Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi 

The Romans knew a thing or two about falling from power. It happened a fair bit in the ancient city before the Caesars. The Romans might look on the present with a grim understanding of how quickly fame can flee from individuals and companies like Dell and Bristol-Myers. It seems like every week now a corporation is in upheaval at the top or a CEO is defending against criticism. The period of satisfaction with corporate executives is departed, now that unhappy truths of the Bubble period have emerged from faulty accounting to backdating of stock options to fraud in the cases of companies like Enron.

CEOs are learning their jobs are riskier with boards that are more independent, and boards are learning being a director is not easy. Both are beginning to understand that public relations means more than words, and perceptions can be fatal. That's good for the PR business, but one could wish it didn't take so many disasters to drive the lesson home.

It seems as if the homo economicus is fated to be focused on the short-term and to learn over and over basic lessons about human relationships. Wall Street is a fickle god, but CEOs are forced to worship at its altar anyway. We need leaders who build companies and care about people more than stock price but with the turmoil surrounding CEOs that seems less possible.

It's an interesting period to be in PR.


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