A rant to end all rants… to every Chief Executive Officer, that’s ever collected a bonus bigger than $500,000 dollars we urge you to pay attention, not yourself (pun intended). This week we looked at the wonderful world of the high powered corporate CEO. The team went undercover as employees of an IT firm and attended several Business Updates and meetings to really gauge how much influence these million dollar men and women really have. Yeah most of them are men, how’s that for quality, that’s not a tick box that’s getting checked very often at the top of the corporate ladder when we are all about empowering the females of the world. Still often very much a boys club up at those lofty heights of the ivory towers. There is a reason the saying isn’t shit flows uphill.
Sitting in a CEO roadshow talk we wondered why he would feel the need to talk about buying a car with cash and not needing to test drive it or paying for first class tickets for his son to fly to Europe in a room full of people where some of them may never get to experience first class or pay cash for a car. Furthermore to discuss how much money the company has in the bank and yet put a hold on pay increases to the staff seemed a little careless and somewhat insensitive to us, but then again we were imposters in a room full of disgruntled employees who were too afraid to voice their frustrations and complaints to a man who seemingly managed to get paid his bonus every year. Was it fair no, did he work as hard as the staff who ensure the profitability and existence of the company probably not, did he deserve his bonus definitely not but did he get paid his bonus? You betcha he did as do all good CEO’s when it comes to getting their yearly bonus.
Nevermind the already large salary they take home every year for steering the ship in the right direction they’ve earned that inflated salary just like they’ve grown their massive ego over the years and that sense of entitlement. They’ve worked hard and kissed a lot of rings and arses to rise to their lofty position. Don’t forget the careers of others they brought down in flames over the years so they can rise above the proverbial ashes as the hero the company needs. These are all stereotypes of the narcissistic men and women who hold down the position of Chief Executive Officer. There are no doubt many, many more but are they at all true and how many people had to work under the reign of a narcissistic CEO? Well if you asked the writing staff here who have all held down a corporate gig at one point or another throughout their lives they’d say a lot of them are true and there would be plenty of disgruntled staff in the workforce across the country.
Hitting up our old friend Google we thought it best we did a little research into what it takes to climb the corporate ladder in most organisations (The legitimate way without knifing your fellow employees) and what makes a good CEO. We didn’t have to go far before we came across an article in the Harvard Business Review. Being one of the top business schools in the world it is surely a reputable and well written article one would assume. But as all good mothers teach us “Assumptions make an Ass out of you and me” so we were relieved when we began reading through the article that it was factual, well written, evidenced and therefore reputable. It pointed out there has been a longstanding link between narcissism and leadership as pointed out by both Schopenhauer and Freud and many others over the years. The article went on to point out that despite the fact that self-aware and humble individuals make better CEOs companies continue to hire Narcissists steer the ship.
With facts pointing out that narcissism has been on the rise for several decades now which to put it plainly means that the world we live in is becoming increasingly self-centred, overconfident and somewhat deluded. These increases seem to also appear more exacerbated among leaders since those in charge of judging leadership potential often mistake confidence for competence. Which raises the question of how much of the blame should be shouldered by society and how much is on the individual for creating this inflated sense of ego and narcissistic society we find ourselves in. According to the Harvard Business Review there is a natural tension between peoples selfish and prosocial drives. They then related humans to hedgehogs in winter. Apparently we need to get close to warm up bet when you get that many hedgehogs together it can become a little prickly.
The tension between our desire to get along with others and our desire to get ahead of them represents a fundamental conundrum of human affairs. The main role of leaders is to manage this tension within their teams. A lot of this is done through their authority, vision and higher sense of purpose. The idea is that a leader provides a meaningful mission to the group that erodes the individuals selfish instincts.Thereby everyone works towards a common goal in this instance it is obtaining the companies targets for the year. The more profitable the company is the more it should equate to cash in your back pocket. It never does though so don’t get too excited and start buying that new car or planing that extension on your house.
What you can take to the bank though is that when it comes to company performance there is more of a likelihood of you being retrenched than the CEO not taking home his bonus ending in six zeroes for the year. Speaking of retrenchment there will no doubt be some creative accounting to ensure that bonus as well. We’ve often questioned what goes through the minds of the men and women that run multi billion dollar companies. Do they empower their staff or do they micromanage down to the fine details? What we’ve found from our research is that you will often get a mix of the two. They will however have a stronger leaning one way or the other which will become apparent when they are either hovering over your desk or have one of their cronies doing it for them.
