When it comes to leaders, there are three deadly sins, according to Stanford’s Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best … and Learn From the Worst. They are a lack of inhibition, obliviousness and disregard, and hubris — any of which can lead to “power poisoning,” in Sutton’s words.
His take on some top leaders:
Good Turned Bad:
Mark Hurd, Hewlett-Packard ex-CEO
Hurd brought discipline to HP, cutting costs and boosting earnings. But in addition to alleged expense report issues and being named in a harassment suit, his demeaning attitude hurt morale.
Lesson: When you treat people poorly, don’t mistake praise for affection; they are waiting to help commit Hurd-icide.
Dov Charney, American Apparel CEO
Charney showed creativity in founding the largest U.S. clothing maker and building a hip brand. But his lack of inhibition and wildly inappropriate behavior didn’t help in a time of growing financial losses.
Lesson: Charney’s disregard for societal norms sparked innovation but doesn’t excuse poor management and acting like a creep.
Bad Turned Good:
Steve Jobs, Apple CEO
In 1985 the board fired Jobs because he was controlling and unmanageable. Yet after returning in 1997, he made it one of the world’s most successful companies.
Lesson:Jobs is still confident, but he has surrounded himself with people who complement him, such as design head Jonathan Ive and COO Tim Cook.
George Washington, U.S. President 1789-1797
In 1776, dear old George had never led an army into battle before — and it showed: He suffered from indecision and major strategic blunders. But Washington encouraged feedback and improved as the war progressed.
Lesson: Washington had a mix of confidence and humility that inspired soldiers and let him learn from mistakes.