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7 ways to get your CEO fired

Rob Enderle | April 15, 2013
It's hard to train good CEOs. It's much easier to set them up for failure. Follow these seven steps and your chief executive officer is bound to be out of a job sooner or later.

4. Making CEOs Do It Alone

If you can create an environment where a CEO is scared that someone else is gunning for the job, he'll avoid building a good team around him. This is particularly true when you hire a CEO with little IT industry experience, as was the case with Carol Bartz at Yahoo and Carly Fiorina at HP.

Fiorina is the better example. She came from the telecommunications industry, which most wrongly assumed was similar, and didn't want to risk having anyone near her who might deem her unqualified for the role. That's why she forced out ex-Compaq CEO Michael Capellas.

Contrast this with IBM, where the board hired CFO Jerry York, an accomplished turnaround wizard, to assure that CEO Louis Gerstner would build a team to make up for his personal lack of industry knowledge. Let a CEO think he's scammed his way into the job and invariably he'll avoid getting competent people to make up for his shortcomings.

5. Failing to Protect Their Image

This should be the first chapter of how to get rid of a CEO at HP, given how often this has been a major part of the CEOs demise. Leo Apotheker was the poster child for this problem, as HP seemed to throw the poor guy to the wolves almost from day 1-the board should have realized, given the nature of his departure from SAP, that he'd be seen as a bad choice. To make up for this, he'd need extra damage control, but he didn't get any and lasted just a few months. Apotheker's lack of support was legendary in a very bad way.

A CEO is the face of the company. If someone can destroy her image, that does significant damage to the company's image as well. Unprotected, bad or misunderstood decisions can quickly force a board to vote a CEO off the island.

6. Surrounding CEOs With 'Yes Men'

This killed John Akers at IBM. He was one of the best-trained CEOs in the industry but was laid low because he was surrounded with people who told him what he wanted to hear. He literally didn't see IBM's near-downfall coming and became the only CEO that IBM ever fired.

Akers didn't fail. He was denied access to the information he needed to run the company he'd been trained to run most of his adult life. When you can take out someone of that quality, the power of the weapon must be impressive. Isolating a CEO behind an attractive facade of false information is one of the best ways to ensure they eventually have a catastrophic job experience.

7. Leaving a Powerful Rival in Place


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