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Greed or Fear?

People of a certain age will remember Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and one of his most famous lines…

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, 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, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

Now, I’m certainly not Michael Douglas, but as much as that one quote has been condemned, over and over again, in business, it’s proven to be truer than most people want to admit. 

Greed and fear rule most people.  Maybe not you, but you might still have those moments – late at night, when you can’t sleep, or towards the end of the month, when some receivables seem to be taking WAAAAYYYYY to long to arrive. 

But what you have created within your business was a fulfillment of your dream – you did so with the firm understanding of why you were doing it.  Your employees might not “get” your why.  To you, it was passion, not just a way to make money.  It was to create systems, to document processes, to further the success of your Dream, Vision, Purpose, and Mission. 

So while the work might have been hard, you understood the end goals.  For your employees and managers, they usually don’t have that goal.   

To them, your company is a paycheck.

Or a benefits package. 

Or a company car. 

It’s a means to an end. 

True, it might be an end they agree with, or approve, or love, but it’s a job

Think of the millions of passionate entrepreneurs who can’t understand why their people didn’t share their passion. 

There are only two reasons, and they are simple.

Greed or Fear. 

Your people are motivated by it more than anything else.

The tools and buzzwords of management, and they are everywhere and have been for decades, NEVER acknowledge this simple fact. 

So despite the intentions of small business owners and managers all over the world, those tools and buzzwords have never worked.

Not empowerment.

Not motivation. 

Not quality teams.

Not leadership training.

Not seven habits.

Not firewalking.

Not reengineering.

Not management by walking around.

Not open book management.



Because they all miss the point:  Greed and fear in the personal life of the employee and the manager all drive them to show up for work every day. 

Fear of what life holds for them.

Greed for wanting more from life and not knowing how to get it. 

The constant worry of “What is going to happen to me?

So the first step of sorting out and developing a business is to understand and accept the truth that greed and fear are everywhere in society and thus, they will be everywhere in your company unless you – and the men and women that work in for you, take steps to change it. 

…And it’s not you that has to solve the challenge for the people who work for you, but you have to force them to see the fear and see the greed that is running their lives.

They are the only ones who can solve it.

They are the only ones that can take responsibility for it.

They have to look greed and fear directly in the face and understand how it impacts them. 

Greed and fear are there, even if you didn’t know it.  You have to find it and understand it, because until you can acknowledge it, you can never ask your people to do so.