Friday, 11 February 2011

Fall From the Top: Arrogance Claims Another

There aren't too many phrases that continue to ring in people's ears after they've been said, but Clint Eastwood's catch-phrase "go ahead, make my day", from the famous 1982 film, Dirty Harry, is certainly one of them. I imagine there's many an individual recalling just that phrase as oil magnet Tony Hayward finally announced his resignation as CEO of industry giant, British Petroleum (BP). Now, as we well know, most folks wouldn't normally celebrate someone else's demise, but in this case, those "little people" as he called them, were only too happy to see this former CEO "get his life back."
Mr. Hayward is not the first CEO to leave his job in disgrace because of leadership missteps, nor will he be the last. Believe it or not, the reason for a CEO departure is typically not because of the economy or even a disastrous incident such as the recent oil spill. Rather, it's all about CEO arrogance. In other words, an over-inflated sense of superiority and self-importance that becomes offensive to others.
CEOs who suffer this "disease" have come to truly believe they are icons. They thrive on being on the cover page of a magazine or newspaper and strive to be noticed at every turn. Their overconfidence blinds them to reality and while they may have been very successful at one point, their arrogance soon leads to inappropriate behaviour, and illogical responses to critical organizational issues. As well, many arrogant CEO's overreach their maximum capability and then flame out as they fail to meet their business objectives.
In fact, my experience suggests that arrogance will indeed eventually kill the career of a CEO every single time. For those subordinate individuals impacted by CEO arrogance, waiting for the fall from grace might seem like forever, but when it comes, I can tell you that the fall is usually quite hard and quite public. Many a disgraced CEO will never again rise to their former level of prestige.
While there are many other CEO "derailers," once again my experience has demonstrated that leaders who are cold, aloof and authoritarian, who isolate themselves in an ivory tower and who practice a philosophy of "me first", will eventually lose their followers. After all, there is just no room for anyone else in the organization to experience success. All the credit goes to the arrogant CEO.
Typically, in this type of environment, the CEO will rarely take personal responsibility. Instead he/she will minimize any damage that is caused and blame others whenever they can. As well, they will spend too much time, energy and resources on insidious efforts to destroy their competitors rather than focusing on making their own firm the best that it could be. Finally, more than likely, arrogant CEOs will find themselves feuding with other leaders and professionals in the organization as they struggle to discount the ideas of others and push their own agenda forward without debate.
Unfortunately, arrogance isn't limited to just the CEO because over time, organizations themselves through the influence of their leaders will also adapt this arrogant stance. Their customer service philosophy becomes one of "my way or the highway" leading to a failure to acknowledge mistakes and bullying their customers.
Tony Hayward, disgraced over poorly chosen words and arrogant behavior also represents a good example of the power of global communications. A few brief words and in just one instant, his message spread across the world for everyone to see. His words, his presence and his behavior made headline news in every available communication channel. There was no way he could take back what he said, he could only face the consequences.....dismissal. And yes, he did indeed get his life back.
But remember, Tony Hayward will not be the last.
Paul Croteau, managing partner, is known as one of Manitoba's leading executive search professionals. His more than 25 years of experience in the recruitment of senior management and executive leadership professionals are the foundation to his solid reputation for developing a deep understanding of his clients' needs, enabling him to provide exceptional service and successfully meet the complex challenge of matching the right leader to his clients' business needs.
Paul H. Croteau - EzineArticles Expert Author