A Role Model for CEOs

Talk about impeccable timing.

I just finished reading David McCullough's excellent biography of John Adams — on July 4th no less, 175 years to the day after his death.

It is great stuff. But I've come to a conclusion: John Adams would have been a lousy CEO.

McCullough doesn't say that, but I surmise that and here's why. Adams was way too blunt. He spoke his mind. He let you have it right between the eyes.

Adams’ nemesis at the time, Thomas Jefferson, was just the opposite. He was always subtle, deliberately vague and painstakingly earnest. I mean, Jefferson practically invented "I feel your pain." I bet he even bit his lip!

Now that's a CEO. Jefferson even looked like one: good physique and good hair. Not Adams, who had a bad physique, no hair, coarse language, a shrill delivery and wore his emotions on his sleeve. As I say, not CEO material.

Pity. Because I think we need CEOs like that. CEOs that have passion and a heart. And, yes, a temper.

Imagine what a CEO John Adams would tell the Europeans if they rejected "his" merger deal?

I could hear him now, "What's the matter with you good-for-nothing, turf-protecting, wine-sipping, heads-up-your-butt socialists? Can't stand the heat? Then get the hell out of my kitchen!"

Or what he'd do if he had a lousy quarter. Something tells me you wouldn't catch John Adams blaming somebody else for his problems. "Hey, I know my competitors say the dollar killed them abroad. But I gotta tell ya, we just didn't deliver."

You'd never hear it, my friends. Rare is the CEO who is that frank, that brave or that real. It's probably why John Adams was a one-termer and was turned-on by his very vice president, Thomas Jefferson. Old Adams wasn't smooth enough, political enough, finessed enough to see what hit him.

But in this age of double-speak and phony speak we could do worse than to have a guy like Adams running the shop. He would leave no doubt. He would take no prisoners. I don't know how long he'd last, but it would be one hell of a ride.

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