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“Gasp! The Emperor wears no clothes!”

August 13, 2012

“Gasp! The Emperor wears no clothes!” A refrain heard many many times during my corporate career. It’s been years since I had thought much about this particular phrase, until I came across this booze&co. article describing Prozac Management. (http://www.strategy-business.com/article/re00199?gko=cdf0d&cid=rr20120809)

From the 90’s to mid-2000’s the version of reality Wall Street executives subscribed to was vastly different than the one being confronted daily on the front lines. This in and of itself is not surprising. Every enterprise (public and private) experiences this to varying degrees. Add human emotions with other factors such as geography and role perspectives, and it becomes a guarantee an Ivory Tower will be erected within each enterprise.

The only question left remaining is “how high will the Ivory Tower rise?” In 2005  the president of the company had established a goal of more than doubling client assets under management and increasing operating profits to 20% from 8%. Both were worthy goals. The nudity of the goals were readily apparent to us all when the time period set for attainment was a few short years.

Here is the Prozac Moment. A meeting was called of the top managers to NY to discuss how now to proceed. The evening’s agenda was dedicated to “What prevents us from reaching the  Goal?” It was a round table and the first 14 managers each professed confidence nothing but our own slovenly ways prevented us from achieving success. The last one to speak had given this a lot of thought and research. He wrote a list of six items that if addressed would remove obstacles which were self-inflicted as a company. He shared them with the group. I was that last one to speak.

The next morning my boss literally walked up to me, his face in my personal space and said to me “I need to know now if you are on the team or off the team.” Evidently, the other managers figured out senior management was not looking for anything other than a “Aye Aye Captain.”

Several of those Prozac Leaders are gone now, but they have left incalculable damage to a company. They refused to listen, they refused to hear, they refused to believe others could understand the question and contribute to the answer. This particular company has been and continues to be dragged through the headlines for its malfeasance. It seems the company pharmacy is still dispensing Prozac by the wheelbarrow.

The best advice I was given in my first role as a leader from another leader was “Be respectful of the past, realistic about today, and hopeful for tomorrow.” Even when it did not help me, I have held to this.

 

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