The World’s Most Disappointing Leaders?

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imagesFortune Magazine recently published a list of what it considered the World’s Most Disappointing Leaders.

These are mostly American and some names probably won’t mean much outside  the USA . This might reflect Americentricism or the fact that there are more disappointing leaders in America – which is hard to believe really.

Anyway the list, starting with politicians (a group which never fails to disappoint somebody):

The Mayor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, for refusing to accept any responsibility for his actions which resulted in lead poisoning in the water in the city of Flint. He blamed the government and the EPA instead. Well he is a politician and not the only one on the list.

The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie was considered the most craven one after first blasting Donald Trump’s candidacy “the President of the US is not a place for an entertainer” then declaring “… none better prepared to provide America with strong leadership …. than Donald Trump“. He’s been called a lot of names including puppet and ultimate lapdog.

The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, prevaricated and changed his mind several times about the shooting of a black teenager by a white cop, first supporting then firing the Police Superintendent, objecting to a Justice Department investigation, and refusing to release the video of the shooting until a judge forced him to.

And the last politician on their list is Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil. A former political prisoner during the military regime she is now facing impeachment for manipulating government accounts and hiding the worst recession in the country’s history. Don’t mention the Zika virus or the Olympic games!

Other contenders include Jeff Smisek, the former CEO of United Continental Airlines, which operated unprofitable flights to allow the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and Jersey to get to his vacation home.

The former COO  Al Giordiano and CEO Steve Nardizzi, of the Wounded Warrior charity project spent 40% of donations on salaries and expenses (compared to 10-15% in similar organisations). They are no longer with the organisation.

The co-CEOs of Chipotle, Steve Ellis and Montgomery Moran, clearly didn’t understand the concept of hygiene in a food retailing environment. They’ve had E.coli, salmonella, and Norovirus for which they blamed the Centers for Disease Control. Despite reassurances abut new food safety measures they had repeated problems and now face a federal investigation over its food safety issues.

Former FIFA Sepp Blatter and his intended successor Michael Platini were both banned from sport for 8 years. To say FIFA was a hotbed of corruption is probably an understatement after nine senior soccer officials and 16 others were indicted in the US for money laundering and racketeering.

Marissa Mayer clearly thought highly of herself when she was appointed CEO at Yahoo. And she was paid accordingly but has failed to deliver on her promises. If she successfully sells the business she reportedly gets $28m and if she’s sacked before then she gets a mere $8 million. Reward for failure yet again.

Martin Winterhorn, who led VW as chairman throughout its diesel emissions scam but allowed ambition to blind him to the truth.

Then there are a handful from the pharma/health industry such as Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who bought drugs cheaply and then hiked the price astronomically before being indicted; Michael Pearson, former CEO of Valeant, a Canadian pharma company which misstated its financial results after also jacking up drug prices; and Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos a company that promised to deliver cheaper and less invasive blood tests – claims that didn’t stand up to scrutiny and were found to actually jeopardise patient safety.

Gustavo Martinez, former CEO of J Walter Thompson obviously thought he was Don Draper (Mad Men) in the way he treated staff and allegedly threatened to rape one of them.

Zappos boss Tony Hsieh, who lives in a trailer with two alpacas keeping guard, was regarded as a leadership guru who eliminated all bosses in his on-line shoe company and created a self-management model called “holacracy” in which the company was aiming to achieve a state of organisational enlightenment known as “teal” (This might be familiar to those who know about Spiral dynamics). Strangely staff didn’t take to it and left in droves.

Finally Parker Conrad, former CEO of Zenefits, an employee benefits company with a thousand employees worth $4.5bn. It turned out that 80% of its health insurance sales were made by unlicensed brokers and employees weren’t being given mandatory training. However Conrad obviously believed in employee benefits as there were office parties, drinking at work, wrestling and sex in the office. Zenefits’ culture was considered “Inappropriate for a highly regulated company“, although in this case obviously highly unregulated.

Fortune magazine didn’t rank any of these but invited readers to vote for their choice of Most Disappointing Leader. The result?

A Fortune Magazine readers poll says that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is number one on the list of the 19 most disappointing leaders in the world, because of his role in the Flint water crisis. Flint had switched water sources while under an emergency manager appointed by the governor. The Flint River water’s corrosiveness leached lead into the city’s water supply. It’s believed many children were exposed to dangerous lead levels for an extended period of time. Critics say the governor should have acted sooner when indications of the problem first surfaced. Fortune Magazine awarded the governor their “Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just the Governor” award. A Snyder spokesperson says the governor is focused on fixing the problem, not on internet polling.

You might be wondering why President Obama‘s picture is at the top of this post. He wasn’t mentioned but surely he just be a disappointment after his failures at home and abroad?

And Tony Blair must also be in there with his post-political consultancy work (and his wife a human rights lawyer – allegedly).


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