Since the high-growth mantra first raised its ugly head and investing fashion drove good industries which made real (useful) things into the wall or off the continent, we have bred a generation of CEO’s incapable of finding quiet within themselves and thinking models through. From the time Rebecca Mark rode a motorcycle into an Enron annual meeting until Sergey Brin videoed into a zeppelin for a vicarious sky dive, rappel and mountain bike up onto the stage, we have seen legions of would be CEO rock stars do their bounding-onto-the-stage thing, in costume or not, under the klieg lights. They and their audiences have missed the point of leading. Confusing performance art with business performance, CEO’s have eschewed quiet, introspection, analysis and foresight for a rock star interpretation of intensity, focus, and daring. They have tested teams with dare devilry from sky diving to bouldering. Is it any wonder that as social media followed the dot com fate, fire walking had become the new new thing in team building? As Uber edges closer to self-immolation, is it only the Rock Star CEO that powers the “unicorn” (which is, after all mythological) and sweeps away even tough minded directors and what should have been strongly independent boards? Witness Theranos.
Disdaining introspection and the ability to be quiet, these CEO’s and their teams have lost sense of proportion, responsibility, and real growth. But now from HP to Twitter, Zynga to Uber we have finally begun to see the fate of the model. Will we see the retirement of the rock star CEO or at least a new maturity and a business reality beyond myths and unicorns? Just as you need to accept risk to make money but quiet thought to keep it, so too does the boldest plan only succeed long term on depth of knowledge, analysis, and, ultimately, quiet.