Behind Every Good Man…

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

As Samuel Johnson purportedly wrote, ‘The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.’
Give and Take by Adam Grant


Adam Grant, who is kind of our new guru on giving as a way of constructing and conducting business, has an op-ed in this week’s New York Times: Why Men Need Women. This is a really provocative article! Here’s what he says. (I’m going to summarize in my words). Men are selfish. Men are naturally selfish. They have to be pushed, led, cajoled to even think of others — to be less selfish. And it takes a woman (or, maybe a girl) to accomplish this superhuman transformation.

CEOs are among the most selfish. Especially male CEOs.  (And, by the way, in case you have been living in a cave, males make up the vast majority of CEOs).  And this selfishness has serious implications for pay scales, compensation, and many other factors giving shape to our economic, and civic, realities.

Here are some key excerpts from Mr. Grant’s:

  • What makes some men miserly and others generous? What motivated Bill Gates, for example, to make more than $28 billion in philanthropic gifts while many of his billionaire peers kept relatively tight-fisted control over their personal fortunes?
  • …New evidence reveals a surprising answer. The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.
  • …But there was a twist. When Professor Dahl’s team examined the data more closely, the changes in pay depended on the gender of the child that the chief executives fathered. They reduced wages after having a son, but not after having a daughter.
  • Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more caretaking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters’ hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented.
  • …It’s often said that behind every great man stands a great woman. In light of the profound influence that women can have on men’s generosity, it might be more accurate to say that in front of every great man walks a great woman. If we’re wise, we’ll follow her lead.

Here is my observation. We all need someone to lead, nudge, push, and cajole us to do what we should be doing anyway. In other words, it would help if we had all married a good woman, or fathered a girl who became the kind of woman represented by Melinda Gates.

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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