You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times (Jesus, Matthew 16:3b).

Borders Books is beginning liquidation of all merchandise in its 399 stores as the chain prepares to cease operations. Over 10,000 employees will lose their jobs, though I suppose those in the 30 stores being considered for purchase by Books-a-Million have a chance of retaining theirs.

The executives at Borders blame the economy and the e-book revolution. A long-time employee tells a different story. If I recall correctly, he said he had seen the writing on the wall for some years, and that the executives were slow to act on new developments in the book world. This, while Amazon was coming out with Kindle and Barnes and Noble with Nook.

Better dead than read, I guess.

Over and over the story is repeated in organizations from the government to the church to businesses of various kinds. Ordinary working people pay the price for the incompetence and intransigence of top “leadership.” I’ve heard it over and over: CEOs blame some other factor, some outside circumstance, and never their own poor skills and lack of vision.

True, no one can foresee every new development or control forces in the marketplace or politics. But leaders with vision can and should give up their hold on power and the status quo, be nimble, and develop and insist on systems and procedures that respond quickly to new possibilities. Being proactive is always better than being reactive.

What did Jesus say? “Those who try to save their lives will lose them.”

I guess the folks at the Borders headquarters didn’t read those Bibles they had in stock, now 40% off.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham