Are You a Maverick CEO or Are You Acting like a Brilliant Jerk?
Don’t assume becoming a jerk is something that only happens to others
Don’t assume that becoming a jerk is something that only happens to others.
There has been and will always be a place for inspired business leaders who seek to do things in a new way. Thomas Edison and Edwin Land—cofounder of Polaroid Corporation—were visionaries who broke rules, challenged the status quo, and reconfigured industries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More recently a host of CEOs have proved that a maverick can create a truly great company. Think Mark Benioff at Salesforce and Steve Jobs returning to Apple after his ouster by the board. Similarly, Reed Hastings’ Netflix has made an indelible mark on the entire media industry. And Jeff Bezos’ juggernaut, Amazon, has left competitors in its wake to become a convention-crushing bulldozer, the largest Internet company by revenue, and the top retailer by market capitalization.
Mavericks who challenge convention have the ability to create things others can’t and generate a bewildering collection of opportunities in their wake. But things don’t always work out that way. Some trailblazers turn into troublemakers who vex investors, employees, and board members. Travis Kalanick’s notoriously bad behavior when he was CEO of Uber caused one board member to announce that they should never hire another brainy jerk. Some pioneers step outside boundaries so badly they implode the enterprise they help build. Theranos’ founder, Elizabeth Holmes, lied about the company’s so-called revolutionary blood-testing technology. Theranos, which once had a market capitalization of $9 billion, withered to nothing.
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