General Motors filed for bankruptcy earlier today, in a move expected by many. While I don't want to pile on, at least in this blog, it does make me wonder just what the leadership might have been thinking, or whether it was ever thinking, to let things get to this point.

I remember the hullabaloo last year when the top car executives all took relatively expensive trips in getting to Washington D.C. to ask the government for money. They got crucified royally. I didn't think that was warranted, but I did think that maybe, if they'd thought about it before doing it, that the public perception of it all would have been much different. Or would it; sometimes Americans are a cynical bunch, and I'm not sure we the public wouldn't have felt we were being put on if all of them had shown up driving their own cars, and their cars were a couple of years old. Sometimes, there's no right way to do a thing.

On the other hand, the way they showed up gave the perception that they really weren't in touch with what was going on in America, the job losses, foreclosures, repossessions,... At the time, it reminded me of the first President Bush on one of his trips across America encountering his first checkout line scanner and being amazed at the technology, when the rest of us had seen that technology for years already. Talk about looking like you're out of touch with what's going on in your own country. Perception is sometimes reality, and the perception that the top has no idea what's going on with the "regular folk" won't help you.

Leaders have to know what's going on. They can't always stay removed from everyone else and rely on reports and flunkies to tell them what's going on. They have to get around their own companies, see what people are doing, talk to them, and listen to them. They have to see it for themselves; otherwise, they're going to end up looking weak and inept later on.

I hope GM survives this one; I hope leaders of companies everywhere else heed the warning this is giving.