September 9th, 2011 // 1:26 pm @ M.H. Nicholas
The premise of Leaders Don’t Fart is simple. The great leader is like a superhero – and we all deserve to follow leaders whom we feel are a step above the average Joe. Of course we all recognize that everyone is human, but leaders should be inspirational and aspirational. Worthy or not, these are the people whom we trust with our lives and livelihoods.
It has been quite a week of farting leaders. We have another teacher cheating scandal, political chest bumps, and bad behaving district attorneys. We’ve had our share of great leaders this week as well, including the ongoing tribute to Steve Jobs, and the philanthropy of Sir Richard Branson. In this edition of Leaders Don’t Fart, we’ll highlight the potty-mouthed spoiled brat Carol Bartz, now former CEO of Yahoo.
Ms. Bartz is the walking example of the emotional, ungrateful person and is the kind of case study that brought I Come First into existence. She is each of us on a bad day, a natural victim. Even while under performing in her job she expressed feeling screwed (her word) despite pulling down $47.2 million dollars in salary (in 2009) [more than either Leslie Moonves (CBS), J.R. Elliott (Boston Scientific), Brian Roberts (Comcast) or William Weldon (Johnson & Johnson)] (later reduced in 2011 for under performance). She claims that the company “screwed her over” and behaved cowardly by firing her – and by phone nonetheless. She made her disgruntlement public with rather silly insults and allegations kfor no obvious benefit or advantage. You see… Ms. Bartz was destined to be fired, and in this world of cell phones and travel, having this obvious conversation by phone just happens to be a commonplace occurrence.
The High School CEO
At what point do people who aspire to be respected think that it is okay to insult others, bully, curse, take private conversations public, etc.? Is this a person who wanted to be cool when younger and is seeks to prove coolness finally at an older age? She obviously equates bluntness (her word, not mine) and profanity to effectiveness. Is this a person so much better than everyone else that she deserves license to behave in a sub-leaderly fashion? At what point did “bluntness” for CEO Bartz become the equivalent of “effective leadership”? This is just plain wrong. Effective leadership might be blunt from time-to-time, but that’s as far as the connection goes. Effective leadership can also be tactful, thoughtful, wise, calm, contemplative and respected.
Ms. Bartz has been farting along for quite a while. Known as an abrasive CEO of a floundering company, she has been cursing in interviews (TechCrunch, 2010, Esquire, 2010) and insulting other CEOs publicly (Jack Ma, CEO Alibaba, 2009) since the start of her tenure (FYI, the Wall Street Journal has also just published a list of Bartz’ most memorable quotes). I’ve thought about writing an article about her for a fair while, but was probably just waiting for her termination first. Who knew that her termination would be so interesting.
A Message to Ms. Bartz
Ms. Bartz, you were an under performing employee. Maybe some of it was your fault, and some wasn’t, but in the world of CEO performance, you weren’t the right person for this job (now, probably any job). There are millions of people fired from jobs earning far less than your $47.2 million who have actually gotten “screwed over” (again, your words, not mine) – some by their jobs, others the economy, others by co-workers, the financial sector, wall street, rogue brokers/advisers, banks, Madoff, Goldman Sachs, and the toxic political environment. You, however, didn’t.
This display is indicative of a person who is not capable of effective leadership of others. The leadership of a company, and its CEO, that does not earn respect with their words must offer extraordinary performance, or the position fails under its own weight. The Board of Yahoo knew that – and were probably pretty embarrassed by her all along. Here, Ms. Bartz’ behavior is reminiscent of a person who could neither be a leader in title or position, and while her departure could have generated empathy, we are instead left with proof beyond doubt that this person needed to be ousted. We are left not with a great leader, but of an emotional petty potty-mouth.
This stuff is symbolic of a person who does not understand that every word by a CEO of stature should be something to be considered, wise and thoughtful; but add emotion and profanity, insults and abrasion, and the respect is lost even if the substance exists. Contrary to comments of journalist Jeff Jarvis who believes that the heightened criticism here is because she is a woman (and it is only okay for male leaders to curse), it isn’t. Leaders should act their role (men as well as women). She farted every time she looked like a petty child in an interview, and she looks like one now. This nonsense is barely cool when you’re young, and never cool when you’re the highest paid tech CEO in the country.
Now, she can curse all she wants somewhere else. She’ll certainly have all the money in the world to do it.*
* She will be receiving millions of additional dollars in severance.
Mark H. Nicholas is a lawyer, entrepreneur, creative enthusiast, and the author of I Come First, a book about business, leadership, & life. He blogs right here at www.icomefirst.com and can also be found on Twitter and Facebook at @MHNBooks