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Updated Jun 20, 2024

Broken Pedestals: The Dark Sides of 10 Popular CEOs

It's easy to idolize certain CEOs and admire their drive to innovate. But some have gone way off course.

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Julie Thompson, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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A CEO is constantly under immense pressure to adjust to society’s demands, eliminate competitors and generate massive profits. The best CEOs demonstrate strong values from the start, allowing for consistent leadership, dynamism and long-term growth. However, not all CEOs can manage the countless hours, criticism and ethical issues with grace.

CEOs of some of the world’s most famous companies often have a dark side. Corner-cutting, a toxic work culture and arrogance can lead to a lack of business transparency and a blatant disregard for regulatory procedures, the consequences of which can be costly. Some well-known leaders have managed to survive their scandals while others have found their careers in tatters.

CEO dos and don’ts

Being the head of a company isn’t a walk in the park. You’re expected to raise profits, improve manager-employee relations, keep shareholders happy, maintain an excellent reputation and more. The gig requires long hours and forces you to face moral and financial challenges continually. It’s no wonder that some end up facing executive-level employee burnout

Fortunately, you can glean lessons from the mistakes of those who’ve come before you. We’ve compiled tips for business executives willing to take on this sought-after leadership role.

What should a good CEO do?

  • Give employees freedom: Good CEOs empower their staff to become self-sufficient. You don’t have the time to answer everyone’s questions. Let employees find solutions themselves. Good CEOs also allow team members to speak up and try new ideas.
  • Keep an open mind: While a CEO should focus on the big picture, that doesn’t mean ignoring smaller puzzle pieces. Don’t hide in your office or make yourself unavailable to managers and employees. Learn how to be an inspirational leader who considers multiple viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Maintain a network of mentors: You may assume a CEO should always have all the answers, but sometimes, it’s normal to feel isolated and underqualified. Seek out a trusted individual as a confidant and take time to talk with business professionals who have been there and done that.
TipBottom line
Network on LinkedIn with colleagues and potential new members of your professional circle to gain valuable industry knowledge and be the first to learn when opportunities arise.

What should a good CEO not do?

  • Handle everything yourself: Being a CEO means you wear multiple hats within the company, but your team is only as strong as its weakest link. Concentrate on hiring qualified departmental leadership so you can delegate instead of doing everything yourself.
  • Cut benefits: Your workforce is the lifeblood of the company. Before eliminating employee benefits and perks, consider how to cut business costs in other areas, such as business trips and unnecessary inventory. Prioritize keeping employees satisfied.
  • Keep poor managers: It’s not uncommon to put someone in a leadership position and quickly find out they’re not qualified for the job, toxic to company culture or a bad fit. Don’t leave the wrong leaders in place too long or you risk hampered productivity and increased turnover.

Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article. 

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Julie Thompson, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
With nearly two decades of experience under her belt, Julie Thompson is a seasoned B2B professional dedicated to enhancing business performance through strategic sales, marketing and operational initiatives. Her extensive portfolio boasts achievements in crafting brand standards, devising innovative marketing strategies, driving successful email campaigns and orchestrating impactful media outreach. Thompson's proficiency extends to Salesforce administration, database management and lead generation, reflecting her versatile skill set and hands-on approach to business enhancement. Through easily digestible guides, she demystifies complex topics such as SaaS technology, finance trends, HR practices and effective marketing and branding strategies. Moreover, Thompson's commitment to fostering global entrepreneurship is evident through her contributions to Kiva, an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses in underserved communities worldwide.
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