As famously as you can do anything in this niche of ours, I once called Jack Welch and his speechwriter Bill Lane “assholes” in a review of Jacked Up, Lane’s book on their partnership. The book was great. They were great. But they were macho jerks who swore constantly at work. Which I do myself, you should know—but then, I’m not leading a diverse, public Fortune 50 company like General Electric.
When you’re in a position that powerful and you swear, it’s a form of bullying. Or at least it will be experienced that way by, shall we say, younger and more sensitive viewers. So I don’t like it, and don’t recommend top leaders do a lot of it. (Another bullying asshole, closer to my Chicago home, was Sam Zell, the onetime owner of the Chicago Tribune and its parent company, and I despised his leadership style.)
Yes, I laughed when I heard last week that ousted Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz had told Fortune “Yahoo fucked me,” and laughed harder when I heard she referred to the company’s board as “doofuses.” But I sure wouldn’t hire her for her saltiness; and unless I was running a pornography empire, I’d actually hesitate.
However, the real obscenity here was the statement that Yahoo!’s board made in the wake of her departure. Board chairman Roy Bostock, why did you fire the CEO?
The Board sees enormous growth opportunities on which Yahoo! can capitalize, and our primary objective is to leverage the Company’s leadership and current business assets and platforms to execute against these opportunities. We have talented teams and tremendous resources behind them and intend to return the Company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation. We are committed to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Yahoo! on a trajectory for growth and innovation and deliver value to shareholders.
Give me the choice between an asshole like Bartz and a mealymouth like Bostock—I’ll take the asshole, every time. At least you know what the fuck she’s talking about.