Making a Difference: Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets

Warren Buffett is the first person in my yearlong series about difference makers.

Where do your moments of clarity occur?

Mine tend to come in  one of two places: the bed or the shower. Whether half awake or fully wet, I then face the challenge of holding the thought until I can get to my computer or a pen.

I had one such moment while in the typically half-groggy state in which I awake in the early morning.

It was about this blog.

At the end of the past two years, I’ve taken some time to assess what I wrote about during the year and where I want to go in the following year.

In 2009, the first full year I did the blog, I wrote almost exclusively about books and in a review-type format.

Last year I branched out to share more personal reflections.

The other morning, while not quite awake, an idea hit about how to unify these different strands and give the project a focus for the year:

Making a difference.

I know this term has all kinds of treacly overtones and has been used so often as to raise the very legitimate question of whether it actually means anything at all.

I understand that.

Still, for the purposes of what I believe at this moment I want to do this year, I like it.

My plan throughout the year is to write about, discuss, ask questions and offer my thoughts about individuals, groups, organizations, communities and even nations who are making a difference in the world.

Two quick points.

This won’t be a rigid focus for every blog post, but rather an overarching framework that anchors us and gives us direction.

Also, the difference need not be a positive one.

I just read a book yesterday about Haiti by Phillipe Gerard that argues strongly that the country’s leaders have had a strongly negative impact on the nation once known as “The Pearl of the Caribbean.”

The series begins with a look at Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets, a short book recommended to me by my brother-in-law Josh Kelly.

Josh’s prior reading recommendations to me included Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal, a business novel that introduced me to, and helped me understand, the theory of constraints.   He has not steered me wrong, so I welcome the chance to read this slender book written by David Clark and Buffett’s former daughter-in-law Mary.

The pair have collaborated on a number of three earlier books that I have not yet read, and this one looks at Buffett’s key for professional and personal success.

For those not familiar with “the Oracle of Omaha,” they are surprisingly straightforward.

Don’t take on too much debt.

Pick a team of high-quality people, delegate the work to them, and leave them alone to do it.

Lead by the example of your personal conduct.

Act with honesty and honor.

If you make a mistake, admit it.

Be true to yourself rather than meet the expectations of others.

These timeless values may not seem particularly earth-shattering, and the results Buffett has achieved certainly are.

Consistently ranking among the world’s richest people, he lives frugally.  Like Andrew Carnegie before him, he has pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune to charity, the vast majority of which will go to Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundation.

Buffett has come in for his share of criticism due to his lack of participation in the technology sector and his early allocation of capital during the subprime crisis, his company’s support of Moody’s and his support for “Tax the rich” policies, among other items.

Vigorous and open critique are the hallmarks of a democratic society, and he appears unruffled by mot, if not all, of it.

Now in his 81st year, Buffett recently was identified in November by President Obama to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Whatever one thinks of Buffett, his impact is undeniable.

What are your thoughts about Buffett?  Who are your top difference makers? Who should I be learning more about?

It’s time for me to rest a bit before showering, and I look forward to the conversation throughout the year.

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2 responses to “Making a Difference: Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets

  1. I am big fan of buffett. To me he embodies everything that is right about capitalism. The principles he lives by are neither flashy or “cutting edge.” Rather, they work because they are timeless. If the majority of companies lived by those values human society would benefit so much more.

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