- Jay Timmons, the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, released a public statement on the US Capitol riot Wednesday.
- The statement was a uniquely powerful piece of corporate communication.
- Insider asked Harvard Business School professor Michael W. Toffel, who studies CEO activism, to help explain why.
- Timmons takes a stance, explains why, and makes concrete demands for change, which is different from messages that other business leaders shared.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
On Wednesday afternoon, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released a statement on its website: "Manufacturers Call on Armed Thugs to Cease Violence at Capitol."
The statement, written by NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons, came out earlier than most other messages from business leaders (3:37 pm Eastern). It conveyed unfettered disgust toward the pro-Trump mob that had stormed the US Capitol earlier that day. And it called on US Vice President Mike Pence to help remove President Donald Trump, who Timmons said had incited the violence, from office.
The message from NAM — the largest manufacturing association in the US, which represents a range of employers — stood out as a uniquely impactful piece of corporate communication. It's an example of a business leader taking a stance, explaining why, and making concrete demands for change.
Even more notable, NAM has traditionally been aligned with the Trump administration's policies; the group was vocal in its support for the Republican Party's tax bill in the lead up to its 2017 passage. As Timmons mentions in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday, he was a longtime Republican Party leader, including a stint as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2004 election.
That didn't prevent him from clearly spelling out what he wants to see happen: "President Trump needs to be held accountable."
NAM did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Insider asked Michael W. Toffel, a professor of environmental management at Harvard Business School who has studied CEO activism, to help dissect Timmons' initial statement. Here's why the text was so powerful.
Timmons placed the blame squarely on Trump
"The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power," Timmons' statement read.
Timmons went further in the Washington Post op-ed, writing that "the president has championed conspiracy theories," egging on his supporters to take back an election that was supposedly stolen from them.
To Toffel, the finger-pointing in the original statement was "pretty startling in its rareness." Most CEO messages didn't mention the root cause of the riot, Toffel said, instead simply denouncing the violence that transpired.
But it's not so controversial to argue that violence and lawbreaking is reprehensible. Timmons took a bolder position by insisting that Trump effectively manipulated some of his supporters into rioting.
Timmons made clear his personal reasons for speaking out
Timmons was able to illustrate why this issue is meaningful to him and to the members of his organization.
"Across America today," he wrote in his statement, "millions of manufacturing workers are helping our nation fight the deadly pandemic that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives." He went on: "But none of that will matter if our leaders refuse to fend off this attack on America and our democracy."
Drawing this kind of connection is good practice.
In a 2018 Harvard Business Review article, Toffel and Aaron K. Chatterji, a professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, argue that the most influential CEO statements have a clear "why." "To influence public policy," they write, "the message has to be authentic to both the individual leader and the business. There should be a compelling narrative for why this issue matters to this CEO of this business at this time."
Timmons makes key demands of US leadership
"Any elected leader defending him," Timmons wrote ("him" is Trump), "is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy."
Timmons also called on Vice President Pence to "seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy."
In other words, Timmons is identifying specific leaders and calling them out for shirking their responsibilities. And that's part of what makes this statement significant, Toffel said. It's not just the rioters who stormed the Capitol who need to be held accountable — it's the lawmakers who enabled that violence.
Timmons' statement seems all the more authentic, Timmons added, because he takes a personal risk by turning against Trump after his longstanding affiliation with the Republican Party. Timmons' message is even more credible because it's a departure from his typical politics in order to protect the workers he represents.
Read more: CEOs are firing employees who stormed the US Capitol after seeing their photos and videos on social media
"Manufacturing is the backbone of the U.S. economy," Timmons writes in the Washington Post op-ed. "Our success, our livelihoods, our businesses, and our families' health and safety all depend on our basic form of government: the great and fragile experiment that is American democracy."
Read the full text of Timmons' memo below:
Armed violent protesters who support the baseless claim by outgoing president Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today, attacking police officers and first responders, because Trump refused to accept defeat in a free and fair election. Throughout this whole disgusting episode, Trump has been cheered on by members of his own party, adding fuel to the distrust that has enflamed violent anger. This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
This is not the vision of America that manufacturers believe in and work so hard to defend. Across America today, millions of manufacturing workers are helping our nation fight the deadly pandemic that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives. We are trying to rebuild an economy and save and rebuild lives. But none of that will matter if our leaders refuse to fend off this attack on America and our democracy—because our very system of government, which underpins our very way of life, will crumble.
Source: Read Full Article