ago, when the Earth was young and I was still a full-time business
reporter, I was assigned to do an interview with the CEO of a local
hospital. On the phone with his assistant, finalizing the details of my
visit, I received assurances from said assistant: “You’ll love him. He’s
not CEOish at all!”
I mentioned to my editor that I was presumably heading out to an
interview with a non-CEOish CEO.
CEOish?” my editor replied. “He is the definition of CEOish.”
definition of CEOish would be helpful here, and I’m not sure this
particular hospital chief is able to provide the definition simply by
walking around. Although he could give it a run.
interview with the non-CEOish CEO, I learned:
He really enjoyed
just getting around and meeting the staff.
He found the
process of interacting with his board invigorating and rewarding.
He wanted the
hospital to embrace a mission of serving the community, not just
making its numbers, and oh, of “giving back.”
He liked to
He wished he could
improve his golf game.
a man non-CEOish? None of the stuff this guy said, that’s for sure. But
perhaps the better question is: Why are so many CEOs so determined
not to be CEOish? What’s so bad about being CEOish?
present some sort of problem, because I’ve seen some CEOs go to some
rather absurd lengths to avoid seeming like CEOs – in some cases trying
so hard to avoid CEO clichés that they become clichés in their own
common of these is to insist on working at a cubicle. Just like the
proletariat! I get no special treatment just because I’m the head
cheese. This seems like a nice gesture, but it rarely lasts because CEOs
and employees quickly discover something about each other. Neither wants
to hear what the other has to say.
Occasionally, the CEO has to fire someone, or at least discuss someone’s
shortcomings. The employees start to notice that every time Wofford J.
Dingelsplat III steps away from his cubicle and heads outside with the
HR director, it’s only a matter of minutes before someone’s going to get
it. Besides, the employees want to rip the CEO too! It’s an employee
tradition. And it’s kind of hard to do when he’s sitting three feet away
from you separated only by a six-foot-high metal divider.
thanks for jumping into the mosh pit here with the rest of us slugs, but
we all chipped in and bought you a door. Stay behind it, would ya?
with that effort, the CEO-in-denial tries doing the dirty jobs. You
know, son, I worked my way up by getting my hands dirty. No job is
beneath me. Not even yours! Now move over and make room for me on
the line, because I can sort brackets with the best of ‘em. One. Two.
Three. Did I count that one with the sticky stuff on it? Let’s start
over. One, two . . . oh, there’s my Blackberry going off, I’ll be right
back, son . . .
lesser states of denial may try the staged see-how-accessible-I-am
event, usually hand-picking eight-to-12 employees who are honored beyond
all imagination to be invited for doughnuts with the boss. With
Christmas-morning-type looks of excitement on their faces, the fortunate
few are led by the executive entourage to a room where the CEO sits
waiting for their questions, any questions, any questions or comments at
all (make them constructive, now), because the CEO’s doors are always
open – at least until the investment bankers show up in 45 minutes and
he needs to talk about grown up things they wouldn’t understand.
you’re going to be a CEO, be a CEO! Wear cufflinks. Sit in a big
leather chair. Say “strategically aligned competencies” and stuff like
that. Quit trying to act like you’d know what to do at an American
Legion Hall. Your objective is not to make the employees think you’re
just like them. It’s to make good executive decisions so they’ll have
their jobs and your shareholders will make money.
when you do, they’ll still make fun of you! Welcome to the top job.
There’s a reason only one person is allowed to have it. That’s as many
stuffy CEOish types as we can handle.
© 2006 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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