My friend, a senior executive heading the US subsidiary of a foreign company, recently wrote me the following assessment of his current situation and especially his boss:
I am an executive working in a leadership capacity for an international company for more than a decade. I am an intelligent, creative and capable leader with a proven and successful track record and, after many years of enjoying what I do, I am now very unhappy.
Our company has been struggling world-wide for a few years now and its performance continues to deteriorate. The previous CEO lacked the vision, discipline and commitment to make the required decisions, so it is not surprising that the Board recently decided to replace him with a strong ‘Type A’ personality CEO. Maybe ‘Type AAA’ is more like it.
The new CEO comes with a strong background: he is intelligent, experienced, articulate, and a charismatic speaker. He is not an idiot; he simply acts like one.
The new CEO ‘knows it all’ and leads the company with a style that fairly screams, “I say, you do”. I’ve never worked for this type of leader in the past and I can’t say that I am enjoying it. Maybe if I worked for a genius like Steve Jobs I might feel differently and be willing to tolerate this arrogant approach. In this case, I see the CEO making some good and some bad choices, but none of which are strategic and changing the direction of the company. All of them so far are tactical and won’t move the needle on the company’s future, so I don’t think that I will stay in this environment for the long haul.
Since the new CEO arrived, I see a damaging impact on morale at virtually all levels of the organization. It underscores that negative energy is as contagious as positive inspiration, maybe more so.
Ruling out the option to simply quit this job, I have decided to stick around, at least for the short-term, to execute our subsidiary’s plans to the best of my capabilities. Not for the new CEO’s success but for my own.
I do have to remind myself continually to be self- motivated to execute. The following are my main reasons:
1. I had good reasons, beyond compensation and opportunity, to join this company in the first place. These ideas and ideals have not changed. I can still do well by them.
2. The organization has been more than fair to me. Even the new CEO has already tried to promote me and offered me a position to work closer to him in a more strategic capacity. I tactfully declined his offer.
3. The organization needs me now more than ever and there are people and families that depend on my ability to execute.
4. It is easier to observe mistakes and learn from wrong decisions and negative actions. For one reason or another, learning from one’s mistakes is an easier task than learning from people doing the right things, so I’m learning fast (what not to do).
5. It is somewhat hard to admit, but the new CEO also has good sides and positive attributes in both his character and execution, so I try to observe and learn from these experiences, too.
6. Strong performance buys me time to decide about my future and certainly gives me more options. I will also be remembered and supported by this organization differently depending on how I perform today.
7. There is a good probability that the new CEO will fail. I certainly do not want to be the person or the reason for his failure. He will have others to blame. And, if I stick around and perform at a high level, I may find myself with the opportunity to succeed him one of these (not too distant) days.
As long as I am here, and at this point it is becoming less clear how long that is, I am going to continue to execute. The more challenging element, which may require further digging inside my soul, is to find somehow more happiness at the same time.
I think my friend nailed it. What would you do in this executive’s shoes?