The CEO's Epitaph

Memo To:         CEOs and Aspiring CEOs

From:               John Bell

Re:                   Your CEO Epitaph

If you are already in the C-suite, I suggest you take a moment to contemplate your epitaph. Will you be remembered as Jack Bighead or Andy Goodfellow?

Epitaph of Jack Bighead:

A master dealmaker, the tenacious Jack Bighead believed a good deal was one in which the other side got screwed. Over his highly successful career, he created hundreds of millions 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 of 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 new wife, Mercedes, the former Miss Las Vegas.

Epitaph of Andy Goodfellow:

If you met him in the street, you’d never know that the soft-spoken Andy Goodfellow was a successful, results-oriented CEO. He was the type of leader who never talked about himself; he was interested in you. People-first was his modus operandi. Perhaps that's why Mr. Goodfellow's employees always 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 craft. As for the future, Mr. Goodfellow is excited. He plans to spend more time with his wife of 41 years, his three children and eight 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 state of the business. But if you don't want your CEO epitaph to resemble that of Jack Bighead, be aware of those 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 of C-suite while you are there.

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