The evasive leader…when times are tough
We’ve all been in situations either personally or professionally where tough decisions by so-called leaders are avoided or dropped like a hot potato….why is that? Many of those who are in leadership positions at the highest of levels have this risk avoidance personality to not want to make the tough call and therefore either pass the buck or delegate to someone else. You see this a lot in Corporate America where no one wants to be accountable for their decisions and unfortunately see this as a politically astute tactic. The serious problem with this type of person (and issue) is that it causes what I call a “bottleneck of sh*t” that can stop up and poison an entire corporation. Accountability becomes a major negative feature in a corporate environment where the leader or it’s leaders aren’t capable of dealing with crisis. Crisis Management hands down is the #1 competency behavior that a fair amount of corporate CEOs lack…and that’s scary. Forbes staff writer Susan Adams wrote a wonderful article titled “The Worst CEO Screw Ups Of 2013”, in it she outlines some of the most egregious decisions (some decisions just simply avoided) made by some of the most coveted CEO positions on the planet. Here are a few that made top billing:
- Eike Batista (Chairman/CEO of EBX Group): Destroyed tens of billions of dollars in shareholder value due to poor business decisions and practices. Decisions that were either neglected or poorly executed, bankrupted many of the companies under the EBX Group name. And of course Mr. Batista did the most noble thing many incompetent CEOs do when they find themselves in a pickle…he blamed the CEOs for the companies he ran for the problems HE created.
- Ronald Johnson (former CEO of J.C. Penney): Mr. Johnson failed to make changes at critical junctures. Once a powerful figure at Apple Mr. Johnson tried to incorporate many of the strategies executed at APPLE with no success and his leadership was questionable. J.C. Penney was extremely profitable when Mr. Johnson took over…however that steadily declined throughout his tenure.
- Steve Ballmer (former CEO of Microsoft): A “Master Motivator” short on business acumen and making correct decisions. Since taking over as CEO from Bill Gates in 2000, Mr. Ballmer grossly underestimated the shift from PCs to smartphones and tablets. Missed the opportunity to introduce a successful music player (know anyone who owned Zune?), and failed to compete aggressively with Google (“Bing” is not a verb).
- Robert Benmosche (former CEO of AIG): Took a controversial stance in supporting bonus payouts of $450 million to a unit of the business that was failing. Mr. Benmosche probably had worst judgement more so than poor decision making skills. He once said to the Wall St. Journal that “criticisms of those bonuses were as bad as Southern white supremacists lynching African-Americans”. Certainly a poor decision with the use of his tongue.
These 4 examples are just some of the poor decisions or lack thereof made by some of the most notable of CEOs, and by no means is this a complete list. Leaders of companies not necessarily at the level of those above have similar skill issues and it is quite about time we start placing more of an emphasis on “Crisis Management Leadership” as a metric of evaluating these folks.
One of the best internet comments I’ve received on this issue (below):
“Companies have cultures, and often that’s to be risk-averse – particularly in difficult times such as those that exist in many parts of the world right now. Unfortunately, that means there is a reluctance to make decisions, because people would rather make no decision than make the wrong one, when in reality, making no decision is the worst thing you can do.
I call it the Burning Building Syndrome. Imagine you’re in a large building, and a big fire breaks out and you need to evacuate. Ideally, you spend a short time evaluating the best route to safety, then make in haste (but not panic) to the appropriate exit. But some people are afraid of taking the wrong way out. True, making down the wrong emergency route could be the last thing you do. But if you’re so worried about making the wrong choice, that you stand rooted to the spot, then you’re guaranteed to burn to death.
We need leaders who are not afraid to make decisions, because they are prepared to give their choices a chance to work out (or not) – and shareholders, employees and industry watchers provide the oxygen for them to do so. And as some decisions will be wrong – it’s a statistical fact of life – to ensure that any subsequent criticism is given constructively”.
What are your thoughts? Why do some “Business Leaders” avoid making the TOUGH CALL?
Would love to get your thoughts!
The Company’s “LIFE” comes down to your decision….do you run for the hills?
Andre’ Harrell (AH2 & Beyond Consulting)