Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Executive Careers in Limbo

It's time for a reality check on executive careers.

Red-hot growth in any sector of the economy is starting to sound like a thing of the past. The Obama administration, in their own words, is committed to a slow steady climb to stability - not a go-go return to prosperity.

The belief is that rapid growth leads to bubbles in the economy ... not to sustainable expansion. They advocate and appear ready to regulate into existence, a tortoise-like "slow and steady wins the race" philosophy. An approach that may prove to be painfully slow for many in the work force who aspire to move upward.

Career growth mirrors economic growth. If the administration has its way, it will take longer to advance up the corporate ladder. Opportunities will be fewer. Executive salaries won't rise and, in some cases, may actually decline. Gaining admission to the C-suite will be pushed further and further into the future.

The cost of the free market

According to Austan Goolsbee, a key Obama economic advisor, government intervention is the solution to sustainable growth. His assertion is that vigilant regulatory oversight will prevent the likelihood of a too rapidly expanding economy ... which he and apparently others in power, see as the cause of the bubble and bust cycles.

I, too, am a proponent of oversight when its goal is to detect, prevent and correct system abuses, but not when its objective is to deliberately retard growth.

And while I totally agree that the lack of regulation and oversight contributed mightily to the current economic crisis, it seems that it was the government officials responsible for overseeing and regulating financial institutions and practices who were asleep at the wheel.

Now they're waking up and you have to wonder why they're not simply enforcing the regulations that were previously ignored. Why is legitimate, robust economic expansion considered a system abuse?

Isn't that what capitalism is all about?

Goolsbee and his colleagues believe that too much expansion poses a threat to the economy. I just can't figure that one out. Expansion equates to job creation. I thought that was exactly how the economy would get out of this downturn.

What message does this send to those who are in ... and those who aspire to executive careers?

Plausible expectations

Fast-track executive careers will take a hit if government manipulation leads to a slowdown in potentially high-growth industries while job creation in fields dependent on lower-income employees will most likely be encouraged as a way to alleviate unemployment.

After all, if you're not eager to achieve rapid growth, how many leaders do you really need?

The silver lining

Should this scenario actually take hold, those who are ambitious and accomplished will not sit idly by and watch the grass grow. Many of the country's best and brightest will embark upon entrepreneurial ventures immune from government intervention while others will seek opportunities abroad.

And a new industry may be born ... business consultants specializing in slow growth. No training required.

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