Anti-Trend: CEOs; Hasta la Vista, Fat Cats

on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This might be a bit of wishful thinking, but let’s give this some thought. Alan Mulally. Stan O’Neil. John Thain. John Stumpf. Rick Wagoner. The Postmaster General. Vikram Pandit. Irving Azoff (TicketMaster is the devil. Tom Petty and Pearl Jam and (loathe I say) Dave Matthews are right). Does anyone in their right mind really think it’s fair to have golden parachutes and lavish trips to Vegas in a private jet drinking Krystal from a platinum chalice wearing a gold medallion of you wearing a gold medallion dropping deuces in a 24 caret gold commode expensing $2,000 an hour call-girls as a “business expense” while fueling up your Hummer with a corporate card when you’re laying off thousands and your stock value drops 398% in the first 15 minutes of trading after it’s revealed your revenue this past quarter is off a mathematically impossible number and Stephen Hawking’s voice emulator blows up trying to describe the indescribable math and you walk away with an eight-digit bonus on top of your designer suites thanks to your back-slapping, scotch-drinking, 12-handicap, fake-tanning, wife-cheating, stab-in-the-back, Cancun-vacationing, tax-evading, sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-allowing, Brown-hating, Harvard-loving, foul-mouthed, red-meat-rare-eating cronies on the executive board?

I’d like to think (in my ideal world) I have a unique perspective on this. I have bachelor’s degrees in Finance and Psychology. Finance first, Psychology second. So I know of the blackened, tarnished innards that motivate business people and then I learned of the mental illnesses they likely conceal. And I’m not merely being facetious here. I once took care of an MBA who had a schizophrenic break-down due to stresses on the job, and my Abnormal Psychology professor said convicted criminals and CEOs exhibit high rates of anti-social personality disorder. Sounds like good company to me.

Now, I’m going to try to be realistic. I know this insignificant blog won’t salvage the world from the scourge of the narcissistic CEO. But let’s look at this rationally; if you put one person in complete control of a country, they’re called a dictator. Hugo Chaves. Fidel Castro. Benito Mussolini. Anwar Sadat. Does “dictator” have a nice ring to it? Why do the heads of American companies have dictator status? Sure, they have lackeys of lower C-blank-blank titles, but their authority is largely superseded and unregulated until the feds get involved. Hell, even when the feds get involved there can still be a Wild West atmosphere (stimulus package volume 1).

Control can’t be invested in one person. America hasn’t been in existence for over two hundred years by accident. I’m not saying it’s the absolute best system of government out there, but I don’t doubt a decent part of its success is due to the separation of powers and the checks-and-balances approach to making power equal. Why aren’t corporations structured that way? I know why: money. Bones. Loot. Clams. Moolah. Scrilla. Da Benjamins. Green (not weed).

I’m an idealist, but I’m not that stupid to think you can completely divorce executive pay from performance or lack thereof. However, with the collective outcry against CEO bad behavior, maybe, just maybe, smart corporations will re-evaluate the dictatorship model and replace it with a more egalitarian, democratic (small d) model. Here, we have a management team. Emphasis on the word TEAM. No one person has a disproportionate amount of influence. We’re making money when just about everyone else is looking under their mattress. Coincidence? Spread the control around. Create a brain trust, not a drain bust.

Oh, and I’ve been compelled to say on the advice of our resident legal team, Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, that this opinion does not represent nor claim to represent the collective opinion and knowledge of Source One Management. So if you’re a smeared CEO as a result of this blog posting, don’t sue my employer or myself, because I’m sure your skin exfoliation disguised as an afternoon “off-site” meeting costs more than my annual salary including benefits.

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