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February 24, 2009
Leading by example 24/7
All of us meet a sports, movie or business star by chance. Typically the first question from friends is: What's she like? People who meet Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, often report he's just like the way he is in various speeches, blog posts and tweets: passionate about customer service but also approachable with a good sense of humor. To paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green, he is who we thought he was.
So here's a paradox: What if you love a company for its change-the-world mission, then meet its visionary leader and discover he's a jerk?
We once blogged about a change-the-world entrepreneur who isn't nearly as visible or well-known as Tony. With about a dozen employees, this leader's company is still small. Over the course of several months, we discovered his behavior doesn't match his company's pious values. I've had business colleagues privately tell me how much they disliked doing business with him. This weekend, a different friend told me of his obnoxious and rude behavior while simply hanging out in a condominium lobby!
I still love the idea of the company, but now I distrust its leader. Will I evangelize the company any more? Probably not. Cognitive dissonance.
A company can still grow when its founder is a jerk -- Steve Jobs and Sumner Redstone are two well-known examples -- but piety and helping the world's poor are hardly the values of Apple or Viacom. That's the disconnect. When the public and private behavior of company leaders don't match established company values, especially when those values are purposely marketed, word will spread quickly through the back-channel grapevine of blogs and Twitter. That's no way to grow a company.
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I think social media like Twitter brings a whole new transparency to this issue. Before, CEO's could pretty much hide as much as they wanted. Now, customers want to know who they're dealing with.
Wow that isn't good at all, talk about bad word of mouth when that kind of thing is found out - it will spread very rapidly. Like the commenter above said, transparency is here to stay and everyone who fakes it will be found out.
Good thing they don't store those toilet seat covers under the seat.
Oh wow, you've reached "stars without makeup" level here, haven't you?
This idea of "what if he's a jerk" is pretty ludicrous if you consider you're printing *hearsay* based on one person's *subjective judgment* that could have been influenced by a million little things. The reporter's own mood, the conversation, the state of the subject's digestive system all could have influenced the encounter. Yet you imply a business person is immune to the same judgments and opinions human beings gather about each other thoughtlessly at every dinner party, office meeting, grocery store outing. A pretty pathetic way to determine whether or not a person is a "jerk", whether their business is worth patronizing, and an unfortunately tabloid-esque way of writing for your business blog. Disappointing, but perhaps Perez Hilton is hiring.
You sir, are a jerk.
The author clearly stated that evidence of this person's 'jerkdom' came from multiple different sources. And neither the company nor person in question were named, restraint that you won't find in the tabloids. It's this sort of 'everything is subjective, they were probably having a bad day, it's probably just as much your fault as theirs' thinking that lets people get away with bad behaviour. Some people are just arses, and from that post I'd guess you're one of them.