The CEO as Liar

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The Wall Street Journal headline doesn't say it all, but it does say most of it: "Thompson Resigns as CEO of Yahoo." The short story is this. Scott Thompson was hired as CEO by Yahoo in January. They evidently didn't take a real close look at his credentials.

Thompson claimed a computer science degree that wasn't even offered by his college until after he had graduated. Yahoo called it "an inadvertent error." That's BS. Writing down a degree you don't have and signing a regulatory document that says so are not inadvertent. They are purposeful. They are lies.

Once the lie became public there were essentially three reactions. Some wanted to fire Thompson. Others recommended something less.

In an article titled "Little Lies; Big Lies," Davia Temin downplayed the severity of the transgression. She asked, "Really… does it make that much difference if someone receives a BA in accounting or computer science?" If that were the question, the answer would be "No." But the question was whether Thompson lied about his credentials.

If the answer to that one is "Yes," then we can be pretty sure of two things. He's done it before. And he'll do it again. You may be OK, with that, but I'm real sure that investors and regulatory bodies do not want to guess when Thomson is lying about something substantive. Neither do strategic partners.

Jena McGregor, in "Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s incorrect resume raises questions for tech company’s board" took a different tack. She suggested that "If Thompson allowed false information about his educational background to linger in his bio, he should be treated just like any other employee who did the same." Nope. I disagree with that one, too.

The CEO is not "any other employee." That makes the situation different. CEOs should be held to a higher standard.

What kind of example do you set if you keep a known liar as a CEO? We talk a lot about "leadership by example." That's a bad example.

Boss's Bottom Line

Integrity matters. When you lead, it matters even more.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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