What do Papa Johns, a big law firm, and a tech company have in common? They are the most recent companies to lose their leaders, and presumably some of their value, while gaining media disasters, because of inappropriate statements or behavior by their CEO’s.
As many have read, the head and founder of Papa Johns stepped down after a recording was revealed of him using “the N word.” A couple of months ago, the managing partner of big law firm Latham and Watkins accepted the resignation of their managing partner after months of scandal over inappropriate texts of a sexual nature, and then alleged threatening texts to forestall disclosure of the previous texts, by their managing partner to a Chicago area woman, who he actually had never even met. The tech industry too is suffering a spate of resignations of company leaders for inappropriate behavior that has made their governing boards worry about damage to their business reputations.
So, what gives? Why are leaders of companies unable to keep themselves out of trouble, even after the fall of such public figures as Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Sen. Frankel? Being lawyers and not psychologists, we can only guess that this problem has something to do with power and authority breeding arrogance and the fact that even those in top spots in organizations still don’t get it that they should presume that nothing remains a secret.
How do organizations address this? It seems that every organization, whether public or private, needs to continue to educate everyone from elected officials and CEO’s or top administrators, to entry position employees on the need to respect people’s differences, whether it be race, gender, religion, disabilities or any other characteristic that makes people who they are. While employers focus a great deal of their training efforts on the mid-level supervisors to avoid and identify inappropriate and unlawful behavior, organizations cannot forget that their leaders might need to be reminded that their behavior not only will undoubtedly receive more instant scrutiny but, more importantly, can set the tone for the entire workforce.