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14 2012

CEOs Try Modeling Leadership, But Haven’t All Answers (Part 1)

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

In post after post, we review examples of how leadership needs to evolve beyond one person at the top pretending or being seen as having all the answers. 75% of CEOs say they want subordinate leaders who collaborate (which is to say people who recognize they don’t have all the answers) so these individuals are equipped to lead organizations to innovate effectively. Not all CEOs live up to this themselves, but we have some excellent examples (next post), not to mention mountains of research and case studies showing this works best and is the right approach. But. we continue to see the media hyping the opposite – playing up CEOs as if what they do and say as individuals is the be all and end all. Several striking examples hit the news in the last week or so as typical when elections approach. A couple of obvious public missteps make the point that CEOs, like everyone else, have wide-ranging opinions, but can’t necessarily be regarded as authorities, as some would like us to believe. First, most outrageously of course, Jack Welch commenting on the US jobless figure, which declined to its lowest rate since Obama’s inauguration. While Obama supporters were excited by hopes this will push the agenda they prefer over the top, Jack (who sits squarely with the other side of the ballot) instantly went public with an outright statement that the figures had to have been fudged to favor his least favorite candidate, not just by the statisticians he said, but by Obama’s “Chicago boys.” Jack, Jack, Jack, where in pity’s name do you think any President/CEO, even one as supposedly all-powerful as POTUS, could possibly grab the clout to force that sort of falsified figure. Did you have that sort of power? Would anyone try it after the debacle of Enron’s effort? Do we or the media really think this is possible? What CEO-level executive in their right mind would do such a thing, even if they could, especially when it’s sufficiently in advance of an election that it would surely come out and totally destroy their chances and credibility? This is insulting on so many levels it’s totally unworthy. When challenged on the Anderson Cooper show to recant and admit the charge was completely unfounded, the best Welch would do was say, “I should have made it a question rather than a statement.” Big difference? NOT! In subsequent days he continued on to point out weaknesses in the way the stats are calculated, ignoring the fact that stats are never perfect and that what counts is that the measures remain essentially the same from period to period for reasonable comparison. These are the same measures that until this latest report were being used to beat Obama over the head. Certainly Welch gets a big “A” for sheer stubbornness if nothing else. Then he had to ‘resign’ from his Fortune column because he had trouble with their criticism of his remarks. Who decided what? We may never know. Someone can’t or doesn’t want to take the heat. But who is most wrong? Welch for making a completely ridiculous remark? The media for giving it such high profile coverage? Us for thinking that this former business CEO might have infallible answers outside his knowledge areas about how government or statistics work and be believable at any stretch? Or the political pundits who are going to keep thrashing this around until we’re tired of it, lose track of what arguments are right or wrong and simply choose to believe what we wanted to in the first place? Even more stunning CEO of note #2 was David Siegel, head of the biggest US private home builder. He had to (or more accurately: chose to) lay off 5000 of his 12,000 employees following George Bush’s disastrous economic regime set up the banking/mortgage fiascos. Since then he’s added jobs back during the period when Obama’s struggles have improved the employment situation despite a congress that has resisted his policies are every turn. Now he decides to email his remaining 7000 employees ‘the facts’ as he sees them – that if re-elected Obama’s policies will force him to lay off more people. Say what? He’s been adding jobs! The real problem apparently is under Obama he might have to further delay construction of his private 90,000 square foot house. Enough said? Most CEOs don’t routinely see themselves as vulnerable to making such transparently erroneous remarks, but therein lies the problem. Apparently some don’t see the need to think things through, just say whatever comes to mind and assume it will be credible. These things shed little light on what’s actually happening or should happen. Where’s the strategic value of any of this? They are simply distractions from anything useful that might, for instance, help people decide how to vote. So much for the CEO myth applied to politics. Can we hope the executives around them while they are or were CEOs would help keep things more logical on the business side? Probably a faint hope. Bookmark and share this post More »

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