Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I once knew a man who had been professionally exiled from the headquarters. He came back to the office for a visit with his old team; the people he'd supervised for several years. He mentioned that he'd been in the new slot for three weeks and had received no assignments. Nothing was in his in-box. His boss avoided him. The message was clear. He was on ice.

He was determined to hang on until retirement. Ultimately he did exactly that.

What was his sin? It wasn't incompetence. He knew his subject matter inside-out and made sound decisions. The rumor was that he talked too much when he briefed the new CEO. I can believe that. The CEO was a cold fish who regarded verbosity with suspicion. [I purposely made my presentation straight and to the point. No jokes for this guy. I survived.]

The talker's two successors lacked his subject area expertise, but they knew how to read a boss. They also projected the right image.

It has been decades since I witnessed that episode. The memories remain. You don't forget some things.


Tom Cooper said...

A secure leader delegates, and trusts his team. An insecure leader hoards his power. Sounds like this leader was in the latter camp, and it's a shame that no one in his leadership chain had the chutzpah to call him on it. Surely they knew....

Michael Wade said...


I'm not sure that he was insecure. He gave enormous power to many people and had various virtues. [He backed me up on the handling of a sensitive discrimination matter and actively worked to prevent any cover-ups.] He clearly operated, however, with certain stereotypes and some of those had little to do with substance.

Despite his strong points, it was a happy day when he left. His immediate successor was entirely different and didn't have the rough edges.