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Hell’s Demons – The CEO



The last of the demons and perhaps the most troublesome is the CEO.  Fortunately there is only one (although often people behave as if there are more).  But what they lack in numbers, they make up for in pure pain and suffering. 

There are two versions of reality where the CEO is involved.  Reality and their reality.  Whilst everyone else is living in one, they inhabit the other.  Unfortunately given that they somehow made their way to the top of the pile, the trick is to allow them to remain thinking and living in their world, whilst managing everything else that is going on in the “real world”.  The downside comes when they gain a sudden moment of clarity and demand to know what the hell is going on.  At this point, they need nursing back into their reality as you would sing a child to sleep.

Most CEOs are mad.  Whether they were mad before or whether the process of getting to where they are has made them go bonkers, no-one really knows.  Each one differs in their “idiosyncracies” but failure to identify these early on and take appropriate action can only lead to one result, career suicide.

The most astonishing thing about the CEO however, is that they already know everything I have just told you (although they would never admit it).  They are always one step ahead no matter how fast you run – that is how they got to where they are.  They problem is diagnosed and the cure prescribed.  Simple really.  There must always be someone there to take the bullet, to blame and to tell them that everything will be ok. 

That person, they call the HRD.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. RyanW permalink
    02/12/2010 21:47

    I’m thinking about the process of searching for a new CEO at my last two companies. I think the process itself, and the unrealistic expectations, contribute greatly to the problem. A beauty contest will crown the prettiest, least flawed person, but not necessarily the most capable. History is full of great leaders that overcome and learn from their past failures. Granted, you can’t tell for sure when they will figure it out and turn it on, but I do think that the best leaders will have a history that will include some strategic blemishes. The key is that they have experienced both good and bad and have not only learned from their setbacks, but aren’t afraid to pull the trigger again. The processes I have witnessed would have eliminated a “working man’s” CEO from consideration. In both instances, we ended up with the XL model with the high end trim package. You have to live up to the pedigree quickly, so it is a sure bet the company will be focusing on symptoms and not causes to make an apparently quick win that can be coasted on for another year or so.

  2. 02/12/2010 23:23

    So how many bullets have you taken HRD? you wanna lend me your bullet proof vest sometimes? =) have a good weekend!

  3. 02/13/2010 04:33

    The problem with CEOs begins with the Board of Directors.

  4. 02/14/2010 08:06

    You’re right HRD. Most CEO’s are mad. I know quite a few and their particular madness has a predictable circularity. By manouvering themselves to prominence they actually seek the approval of intimacy. But their addiction to mastery prevents it. So they find themselves self defeated. Most of them are troubled, unhappy people. In that sense (if in no other) they exercise leadership. By parading their own addictions and insecurities, they are an object lesson for anyone who wants to pay attention.
    Now. Where’s me coffee and chocolate biscuit?

  5. 02/21/2010 17:25

    Hi HRD, I agree that the process and people (usually) are flawed. Rather than getting the board to appoint the CEO, it may be difficult but how about getting staff* or even customers to elect a CEO……maybe a little off the wall but could it work if we got our heads round the complications or organisation?

    *Ricardo Semler in his book Maverick had great success with workers choosing their own leaders.


  6. 02/22/2010 08:23

    Sorry all for the late replies…..

    @RyanW – I agree. The identikit CEO route is a very dangerous one to go down. The face that pleases shareholders might not be the one that is best for the business.

    @Thuy – I take them weekly if not daily. Its funny that when it is a good idea it is never mine, but when things go belly up……

    @mkeefer – Interesting. Expand?

    @Henry – It is Monday morning, I have been on a week long break. When I have the brain power to understand what you have written, I’ll reply!

    @Adrian – Welcome and thanks for commenting. I certainlty agree that there should be more parties involved in the appointment to CEO positions. I don’t think anyone would support a casting vote, but input into the selection can only be helpful. A lot of schools get prospective teachers to meet the kids and take their views. That seems sensible to me.

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