Crassness is not candor

The new "trend" toward CEO swearing is not a sign of executive openness. Rather, it's just another way to pull our leg.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said on an analyst call this year that his company sometimes “steps in dog shit” on legal issues. Netflix chief Reed Hastings called HBO his “bitch.” And so we got a “trend” piece on “CEO straight talk” in the Financial Post last week.

I know a seminar leader who consciously swears, one time, during the first five minutes of her spiel—a conscious decision, she says, to communicate to the class that she is going to keep it real. I swear for the same reason every time I meet someone new, every time I want to impress someone with my sincerity, every time I’m writing a blog post that I want to be read as authentic.

It’s bullshit when the seminar leader does it, it’s bullshit when I do it, and it’s bullshit when CEOs do it. It’s not candor. It’s “working blue.” It’s not the worst thing in the world. But it’s nothing new, and it’s no big deal. It’s just another rhetorical device.

When CEOs start dealing more truth to analysts than they absolutely need to, we’ll know it. Because the sky will be dark with pigs. —DM

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