2018: The Year the Cult-Of-Celebrity CEO Died

If there has been one major change when it comes to the C-Suite, it is this: The days of being a flamboyant, globe hopping, cause célèbre espousing, holier-than-thou, Wall Street minted CEO is dead. Period, full stop.

And it couldn’t come quick enough.

Over the past decade there has been a shift in perspective of what a CEO both does and means to a company. But also, what a CEO should and shouldn’t do when it comes to their position and title. To say the lines have been blurred for what used to be prudent business decorum is a gross understatement.

In regards to CEO and understatement, to not include the entire C-Suite, Boards and more would be just as much of a trivialization. For it appears that getting into the upper levels for publicly traded companies has something more akin to becoming what was once called “the rock star life” more than being an actual rock star. i.e., why dream of being a rock star when rock stars now dream of being CEOs? 

This phenom coincidentally seems to have reached its zenith at around the same time the Federal Reserve concluded its “rock star fueling” artist development program known as QE (quantitative easing.)

Funny how that happens, no?

To stay with the musical analogy, there’s none more illustrative than the complete and utter collapse of facade for two of the stage’s once fervently held and unassailable members of the C-Suite pop act known as Facebook™. e.g., Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

As of late every-time Mark has had to appear in some setting that demands he may have to speak extemporaneously, he appears more staged and animatronic than an actual robot.

In his most recent performance at an E.U. grilling it appeared at the very end (time stamp starts at about 1:30:00) as if not only his sync track file was corrupted, but also his mechanisms for movement.

It is absolutely painful to watch, for it shows just how scripted before hand he is. His mannerism in those last two minutes tells one all they need to know. i.e., there’s no there there.

When it comes to Ms. “Lean In?” Let’s just say she’s leaned out when it comes to demands for any follow-up stage performances. i.e., I think A Flock of Seagulls may be more in-demand and command better ticket pricing. But that’s just me.

The once ubiquitous 21st century golden-girl model for C-Suite activism appears that not only has her once iridescent shine dimmed, but it’s dimmed so much that people she once clamored to be around, such as Former First Lady Michelle Obama, now cavalierly disses her once one-hit-wonder pop hit “lean in” with critique such as:

“…it’s not always enough to lean in, because that sh*t doesn’t work all the time.”

Can you say “Ouch!?”

You have others falling from grace such as Carlos Ghosn of Renault-Nissan™ now accused of improperly using corporate funds to fund a lavish lifestyle. Lloyd Blankfein former CEO now Chairman of Goldman Sachs™ the once ubiquitous face of Wall Street across any-and-all mainstream business/financial outlets appears to be on more milk cartons than any media outlet of late.

I wonder how long before the title of “Chairman” also includes “former” as the 1MDB debacle shines more of a spotlight than what he sought at conferences and television studios. Hint: see Jon Corzine for clues.

Remember Jeff Immelt? You remember the CEO extraordinaire that was going to guide the U.S. back from the abyss with “shovel ready jobs” as he headed that task force for the prior administration, don’t you?.

Oh right, there was a problem with all that. “The problem,” you ask? 

A complete waste of time and tax payers dollars that turned him into a caricature of what a CEO should represent. Much like he did with G.E.™. i.e.,  Mr. “Wait, what do you mean there was a second plane always following me like the president, for years? Is that what that thing was? I thought it was just a big bird that maybe fell in love! Wow, who signed off on that!?” Immelt.

How about “Ol’ Uncle Warren?” Have you noticed he’s no longer appearing in as many sit-downs with the salivating media as of late? Funny how that timing thing works when he may be losing as much money as his once unassailable credibility of “investing prowess” and/or recommendations now that the Fed has opened the drain of QT (quantitate tightening) i.e., you don’t have to be swimming to watch investment advice/dollars circle down a whirlpool.

There are others, Jeff Bezos has now suddenly found himself routinely ensconced as the new “whipping boy” when it comes to CEO’s with presumed wealth and power.

However, as that wealth gets hit with that same “whipping stick” aka QT, so goes the once Teflon® coating of can’t do no wrong for Amazon™. Hint: if share prices continue to fall, look for calls of “unlocking shareholder value” (e.g., break it up) to be said more often than a holiday-sale commercial.

Then, of course, there’s Tim Cook of Apple™. Suddenly he’s very concerned about government not regulating tech. i.e., Privacy.

I believe it’s a valid and arguable stance. However, at the same time he’s taking to stages and proclaiming that it is his duty, along with others of his ilk, to decide that it is they that will decide what is and is not hate speech.

Again, all while he cheerleads using Apple’s corporate persona, heft and coffers to openly solicit money via iTunes® to provide resources he will arbitrarily cut off to others to help fund an entity that many see themselves as an operation for spilling “hate.” e.g., Southern Poverty Law Center™.

This latest hypocritical, tone-deaf aberration of how and what are the duties of a CEO are now legend via his latest declarations. i.e., He declares one thing yet appears completely oblivious to his own actions. Here’s just one:

When it comes to “hate.” He himself has created more conflicts to this subject starting with the possible hostile work place environment situation for a hypothetical 50% of Apple’s workforce. And that’s not hyperbloe, let me explain…

If you are openly calling for donations for a cause you as CEO has declared is now the call-of-the-times via employees and more – and some decide not to, for any reason. You instill possible situations for peer pressure, or worse, retaliatory measures via co-workers and/or management that may hinder job performance or advancement. Not to mention 50% of your customer base.

To make clear: When you implement anything political 50% is the hypothetical starting point. Which is why politics doesn’t belong in business. Again, period. See Nike™ for further clues.

I would look for Mr. Cook’s award roster and speaking engagements to follow Apple’s share price. i.e., lower, possibly much. For as Apple-the-stock goes? So too does Mr. Cook’s value as CEO let alone “Celebrity CEO Cause Célèbre Speaker.”

Then of course there’s non other than Elon Musk. All I have to say is this:

Once investors stop trying to embrace and follow (I mean that literally!) the publicly weed smoking Musk with his music, wine, and pill popping recommendations of coice. Tesla® may be in for a far rougher road than any suspension innovations may be digitally adjusted for. The reasoning is simple:

The hangover will be legend.

Just ask an aged rock star. That is, if you can still find one.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr