Sunday, November 26th, 2017
CEO A–part of a series
CEO A was a brilliant man. His background was law and he would have been a perfect law professor. He was astute and forward looking when it came to strategy. He was a tad academic for the industry he was in. His humor was a bit silly but endearing. He was not a snob but had every right to be one. He was decent and progressive and care about social justice. He had his organization honor Martin Luther King Day before it was official. He sent out a copy of The Birmingham Jail speech to every employee and gave paid time to read it. Most threw it away. CEO A was ahead of the time and didn’t care. It was a high impact gesture and was remembered.
CEO A carried his authority lightly and didn’t always realize the weight that his voice carried. He tripped over ice coming into headquarters and the next day a radiant heat sidewalk appeared. He laughed because he so often felt powerless to shift the organization but his tiny wish became a command.
CEO A ate lunch in the Custodians break room although there was a company cafeteria available. He didn’t do it to look humble. He did it because he was bashful and awkward about eating in the cafeteria. What if no one sat with him? How could he join a table and kill the conversation. Like that.
He enjoyed the industry he was in and loved being with workers during a time of crisis. Sometimes he was in the way but he became famous for digging in and doing the hard work.
CEO A was lousy about assessing talent and very reluctant to give bad news or reviews. His HR person was a long time friend. He relied on an external consultant for comfort and to do the bad news work for him. This, of course, killed the effectiveness of the consultant who did not help the company but cared only about CEO A, which was damaging to the respect for him.
Working with outside stakeholders was a super strength of CEO A. He was smooth and honest and unrelenting and personal and professional and savvy about the Board of Directors and external partnerships.
CEO A had a fragile marriage with a wife not up to the task of being a partner. It left him slightly vulnerable to relying on work relationships for support. There was a slight,( very slight in today’s terms) flirtation and favoritism with one woman. it was mutual personally and professionally. There was slight gossip but only about possible favoritism. It did not need to be addressed by anyone. They managed the boundary of personal and professional well.
CEO A move up to higher levels within his industry. His going away party was full of fondness and true connection. He was beloved. He made his people proud. He moved the organization into the future. He didn’t pick a great successor and it took two or three failed CEO’s to find one that stuck and was a good fit.
Strengths–Smart strategist, great at stakeholder relationships, good at creating organizational policies of decency all around, and identifying with every level in the company
Weaknesses–poor at talent assessment, too tolerant of OK but not great performance and inablility to do tough straight talk when needed.