Leaders & Laggards June 2016

Leadership Leader

The usual place for a CEO who was fired for ethical reasons is in the Leadership Laggard section. We’ve made an exception this month to give a tip of our hat to the Board of Directors at Lending Club Corporation for the firing.

LendingClubRenaud Laplanche, Lending Club’s founder, is now the former Chairman and CEO after an internal probe into loan sales that violated company business rules revealed Laplanche wasn’t exactly forthcoming about what he knew and when he knew it.

Turns out full disclosure isn’t one of Laplanche’s strong suits, since he also failed to disclose his personal interest in a fund that Lending Club was considering as an investment.

The board quickly showed Laplanche and three senior managers the door for the “unacceptable” behavior, disclosed the wrongdoing, and pledged to investors to strengthen internal controls.

Scott Sunburn, Lending Club’s president and acting CEO summed it up nicely, saying, “Our business depends on trust. The problems identified this quarter run counter to our values and will never be tolerated.”

Even though the bad loan sales represented a tiny fraction of the company’s transactions, by proving himself untrustworthy, Laplanche may have completely ruined a business model that relied on the trust and confidence of his customers.

Unfortunately for Lending Club, the board’s actions may not have been enough. Since the early May disclosure, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department have launched their own investigations, and the lawyers jumped on a class action lawsuit like a duck on a June bug. Needless to say, their stock is in the toilet right now.

Lending Club’s board took the correct four steps required after a mistake: they acted quickly, they didn’t cover it up; they owned it; and, they took the necessary steps to make it right. For doing it right, we congratulate them and wish them well as this month’s Leadership Leader.

Leadership Milquetoast

Speaking of the right thing to do when you make a mistake, VA Secretary Robert McDonald joins us again this month — this time as our Leadership Milquetoast — with an all-to-familiar leadership tap dance that we call an “apology that’s not”.

VAMcDonald had the opportunity to correct his gaff comparing waiting for treatment at VA facilities to waiting for a ride at Disneyland… and he blew it. In ‘falling short’ of apologizing, McDonald showed he’s still completely out of touch with those he’s charged to care for.

Instead, he said, “If I was misunderstood, if I said the wrong thing, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to correct it.” Who wrote that lame equivocation, Goofy or Dopey?

We didn’t misunderstand, and he did say the wrong thing. But given the opportunity to correct it, he cavalierly let it pass by.

My guess is that Secretary McDonald hasn’t had a long wait for treatment since he left active duty service in 1980. He certainly never waited in a VA facility (P&G always had good benefits), and I guaran-damn-tee you I never looked forward to what was in store for me after the soul-sucking hours I spent in a waiting room full of vets during every visit to the VA hospital after I left the military.

Not that I was shot in the ass with my experiences in the Disney parks when my kids were little either, but to compare the two is beyond imagination.

Come on, Bob! If you want us to believe that you’re solely focused on better care for veterans, here’s a simple equation: trust = integrity + competence + compassion. So far, your misstatement about your service in special forces, doling out over $140M in bonuses for crappy 2014 performance by VA executives, and making light of our fantasy vacations in VA waiting rooms aren’t giving us warm fuzzies.Your decades of military and corporate success don’t give you leave to rest on your laurels at the VA. We don’t need your kind of Milquetoast leadership in such an important post.

Leadership Laggard

AmazingBeing fired sucks. Being fired by email… now that sucks so bad it might take anger management classes to get over.

What the hell was Matt Clark, co-founder and CEO of Amazing Academy LLC, thinking when he let Amazing.com notify 24 out of the 46 workers at the company via email that their jobs had been eliminated – effective immediately?

Who does that?

Matt ClarkTo add insult to injury, Clark was “out of the office” when the email went out, and “unavailable” for the next week, so he never had to see their faces again. Okay, maybe the layoffs were necessary (though keeping the staff chef is a stretch), but short of a singing telegram, I can’t think of a more calloused and unfeeling way to let people know.

On the upside, Clark has plenty of potential for leadership development… he’s obviously starting from scratch.

If we had an a-hole of the month award, we’d give it to you, Matt. Instead you’ll have to settle for being Triangle Performance’s Leadership Laggard of the Month.

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