Jewish World Review April 2, 2004 / 12 Nissan, 5764
The rude CEO
He snapped a lot. I remember that. He had a temper. I remember that, too. He was argumentative and belittling, and he cursed. With his closest of confidantes, he seemed to unleash his nastiest of comments.
"Where's my (expletive) speech!" he snapped at an aide.
I was mesmerized just watching him. I thought, how could anyone be so rude to so many for so long? Yet he was.
Since this poor sap can't defend himself, I'll only tell you that he's a CEO. Not a major league CEO, and clearly far from a likeable CEO, but a CEO nonetheless. He was part of a symposium I was attending one of several speakers whose goal it was to map out a view of the world. The idea of this business summit, if you could call it that, was to examine the new marketing opportunities in a burgeoning global economy.
Some of the speeches were good. Most were not. His was awful.
He immediately opened by saying all his competitors didn't get the world, didn't belong in his world and didn't stand to make much of a profit in this world. Since some of them were in the audience, I wondered how they felt. Even his demeanor was condescending.
When his PowerPoint demonstration went awry, he gave an aide a look that would kill. I was convinced by day's end that aide was either fired or dead, or both. To this day, I still don't know. It's simply too frightening to fathom.
His view of the market landscape was dire, which seemed to match his pained expression. He had little good to say about anyone or anything. I kept wondering how this guy got to be a big cheese. I suspect he killed off all his competitors!
The only reason why I even mention this story is because it illustrates nicely for me the power of those who have power to make those who don't have power feel powerless. He seemed to delight in making all who toiled for him feel terrible. He was dictatorial and demeaning . . . just an awful human being. And I didn't even know the guy, but I was more than privy to how he treated other guys.
Clearly he led by intimidation, and judging from some of his remarks, put up some pretty good performance numbers maybe precisely because of that intimidation. But I wondered at what cost. How many lives did he ruin? How many smiles did he turn into frowns? How many moods did he destroy?
Believe me, I'm not for being an easy boss, but I am for being a decent boss. John Kennedy used to say we all breathe the same air. Why must some of us insist on stinking it up?
I firmly believe you can get much more out of your employees by inspiring them than by simply intimidating them. The good boss often is a good person, a decent person, who knows the day-to-day pressures we all face and yet makes us rise above those pressures. He sees the good and works on the bad. He doesn't pamper those who won't learn. He teaches those who will. There's a difference, and this charlatan of a manager wouldn't know how to distinguish the two if his sorry, jaded, darker-than-dark, pathetic life depended on it.
I guess I never forgot that clown because he couldn't seem to forget to abuse any and every aide. I suppose some of those aides were highly compensated or either gluttons for punishment. Maybe both. They weren't happy. That much I do know.
My dad used to say you can scare people into producing good numbers or you can inspire them to bring you good business. He was right then. His words ring true now.
I don't know what my father would have made of this rude CEO. He probably wouldn't have even bothered dealing with him in the first place.
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03/30/04: Shut up, move on, watch out!