More Than Money
Issue #35

Money and Leadership

Table of Contents

“The Consummate Leader”

By Pamela Gerloff

When I was growing up I rode a bus to school. It was one of those big yellow school buses that hold lots of children. A world of experience happened on those buses, and it was on that bus that I first developed a concept of leadership. All because of Mr. Torgeson.

Mr. Torgeson was our bus driver. To most of the adult world, he probably appeared to be an ordinary man. I realize now that he must not have ranked high in the social and economic hierarchy, but to those of us who spent time with him every day, he was a consummate leader.

I never heard Mr. Torgeson raise his voice. I never saw him lose his cool. Quiet and steady, calm and peaceful, in his daily actions he served his community. As a result, in some inexplicable way, his presence altered our destinies. On our bus, kids didn't get into fights. On our bus, children showed up on time. On our bus, everyone knew what it felt like to be respected.

This was not so much the case on other buses, or when other bus drivers drove our route. That's how I knew that the difference was Mr. Torgeson.

Contrast this with our cultural images of leadership, exemplified by real estate mogul Donald Trump and his trainees in the reality-TV show "The Apprentice." That kind of leadership is about winning. It's about doing whatever it takes to come out on top. It's about rallying the troops and charging ahead. Above all, it's about making money. For me, it raises this question: Money-centered leadership may create a lot of money, but does it create a better world?

That is the crux of the challenge that faces those who would be leaders with their money in a culture that places so much importance on wealth and its amenities. When making money is what matters in a society-not how ethically it is made, not how humanely employees are treated, not how much good is done with the money once it is made, and certainly not how those who are making the money live their lives-how do you use your money and the influence it brings you to counteract cultural stereotypes about leadership? How do you lead with money in a way that creates a better life for all?

As I was interviewing people for this issue, I noticed something I had not specifically thought about before: that leadership, by definition, occurs in community. A "leader," as a created identity, exists only in relation to others. As David Friedman notes (p. 14), a true leader is here to serve his or her community. Like Mr. Torgeson serving the community of bus-riding children, their parents, and school officials, leaders lead by contributing to the common good, whatever role they play in their community.

This kind of leadership was subtly captured in a story by a Russian author that I once read. It was about a woman who lived a simple life in a community filled with everyday trials and tribulations. She welcomed those who came to her door, provided space for conversation and connection, and gave simply from what she had. Of this woman the author wrote, "She was the one woman without whom the city could not stand."

How many of us are that one woman or man in our own communities? I wonder: What if each of us were to become that one? Not as the stereotyped image of an aggressive and in-command leader, but through the contribution we make by the force of our character, the generosity of our gifts, the integrity of our values, or the simple power contained in the respect we hold for others? Isn't that, in the end, the kind of leadership that creates a better world?

This journal issue is meant to help us examine our assumptions about leadership and money. What are our images of leadership? What does it mean to exercise leadership with, or in relation to, money? How do we lead in ways that help, not hinder, our cause?

Such questions raise others: Who gets invited to lead-and who is kept away from the table? Are you a leader? Do you want to be? What holds you back, and what sets you free to lead?

There is much food for thought in this issue: Bob Kenny's ruminations on the imperfect but far-reaching leadership of America's founders; Robert Fuller's reflections on the problem of "rankism;" Rod McCowan's insights about the influence of money on leadership in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; Ruth Ann Harnisch's practical tips for those who are asked to lead; personal stories chronicling the leadership journey. As always, however, this one publication can only scratch the surface of the topic. The rest of the discussion, reflection, and exploration fall to you. Each of us has our own deeply rooted experiences with leadership. Each of us brings unique insight to this topic. Ultimately, the question this journal issue raises is: What is your leadership role and how will you live it out?

Pamela Gerloff, Ed.D., is editor of More Than Money Journal . Her prior publications and consulting work in schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations has focused on learning, growth, and change. She holds a doctorate in human development from Harvard University.

Editorial Policy: The views expressed in More Than Money Journal are not necessarily those of More Than Money. We encourage and support respectful dialogue among people of diverse viewpoints. In each journal issue, we provide a range of perspectives on a topic to stimulate reflection, conversation, and inspired action.


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