Greed is Good; Greed is Not Good — Some Thoughts about a Pretty Big Issue

GreedisGood-300x241Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.
Fictional Gordon Gekko, in the film Wall Street, 1987

The fact is that solving problems is hard. If a given problem still exists, you can bet that a lot of people have already come along and failed to solve it. Easy problems evaporate; it is the hard ones that linger.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Think Like a Freak 


Is it possible to be too greedy?

Of course it is.

Is it possible to be blind to one’s own greed?

Of course it is.

But… it is also possible to not be “tough enough” on people who need to be more disciplined, more diligent, more focused?

Yes… this too is possible.

Call this a “big question” that I am thinking about…

I think there are some people, and some companies, that are too greedy. Don’t you?

{Is it possible to have the right amount of greed? I don’t know. “Greed” is one of the seven deadly sins. From Wikipedia — Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess.”}

And, by the way, I don’t think I have ever read or heard a genuinely greedy person admit “I am greedy – and such greed is bad.”

But, I am also coming around to a couple of other realities. Like:

A boss can be too soft on people, and thus, end up losing – losing money, losing market share, losing on deals and money to be made…

Recently, I’ve noticed a few articles on how a boss needs to toughen up. Here’s one: Why I Regret Being a Nice Boss – If I could have a do-over, I would set tougher boundaries with my employees by Laura Smith. From the article:

The idea that we must tell adults what to do and exactly how to do it is a hard pill to swallow for most.

And, though I liked the book, and learned much, I confess to being bothered by Peter Thiel’s Zero to One in one very specific way. If you read it carefully, it is a strong argument in favor of monopolies – monopolies that crush the competition. And, if that approach is the one to adopt, then the greater good for Company X inevitably comes at the cost of jobs and security and general well-being for people in companies A through W…

So… how to think these days.

Recently, I heard another strong and well stated defense of “Servant Leadership.” But, even though I am big, big fan of Robert Greenleaf and Servant Leadership, sometimes I get the sense that people adopt the approach because it is good for all the people, but because it is a better way to get ahead and crush the competition. You know: “I’ll treat my people well in order to leave the other folks out there in the dust…”  (This speaker did not leave that impression — but others have…)

I guess I am asking how a company pursues a dominant, truly financially healthy position — the top spot — without it hurting the people who work at all the number twos out there.

I don’t know the answer to this…   but I’m thinking about it.

Or, to quote Paul Krugman, in his provocative takedown of Amazon today, Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.:

The robber baron era ended when we as a nation decided that some business tactics were out of line. And the question is whether we want to go back on that decision.


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