A Message from Vaclev Havel — We Need A Workplace Built for Human Beings

We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional. (Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken)
(quoted in Encouraging the Heart:  A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner.


One of the great struggles in this or any era is this struggle – how do we maintain our common humanity?

Vaclev Havel

I was reading the brilliant speech given by Vaclev Havel when he assumed the presidency of his country  – still Czechoslovakia at the time — delivered in Prague, January 1, 1990.  (It’s available here).  He begins it with some withering honesty.

My dear fellow citizens, 
For forty years you heard from my predecessors on this day different variations on the same theme: how our country was flourishing, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us.
I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you.

But it is this paragraph that grabbed me most strongly.  It is not a new accusation, but he stated it so very clearly.

The previous regime – armed with its arrogant and intolerant ideology – reduced man to a force of production, and nature to a tool of production. In this it attacked both their very substance and their mutual relationship. It reduced gifted and autonomous people, skillfully working in their own country, to the nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy and stinking machine, whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could not do more than slowly but inexorably wear out itself and all its nuts and bolts.

As I have written often, the question of jobs – where will the jobs be? – is, I believe, the great question of this era.  But in the pursuit of answers to that question, we also have to answer this:  how shall we view the people who do these jobs?  The answer has to be this:  as human beings.


(Yes, this speech is in the excellent volume/compilation Lend Me Your Ears, edited by William Safire – which I am reading, and re-reading, very slowly).

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