So now Bernie Ebbers says he was never a numbers guy. As his WorldCom fraud trial begins, his defense seems to be, "I was in charge, but I wasn't in charge."
Funny, when companies are soaring and the money and praise are rolling in, the guy on top is in charge and hands-on. Suddenly, when the you-know-what hits the fan, he's out of the loop and hands-off.
Ken Lay appears to be taking much the same defense at Enron. Ditto Dennis Kozlowski at Tyco.
But, when all those companies were humming, I didn't hear one of them bumming.
Bumming about numbers they didn't know. They knew them all.
Bumming about businesses they didn't comprehend. They comprehended them all.
I guess it is human nature: When things are good, we like to take all the credit. When they're going bad, we like someone else to take all the blame. But it seems pretty transparent to me.
I'm impressed by the CEOs who brag about their great teams and people when things are going well and fault their own miscues when they do not.
I remember when Jack Welch failed to merge with Honeywell. He said, in effect, "I botched it."
I was impressed.
Just like I was impressed when Lee Iacocca came on board at Chrysler and admitted quality was a problem with some of his cars, but not any of his people. He leaned on them to produce better cars, and they did. And when the company produced better numbers, he sung their praises.
Good bosses know bad things can happen. Great bosses are big enough to admit them and take responsibility for them when they do.
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