I often hear stories of CEOs losing their temper and angrily dressing down an employee in public. This is, plainly put, bullying and, when threats are used, it is unconscionable behaviour. The CEO has the power and ability to punish; the unfortunate employee has little recourse other than to resign – which could be a highly costly action in terms of the company’s reputation and money.
With the absolute power they yield, CEOs have become a quasi-replacement for the “feudal lords of the manor” and all too often many treat their staff like serfs. In doing so, it becomes obvious that they care nothing for their employees and lack the understanding of and adherence to a disciplined craft of management.
These senior leaders are ignorant of the impact of their actions or even worse, are satisfied that a threatened and unsettled workforce is apparently a productive one. This type of CEO surrounds themselves with sycophants who enable their dysfunctional behaviour. These toadies literally “tug their forelock” in obeisance to their boss like the farm labourers did of old when “M’Lord” met them on the estate.
The estate is now The Company.
Imagine a strong-minded, “my way or the highway” CEO, propped up with a group of direct reports with considerable non-vested share holdings. You have here a recipe for serfdom-like passiveness. Who wants to rock the boat if it compromises a big payout day? Direct reports will take a lot of abuse for a more secure future when stock vests.
Staff are cautious around such a CEO, especially if he or she has a history of emotional histrionics. They are careful to offer only sanitized best advice; they will say what they think the CEO wants to hear. Even worse, if there are uncomfortable truths that should be mentioned, these will get swept under the rug or even altered substantially to avoid a confrontation with the CEO.
As I wrote in last week’s blog, management is the preeminent profession of 21st century. At the top of the corporate pyramid are the CEOs, those individuals who expected to represent management in its best light. But because of a lack of adherence to a craft of CEO management, one that is transparent to today’s society, CEOs are not held to account for their behaviour. The feudal system still reigns.