To those of you who are CEOs, I suggest you take a break from your busy schedule to contemplate your leadership epitaph. As sure as the sun rises and falls, every CEO’s tenure atop an organization will come to an end. How you will be remembered is not the issue. The real question is: how will you judge your performance when the CEO afterlife arrives. Will your epitaph resemble that of Jack Bighead or Andy Goodfellow?
The Epitaph of Jack Bighead – a master dealmaker, the tenacious Jack Bighead believed a good deal was one in which the other guy got screwed. Over his highly successful career, Mr. Bighead created hundreds of millions of dollars in shareholder value by acquiring, downsizing and selling companies. This hard-driving CEO never let anything stand in the way of his insatiable quest for profit, nor has he any regrets sacrificing family time for the good of the business and the shareholders. On missing the graduations of all four children, Mr. Bighead said, “Comes with the territory. At least each of ‘em got a spanking new sports car.” From his glorious manor on the Boca Raton coast, he contemplates an empty life after the C-Suite with his fourth wife, Mercedes, a former Miss Las Vegas.
The Epitaph of Andy Goodfellow – If you met him on the street, you’d never know that the soft-spoken Andy Goodfellow was a successful, results-oriented CEO. Andy Goodfellow was the type of leader who never talked about himself; he was interested in you. He valued his people and never stopped telling them so. Perhaps this is why Mr. Goodfellow’s employees gave that “extra mile” for the customer. With great pride, he watched the men and women who worked under him go on to become outstanding CEOs, senior executives and masters in their chosen craft. As for a future beyond the corner office, Mr. Goodfellow is excited. He plans to spend more time with his wife of 41 years, his 3 children and 8 grandchildren. “I’ll also be busy heading the Goodfellow Foundation, the charity that helps people help themselves,” he said.
Remember, it is never too late to change. There may be many styles of leadership, and some will hinge on the health of the business. But if you don’t want your CEO or C-suite epitaph to resemble that of Jack Bighead, be aware of the people you touch along the way. Notwithstanding the incessant trials and tribulations, there is every opportunity to lead with honor and do some good with the power that comes with the corner office. Use it well, while you are there.