When I was a management consultant, I was often hired for “turnaround” projects – to help a failing company or an ailing division. In many cases, the owner was erratic and authoritarian, similar to the management style of our current head of state, which reminded me of a particular business implosion with eerie similarities.
A middle-aged man had risen to president of a real estate company founded by his father when Senior died from an auto collision. The father had been a wily businessman, funding his company’s growth by issuing non-voting stock and bonds to small investors, and attracting good talent into company leadership.
While Senior was revered by his employees, he had been unkind and demanding to his son and when Junior took over the company, his years of frustration erupted in a petty, angry, punitive management style. I have a vivid memory of sitting opposite Junior and watching his temper rise, a growing tide of red flush surging from neck to face to the top of his thin, sandy-haired pate, and wondering if this time his head would explode.
Both Senior and Junior were entrepreneurs by nature, as were most of my clients. These creative types succeed over time only if they come to recognize their shortcomings and empower others to create order in the organization. They mitigate their impatience, lean on the expertise of others, value people.
Junior had no capacity to learn this management style. He was a dictator, ignoring advice, raging at will, demeaning employees, and firing without warning. In the 18 months that I worked to salvage their securities division, Junior fired at least 10 major executives, including his CFO, and fired and re-hired his Human Resource Director three times.
In my tenure I watched the company devolve from an industry leader to total dysfunction, as employees at every level cowered, focusing only on daily survival. Even the executives in the company told Junior what he wanted to hear – not what was critical, prudent, necessary. Palace intrigues developed everywhere.
It is both my personal style and my role as a consultant to speak truth to power but Junior disregarded my warnings about securities regulations. Believing that he was omnipotent, he ended my contract, ignored the laws and continued his erratic and irrational behavior. Eventually it was securities regulators who shut down his company and angry investors who attached his remaining assets through lawsuits.
— Jonnie Martin