If walls could talk we are positive they’d have some stories for us that would almost be unbelievable but unfortunately with hollywood bring to light some of the worst things CEOs have done throughout history. Nothing is unbelievable these days nor is it a stretch of the imagination to see someone like Kevin Spacey playing the role of your current boss’s
Boss. Maybe we are being harsh towards the men and women that run the companies that keep the global economy churning over and over. Maybe it’s hollywood that jaded our view of the corporate high flyers. In one recent Gallup study conducted in the US of more than 7,000 employees over 50% had resigned from a job because of a bad boss or CEO.
Several articles pointed out that the pay gap between the CEO and the average employer has increased significantly since the late 1950’s often to the point where the CEO has taken home the average employees salary within the first couple of weeks of the new financial year. And they question why there staff think they are corrupt and greedy, so maybe it isn’t just Hollywood that’s painting them in a bad light. I mean when employees read things like that or start to question why they can’t get the tools or support they need to be successful in their roles and yet there’s money in the budget for the CEO to fly away on some junket.
Of course the more greedy the CEO the more the investors, stockholders and higher level executives get in their pockets but it doesn’t necessarily translate to employee satisfaction when the higher ups are lining their pockets and the employees who are doing all the hard work are struggling to make ends meet. On top of that the only thing they seem to care about is increasing revenue to increase their pocket change. It’s a world that most of us will never understand and more than likely never be a part of. Whilst we don’t like to judge what we do like to see is the little guy being given a go from time to time. We in every sense of the word a fan of the under dog. The typical Aussie battler, the guys and girls who actually make the Australian economy tick over those are the guys and girls we support.
So where did we land on the CEO’s of this world? Well we are sure that outside of the office most of them are good people. But in the confines of the work environment there might be some who are supportive and all about their staff and growing the company while the majority are quite possibly on the other end of the spectrum and only care about making cash and don’t really care about how it’s made or who they have to step over to make it. That’s part of the reason they make it to the top, they have ambition, drive and motivation to succeed and the narcissistic part of them will do whatever needs to be done to get to where they want to go, they won’t mind stomping on a few people as they climb the corporate ladder a few rungs at a time.
At the end of the day everyone is different and every CEO is no doubt different, there will be good ones and bad ones and no doubt some ugly ones. There will be the greedy ones, the needy ones and the downright dirty ones we guess you could say they are a lot like partners. You’ll like some, love some and absolutely loathe some but it’ll all depend on how much you enjoy your role and how much you are willing to take from the money men. It’ll be a slow climb but if you want it enough you’ll get there and that salary will increase over time. Maybe not to the level of your CEO but enough to have the future you want and deserve. After all the key to happiness is ensuring that you have just enough to get what you require. After all too much is waste and not enough leaves you scrabbling month to month to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head. It’s all about earning just enough to provide for your family and live comfortably.
If you ever get into a position of power remember this blog and remember to look after the little guy. Remember not to be a jerk and money hungry. Empower your people, give them what they need and be humble. You were once in there shoes and once had the exact same thoughts about your CEO so don’t be that guy or girl. Just be the person you wanted your CEO to be when you were working. Be the good guy or girl that people always knew you to be as you were coming up through the ranks. That’s all people will every ask of you, that you are true to yourself and true to them. After all as the saying goes, the truth will set you free and pretending to be something or someone you are not will not instill a lot of faith in your leadership abilities with those looking up at you from below the ivory tower.
They say money is a killer and literally things that lead to money have certainly killed a lot of poor souls over the years. As have the men and some women who have been in charge of large operations that run money or make money. Heck even leaders of countries can be viewed as CEOs who are often corrupt and megalomaniacal to the point of being needing to be retired early by some special forces team from a foreign nation or overthrown in an internal power struggle. The common thread here being that most people in power have a narcissistic streak within them that makes them feel like they are kings of the world.
So whether you want to stand at the top of the ladder or bottom and peer up while shit flows down you will no doubt have to deal with a CEO at some point in time throughout your life. There’ll be layers in between but quite often they will be just as bad as the CEOs above them. So as we close yet another chapter in the Mind of Its Own chronicles we’ll leave you with this little tidbit. Not all people are the same and you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover. These are all part of life’s lessons though and you’ll learn them for yourself. You’ll also understand a lot more, the older that you get about how the world works. The little ins and outs. Until next week, take it easy, look after yourself and as the kids say. You do, you!