The smallest CEO

March 22, 2010, 2:59 PM UTC

I’m sure there are many more important events going on in the world of business and finance today, but I don’t care. I’m too grouchy to write about them. I flew in from the left coast last night and didn’t get my normal three hours of shuteye on the plane. That’s because in the cabin with me was one of those horrendous, narcissistic, noisy, infantile Chief Executive Officer types. She kept all of us awake for the entire flight with her temper tantrums, squeals of outrage and  general outlandish behavior. No one, not even her exhausted handlers, could control her. Which was pretty remarkable, because she couldn’t have been more than two feet tall on her tiptoes.

That’s right. The young executive in question was a toddler of about two, and the way she manipulated everybody around her, making their lives miserable and ruining their peace of mind, can only be compared to the antics of successful senior officers, who have maintain this particular style since birth. 

First, upon boarding, she had a huge problem with her seat. So she screamed and yelled her head off for about an hour, solid. I had made a critical mistake. I was in a perfectly comfortable and quiet location in Business, but was upgraded. That’s always a flattering experience. Who questions such a move? From now on, I will. “Are there any insane babies in the First Class cabin?” will be my immediate question. A nice quiet seat location in Purgatory beats a luxury cabin in Hell any day.

So the little baby screamed and yelled until we took off, and then, sobbing noisily, fell into a torpor until the food arrived. Then she vocalized a little more and threw it around the room for a while. I was strongly reminded of a mogul I know who, when served food from the wrong deli in the G4 not too long ago, actually hurled a chicken leg at the head of the flight attendant. Nobody spanked him, either.

About halfway through the flight, the littlest CEO grew tired of fussing and decided to squeal in a high-pitched, siren kind of thing. For her own amusement, you know. She would emit this piercing noise, and then crack up at some private joke that was of absolutely no interest to anybody else. I had a boss like that once. He’s retired now, and spends most of his time in some kind of philanthropic effort.

By the time we were landing, more than five hours into this ordeal, the entire First Class cabin was in a state not unfamiliar to anybody works one of these guys. Everybody was on edge. Nobody looked each other in the eye, for fear that somebody would do something to annoy the monster. All we wanted to do was get out of there. And the teeny tyrant babbled on, a river of barely intelligible needs constantly burbling from her, running around the enclosed space we were all to share as relative equals, commanding the entire attention of all who were in her vicinity. Not one of us stopped her. She reigned supreme.

I wish I could tell you that reason, equality and good manners triumphed in the end. But it did not. And today, I find myself wondering what life must be like for those who must work for her full-time. Whatever power it is she possesses, they should probably bottle it and teach it at Wharton. Maybe they already do, come to think of it.