Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Yahoo's Recent Scandal Says About Leadership

By now, everyone has heard about the scandal at the very tip of Yahoo’s leadership iceberg. Hired as CEO of Yahoo in January 2012, Scott Thompson took over the reins of a once-great tech company that of late has struggled to define its core business and mission. However, recently, there was something rotten in Denmark, to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Thompson’s bio included a computer science degree, but the truth was, he only had an accounting degree. This was not a simple typographical error. It was a major error, and at no time, did Thompson correct the error. And since he was a CEO, not a janitor or hair stylist, and worked for a large company, Yahoo, not a fast food restaurant or gas station, this news quickly became front page news.

Further reports surfaced whereby Thompson was quoted as saying that he never gave a resume to Yahoo, but instead, he blamed a recruiter for providing his background to the search committee – a blatant attempt to distance himself from the scandal. But, enough was enough. Stop the lies!

This scandal has serious ramifications. Why should a leader be given a free pass to make incorrect statements on his resume or curriculum vitae? Why should a leader act in a certain manner while simultaneously expecting different behaviors from his or her employees? And lastly, what does this behavior, in this case, lying about a college degree, say about Thompson’s ability to lead and set an example?

Doug Dickerson, a leadership expert, author, and national radio host, chimed in, “A key ingredient in leadership is authenticity. In order for a culture of honesty to exist in any corporation, the example must be set by those at the top. While many safeguards are in place to prevent these types of incidents, this is an unfortunate reminder of what can happen when leaders bend the truth. The fact that Scott Thompson could rise to the highest position in the corporate world without correcting a significant inaccuracy in his background became the reason for his downfall. The lesson learned here is not so cliché after all – honesty is the best policy.”

What do you think?

Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his comic with this post. Check out his work at http://www.tedgoff.com.

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