December 2015 Leaders & Laggards

Leadership Leader

Disclaimer: there is actually a Steeler fan in our firm. Background checks and drug screens aren’t foolproof…

RoethlisbergerShowing vulnerability and admitting you need help are a couple of leadership traits that sound Pollyanna-ish, especially in the rough-and-tough, real world corporate arena. Certainly not something you’d expect to see in professional sports.

Say what you want about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but by taking himself out of the Nov 29th game against Seattle for “concussion-like symptoms,” he took a stand that probably appeared weak to many who were watching. I’m sure there were certainly a lot of younger QBs paying attention.

As it turned out, he did have a concussion, and at least one of us is glad he’s better this week.

More remarkably, he admitted he needed help. Even though his reputation as the team’s leader might suffer, he knew the risk of continuing on a path that could have more severe consequences. If you can’t see a corporate leadership version of this lesson, you must be new to the C-level.

What Ben said to other – younger and less experienced – leaders who are in trouble but hate to let their teams down: it’s okay to admit you’re only human. What more senior corporate leaders need to share with their younger and less experienced leaders: sometimes you have to ask for help.

Showing vulnerability to your team builds trust. It’s not the same as showing a lack of confidence; it means you’re paying attention to your team’s needs, and you recognize you need help in meeting them.

Thanks for the reminder, Ben. You’re this month’s pick as our Leadership Leader.

Leadership Milquetoast

facebookMark Zuckerberg of facebook fame is receiving a lot of positive press for announcing his give-away… seems the birth of his daughter Max spurred him to tell the world that he’ll give away 99% of his facebook wealth—some $40+ BILLION.

Making such an announcement was impressive, and he could have been a philanthropic standard-bearer of epic proportions. Could have been.

The reality is, he’s simply transferring that money to a for-profit LLC, where he’ll have complete control of how every nickel is spent. Further, he’s made no commitment that the money will even go to non-profits; in fact, he included a statement that any profits made will be funneled back into the LLC for future investments. So, there will be potential profits. Doesn’t sound charitable to me.

Look, it’s his money, he can do whatever he likes. I mean that sincerely. But to publish this letter to his child, saying “We will give 99% of our Facebook shares… during our lives to advance this mission,” implies clearly that he will be giving. In reality, he’s actually keeping, and intends to invest entirely as he sees fit.

Again, his money, his decision. He owes no one anything. But if you say “give,” you should give. Investment bankers don’t give, they invest. Private equity firms don’t give, they buy. Words matter, and Zuckerberg’s words don’t match up. It’s not a bad thing, just not necessarily a good thing.

Congratulations for the giving-that-isn’t, Mark. It won you this month’s Leadership Milquetoast.

Leadership Laggard

VAI’m a veteran. As are the others working with me at Triangle Performance. As such, we have a special place in our hearts for veterans. You would think that an agency named “Veterans Affairs” would feel the same way.

Not so much.

Seems the VA doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for 2014 performance this year even as their screw-ups reached epic proportions.

These performance-driven bonuses were paid to such superstars as:

The execs leading the Denver construction goat-rope, more than $1B over budget (just a rounding error, eh?), including $5 grand to the manager specifically named in the investigation;

The doc in Wisconsin, dubbed the “Candy Man” because of his prolific over-prescribing, received a bonus, as did his pharmacy supervisor.

In Augusta, Georgia, the VA awarded some bonus bucks to a dude who quit after drinking and driving a government vehicle (one fatality), but was rehired a year later.

Accountability is one-deep; VA Secretary Robert McDonald (perhaps RONALD McDonald would be more appropriate?) says the VA is all better, fixed, and would improve even more if he could just get a bigger budget with fewer restrictions on how to spend it. Wait… what??

Congratulations to you, Ronald Robert, as this month’s Leadership Laggard.

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