’s still out there. That’s not leadership; it’s a huge injection of uncertainty, which results in increased risk. And that’s what Moody’s is looking at—they see that our government isn’t dealing with the real issues and lacks true leadership when we need it most.
Even though some may dismiss the downgrading and say it doesn’t matter, it really does matter. The rest of the world is watching (and in some cases laughing) and wondering why our leaders can’t unite on something as basic as a debt ceiling. And the countries who hold our debt are getting wary as they watch our risk increase.
Everything that happens next is quite expected. The government’s credit rating was downgraded, which led to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae being downgraded too. That means the interest on the U.S. debt goes up, raising the required payments, which again increases uncertainty and risk. And since things are so interconnected financially, it’s easy to see those increased costs cascading all the way down to state governments, as well as to entrepreneurs and the U.S. people. What happens next? People worry (because of the ever-increasing uncertainty) and don’t spend, which puts us on track for anemic growth if not another recession.
Now here’s an important point to remember, and the starting point of how we fix this mess: How you see the future shapes how you act, and how you act shapes the future. So if you see the future as foreboding, uncertain, or less stable, you act differently than if you see it as exciting and full of opportunity. As such, the actions the government has taken are shaping our futureview…and not for the better. In fact, the futureview of many right now is in line with seeing a negative future. And unfortunately, you get what you see.
So, how do we really turn things around? First, we have to reduce the high level of uncertainty. Leaders on both sides of the aisle need to start acting like leaders, not like dictators. Both sides have to come to some agreement and have to make some real decisions so that the rest of the world can regain confidence in the U.S.
We need to unite and start working together in order to make the tough decisions that need to be made, pass laws with clarity, and increase the certainty. In other words, it’s time to stop thinking in terms of “Republican” or “Democrat” and start thinking in terms of “American.” Only then can we get our AAA rating back, get back on a growth path, and change what has been set in motion.
But this will not happen without compromise from both the right and left, because as we know, progress in a democracy is based on compromise. So instead of starting the discussion by focusing on what everyone disagrees on, it’s time to unite and start the conversation by focusing on what everyone can agree on. In fact, the best leaders know that to gain consensus, you first create a list of what joins people together.
With that in mind, here’s one thing everyone should be able to agree upon: Right now there is a mountain of opportunity, but it’s shrouded in a fog of bad news. The opportunity lies within the technology-driven transformation that’s revolutionizing how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train, and educate.
Transformation like what we’re experiencing now creates amazing new opportunities. But if we’re all hunkered down because of the uncertainty and risk we feel, we will not recognize the opportunities, much less take advantage of them.
So can we overcome the current situation and get on a growth track? The answer is yes. But to do so, we must realize one key thing: Now is not the time to hunker down and become fearful. Instead of focusing on all the things we don’t know—and admittedly, there’s a lot we don’t know—we have to focus on what we do know and what we are certain about. When you do, you’ll start to see the vast opportunities waiting for you.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best seller Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends. For more information, please visit: www.burrus.com.
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.