Stanley Bing

The mad man

Fortune crowns the business leader of our time. Not everyone agrees with the choice.

By Stanley Bing

(Fortune Magazine) -- The announcement of the CEO of the Decade apparently caught the 11th runner-up by surprise.

At the black-tie gala, Bob Nudnik, who runs a corporation not unknown to readers of this magazine, behaved quite badly, refusing to make an acceptance speech and throwing the leg of his rubber chicken at a subordinate.

Noting that such a display of infantile ego was consistent with a higher standing in the contest, the editors of Fortune dispatched this correspondent to discuss the matter with the unruly competitor.

Stanley Bing: I understand you're somewhat upset about your 11th-place finish.

Nudnik: Are you kidding me? I spit on this stupid statuette! It's plastic!

Nudnik throws his award to the ground and jumps on it.

SB: Feel better?

N: No. There are winners and losers and nothing in between.

SB: I can certainly see how that absolutist value system would make you very unhappy and also quite hard on other people.

N: Precisely!

SB: But that personality, while persuasive, isn't enough to win you the top slot in a race like this one.

N: Yeah? What were the metrics?

SB: Well, innovation, for one thing.

N: That's my middle name! In 2005, I invented a whole new way of expressing debt that was essentially legal, helped boost shareholder value, and vaulted my comp into eight digits. Architectural Digest did a four-page spread on my dog's condominium!

SB: Your dog has a condo?

N: Well, it's a co-op, actually.

SB: Being a great CEO is not all about financial know-how and wealth, though.

N: Really?

SB: It's also about producing a product or service that transforms our society and bringing it to market with distinction.

N: Are you saying we don't?

At this juncture Nudnik rises to his full height of 5 feet 2 inches and brandishes the metal candelabra at the center of the table.

N: We make everything from baby formula to nuclear timing mechanisms! We kick butt all over the world!

Collapses into a chair.

SB: I must say you do seem to qualify under the Personal Eccentricity category.

N: Yes. That's what I don't get. Like your winner, I also go away every year to a place in the mountains and can't be heard from for weeks at a time.

SB: Yeah, but you're skiing!

N: I've come up with some of my greatest ideas at Gstaad.

SB: What about the reverence that your people ought to have for their leader? Does the idea of living without your mystical presence send them into bouts of confusion and fear?

N: It better.

SB: In addition, the truly great CEOs embody all that the company means to its customers and its employees. They're the brand. Are you?

N: Come over here so I can smash your face in.

SB: You know, sir, I'd have to say that your standing in the competition seems pretty fair to me. You seem like a garden-variety bureaucrat who has ascended through hard work, luck, and toxic narcissism. In other words, a typical CEO.

N: How much would it take to get you to work for me?

SB: I beg your pardon?

N: I like having people around who tell me the truth, so that I can make their lives miserable and eventually destroy them.

SB: I sort of have that job already.

N: So what would it take?

Here the tape inexplicably comes to an end.

Stanley Bing has recast his book Executricks for the paperback edition due out in November; it is now titled "How to Relax Without Getting the Axe." For more Bing, unrelated to the Microsoft search engine, go to  To top of page

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