It is a riveting story about:
- The life of the man, Mikahil Khodorkovski, who was the richest man in Russia in 2003.
- The transformation of a man totally devoted to wealth to someone who put advocacy for commercial and governmental ethics above his own liberty
- The astonishing ways in which multi-billion dollar deals and wealth transfers happened in Russia over the last two decades
- The ongoing clash between this man and Vladimir Putin.
As I say, it is a great read as a story, but it goes far beyond that. Watch for:
- The things that triggered the changes in his priorities. We may or may not want to make the same changes in focus. The main point is to not be blind to similarly important triggers in our own experience. The importance of reflection so that we don’t pass up important opportunities for growth and impact
- How he acts in the face of the collateral damage faced by his employees.
- The range of social and political objectives that his insights as a business person led him to pursue. It is an unusual, rich and informal “CSR” (Corporate Social Responsibility) agenda.
- How easy it is to do business in the U.S. relative to what you read in the article.
- The importance and dangers of the business/government relationship in a country.
- The critical role of transparency in ensuring the operation of a market system.
An economist recently noted that in U.S. politics, protecting and nurturing free enterprise is a popular theme, but almost all of the ever-growing contributions and lobbying are on behalf of specific businesses, not a healthy business system. It is an important distinction. The article describes one example of what it can look like when a government works primarily on behalf of specific individuals and their businesses.
I have no illusions that this man did everything right. But let’s give credit for good things that people try to do sincerely. And let’s let ourselves be inspired to do good in addition to doing well, particularly here, where we can do so with relative ease.
Read the online Vanity Fair article here.