To an extent CEO is a profession. Not one my dad would recognise, but even so. There is no CEO school – ok there probably is, but you cannot be taught what you need even so – so what a waste of money.
CEOs sometimes, or often, get it wrong. Or worse, get it right by accident and learn all the wrong lessons. But I really don’t like it when CEOs bring the job into disrepute.
On my recent travels, I heard of a CEO new to his role joining a biggish company. The person telling me the story seemed credible, and it rang true. So the CEO introduces himself on a conference call in his first few days to a bunch of his management in various parts of the world. He starts by saying hello, and how he’s looking forward to the challenge. He pauses.
Then a sound comes over the conference phones – a noise reminiscent of finger drumming. It gets louder, the assumption being those fingers were moving closer to the phone microphone. ‘You hear that?’ says the CEO. ‘That’s the sound of the cavalry coming to rescue this company and I’m the cavalry’.
I’d imagined that the audience would either say something ‘inappropriate’ while on mute or maybe there was just laughter coming down the phone back to the CEO. It seems however no one did that. In one room, the managers round the phone just looked appalled at each other that the new CEO, who had never been a CEO before, and was new to the company, could be so pompous and vain.
When I heard the story, I got a little angry that anyone could put this person in a position of trust. Clearly, this Board was of no better calibre than those I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts.
Sometimes the CEO has to take difficult or unpopular decisions, which can have significant consequences for people, but when the person taking the decision is just not competent, it’s just unforgivable.