Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Could Corporations Learn from One Lady?

I returned today from the funeral of my Aunt Judy Feldman. She passed away at the age of 83 after a blessedly short battle with cancer. She was a dynamic, fun-loving, artistic women with an infectious laugh. She and my Uncle Sid had been married for 62-years and still walked around the mall holding hands.

The funeral was a wonderful tribute to her life. It was a non-traditional, non-religious service led by her son-in-law. He began his eulogy by saying that the service "was for a Jewish woman, it would be led by a Catholic man, and it would follow the Quaker tradition of sharing thoughts and memories". We all listened to some of her favorite music and then her two daughters--my cousins-- talked about their mother. Others of us gathered were then invited to share memories and stories. Finally, my uncle thanked us for coming and said that he hoped all of us would find the same good fortune he had found to be in love with someone that was so delightful for so long. His message was that we should not feel sorry for him, but rather that we should be happy for what he had for so long.

I sat and listened before I got up to speak. I had always loved my aunt and uncle dearly. They were always two extremely important people in my life, but I could never explain why. I began to understand. Virtually everything I was going to say about my aunt was the same as what had been said previously. It struck me then that I loved her so much because she loved unconditionally. She shared her love with others and asked for nothing in return. She treated everyone the same. I had felt wonderful in her presence and loved being with her, but I wasn't necessarily special. She made everyone feel special. It was never superficial. It was genuine caring. She truly listened and connected with those around her.

There is a new Arthur Page Society paper that seeks to establish the "Authentic Enterprise" as the phrase to capture the needs of the corporation in today's environment. After listening to the stories today about my aunt and her authenticity, I started to wonder: How many corporate executives are authentic enough to lead authentic corporations? How many really listen and care about their employees, their customers, their investors, their communities, their critics, and other stakeholders? Most want people to listen to them and feel that they deserve to be listened to, but how many spend time listening and caring about others?

My Aunt was a truly remarkable woman who I was fortunate to know. She was authentic. She treated everyone the same. What you saw was what you got and what you got was good. She could have taught so many companies how to be authentic, if they had only had the good fortune to have known her.