Why do business idols, both individuals and firms, develop feet of clay? For anybody who believes this cannot happen to their leader, or their organisation, or even to themselves, the best advice is ‘don’t be so sure’.
The very strengths that gave the idol its apparently ever-lasting power can, seemingly in a trice, be seen as the major weaknesses that have helped to pull the statue from its pedestal – just like all those cracked monuments to dead and despised dictators.
‘Dictator’ is a key word. Often fallen idols are the creations of dominant supremos, lords of the universe who allow no rivals near the throne, succeed brilliantly for a time – often a long one – while the force is with them, and then undermine their own empire as the force fails. Very often the once all-conquering drive turns inwards, and an arrogant, obsolescent leader makes bad and badly executed decisions.
You need look no further than Michael Eisner of Walt Disney, threatened by hostile actions on all sides, for an awful example. Small businesses are just as vulnerable to the ups-and-downs of a despot. The obvious answer – to outlaw despotism – is difficult to implement, since the despot is unlikely to agree: and you may, anyway, throw out the baby (entrepreneurial dynamism) with the bathwater. So a compromise looks like the right approach; the favoured cure is to install professional executives to supplement and partly replace one-man eccentricity (and egocentricity) with proper systems and a strong management team.