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August 01, 2011



Insufficient Humility: Executives often forget they serve the organization. It is not the other way around. McLeod clearly forgot this (frequent helicopter commutes, really? Okay, Donald).

Great advice and example. Thank you for sharing, Scott.

Michael Brisciana


Great list -- and one that unfortunately rings true in my experience. I saw two HR VP's in a row fail after losing sight of your #1 (lack of execution). The worst part is that the second VP knew this was why the first VP was let go ... and still fell victim to the same syndrome (being the "consigliere" was unfortunately much more attractive to her than being the person "who made the trains run on time in her own department).

One more that I might add ... when you've been told repeatedly that "everyone loves the HR VP" -- and you realize that the HR VP is the one who constantly tells you this -- you should know you're in trouble.


Michael Brisciana


This is a great list for any leader at any level.

Peter Friedkin

Seriously? She was terminated for cause from her previous employer and then at Pfizer was so highly compensated that she almost made the top five list.

A second point that this article seems to make is that executive compensation often has no bearing on performance. It's quite obvious that Pfizer has (or possibly had) a corrupt system. I don't think that Pfizer is unique.


Lack of humility and servant leadership are certainly precursors to a fall. Jim Collins talks about hubris in "How the Mighty Fall" also. Ultimately, it comes down to ego, agenda & communication. The national antenna is especially tuned into these classic leadership tenets now. The only question is "will we learn the lesson when the pressure slackens?". Leadership by walking around continues to be a winner.

Dan McCarthy

Scott -
Thanks for bringing this story to us. It's painful, but we can all learn from McLeod. Your list is spot on, great analysis.
Another sign I've seen from "evil" HR VPs - they are way overly critical of the rest of the senior team. These peers know it and don't trust or respect the VP.

David Zahn

Love the fact that the consultant did not roll over and give up the data. Staying on the moral high ground is admirable.

Mark Talaba

Hello Scott.

Mark Twain, having received great praise for a letter he had written, responded "If I had had more time, it would have been shorter." You must have taken enough time writing '5 signs', because it could not have been more succinct and powerful.

I think you would be interested to know that The Gabriel Institute (based in Philadelphia) has created a new technology that measures how people 'team' together to overcome obstacles and achieve common goals. The instrument, called TGI Role-Based Assessment, will reliably identify high-quality team players.

I was CEO of a software company for a decade, and hired a senior Sales exec who operated in McLeod mode. Cost: 9 months of misery and at least a million dollars. If 'RBA' had been available to me then, that person would never have made it to the first interview.



Where I am at, it is not the HR that seems the problem, it's the CEO and the leadership. The whole organizational structure in the company has went from a functional to project to functional organization. It wasted so much time and resources, but they are still there. During the time the project org was in place, the company lost most of the senior engineers and very soon... me. Now we are back to functional, but it is too late, customers have pulled orders and reputation is badly harmed. I don't see any pay increases in the near future.

Scott Eblin

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful comments and sharing your perspective. It seems like a common denominator we're putting our finger on is humility, ego and, perhaps, the flip side of that, insecurity.

Mark, special thanks for the comparison to Mark Twain. Certainly not worthy, but I'll take it!

Cheers -


David B

Great list - you can apply that to a lot of situation. Just sent that to my boss here in Germany :-)

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