Monday, 7 April 2014

You are what you lead?

The hullabaloo in the last week over Brendan Eich, the ex-CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, has got me thinking about the role that senior executives play when shaping a company's public perception.

I don't want to get into Mr Eich's views, especially those that lost him his job, but I believe there is a strong need in these days of transparency for senior executives - and maybe other employees - to give careful thought as to whether their personal views and opinions are compatible with the values of the company they work for.

Brendan Eich has been called everything from "horribly bullied" to an "obnoxious homophobe" recently but I wonder if he would have been under similar pressure to step down if he had worked in a more conservative industry - arms manufacture to take a silly example, or the automobile industry to take a more realistic one.

Back in the last century, you had your Mission Statement and Brand Values on the wall of the boardroom and no-one paid them much attention. Only rare exceptions when it came to CEOs could really be said to be living the values of the company - Anita Roddick, or Richard Branson for example. Or Ingvar Kamprad (above) - an interesting case, who certainly makes a point of living a low cost life but came on very shaky ground for a company that believes in democracy and diversity when certain aspects of his early life were revealed.

These days it's difficult to hide and companies must ensure that their senior representatives fit culturally with what the company is about. And the onus is also on the executive him/her self. If you're used to a luxury lifestyle, IKEA probably isn't the place for you. Nor is Procter & Gamble if you're an animal rights activist in your spare time.

The Eich case isn't that simple, as Brendan Eich founded Mozilla himself.

Even so, he should never been offered the position of CEO, or accepted it.

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