Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being CEO Means More Than Riding Around On The Corporate Jet

I was absolutely flabbergasted to read this on Matthew Yglesias' blog this morning:

"I think that running a major company is largely a matter of riding around on the corporate jet."

Later, he writes:

"That a lot of the people succeeding in business are sort of frauds (needless to say, other people get rich by inventing stuff that turns out to be incredibly lucrative and that’s a whole different sort of thing) doesn’t detract from the fact that the most successful among them are good at being frauds and that most people couldn’t do nearly as well."

I'm not sure what's more insulting--the notion that being a corporate executive requires no worthwhile skill, or that the most important skill in business is being good at being a fraud.

It is astounding to me that the same writers who will excoriate people for oversimplifying policy issues (like the debate over school vouchers) will turn around and do exactly the same thing to business and economic issues. Do they realize their hypocrisy? They might as well be right-wing talk radio hosts.

I have worked with good CEOs and bad CEOs. I don't know whether or not management competence is relevant for a Fortune 500 company, but it makes a big difference in the startup world. My guess is that it makes a difference for big companies as well.

If not, wouldn't the same logic argue that competence is less important in a President than in the mayor of Wassila, Alaska, and that anyone who could do the latter would be qualified to do the former?

Perhaps Yglesias has just been taken in by the media's focus on crappy CEOs like Dennis Kozlowski and Ken Lay. But by that same logic, we should judge all football players based on Pacman Jones and Rae Carruth.

C'mon, Matt, you're better than that. Right?