Is it time to fire your CEO? Part 2

Last week I mentioned the recent firing of Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, who resigned with rare humor and honesty. As CEO of Me, Inc., what can you do if you think your best option is to fire your CEO?

Let’s revisit that CEO job description:bad boss

“Determine and formulate policies and provide overall direction of companies or … organizations within guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body. Plan, direct, or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.“ (Source: O*NET).

Firing the CEO isn’t really an option in the case of Me, Inc. You can surrender responsibility – to a spouse, a parent, a boss, a higher power – but that doesn’t actually get you off the hook for the day-to-day. You still have to get up in the morning and get through the day in some fashion. Since CEOs are in charge of creating the vision and directing strategy, consider how you’re currently doing this.

There are a really disheartening number of lists online detailing the characteristics of bad leaders. I think these can be grouped into 5 major categories:

  1. Poor communication (don’t communicate vision clearly; give direct reports little to no guidance; skip performance reviews; don’t give constructive suggestions; dump more work on your team than you do yourself; terrible listener)
  2. Disorganization/lack of direction (give people projects then don’t follow up; micromanage; sabotage team’s ability to follow through by making staff or assignment changes; change your mind constantly; disorganized; make everything an emergency; have fuzzy expectations)
  3. Bad behavior (Insulting; bullying; politicking; putting down team in front of others; make others feel unappreciated; never wrong about anything ever; blame others; vindictive; harping on failures; never say thanks; defensive; paranoid; rule by fear; drama )
  4. Wishy-washiness (avoid decision-making; tolerate underperformers out of loyalty; don’t know team’s abilities; hire substandard people to look better by comparison)
  5. Lack of inspiration (focus on results and not developing your team; never inspire your team to work hard or get enthused; don’t try to become a better boss; indirectness; unwilling to make decisions; avoid needed conflicts or confrontations)

Consider this in light of your job search.

  • Do you have a vision for your career? When you talk with your colleagues, network contacts, and potential employers, can you articulate that vision so that others are able to see how they can help you reach your goals? Do you evaluate your skills and knowledge on a regular basis to make sure you have the tools to perform at the top of your game?
  • Do you change direction so often that it’s impossible to make meaningful progress toward your goals? Are you clear on your expectations for yourself? Have you really sat down and thought about what you wanted, then developed a plan to get there? Is every situation an emergency that you react to, or is there a longer-term plan that guides your actions?
  • Do you put yourself down or downplay your abilities? Do you blame others (bosses, co-workers, the economy, the government) for your current career situation? Are you stuck in the vicious cycle of reliving past failures? Are you defensive about your progress (or lack thereof)?
  • Do you stay in a job you hate because you’re good at it? Do you know what you’re capable of? Do you spend time with people who are negative or bring you down?
  • Do you challenge yourself? Do you look for inspiration on a daily basis? Do you avoid asking yourself hard questions (like these!) because the answers make you uncomfortable?

This is hard stuff, there’s no doubt about it. But of all the attributes of bad bosses listed above, the most grievous one is “not trying to become a better boss.”

If you look at the leadership of Me, Inc. and see that your CEO is lacking, you can fix it. Communication skills, planning and organization, and decision-making are tools you can learn. Bad behavior is a habit that can be changed with some self-awareness. And you deserve to be inspired by yourself – whatever your current situation, you have within you the ability to make life-altering changes for the better.

Make a plan to become a better CEO. Do some serious self-evaluation. Take an assessment test. Find a mentor. Emulate the habits of those you admire. Write down your plan. Surround yourself with positive people. Try something new. Embrace failure.

If you’re going to turn Me, Inc. around, it might be helpful to keep Mason’s parting words in mind:

“I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. … I’ll now take some time to decompress…and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive. …I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best… This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!”


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