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‘Outrageous’ CEO Behavior Grows, Mirroring Society

Pressure can get to any business leader. But taking a clue from the boorish excesses of American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, does it seem like the outrageous behavior of more CEOs and company owners is starting to mirror the increased wackiness that is evident in society as a whole?

With individuals who run companies, acting out can have huge financial and personal consequences on important constituencies including investors, employees, fellow owners, customers and families. But it doesn’t seem to stop some CEOs.

“Acting out can have huge financial and personal consequences on important constituencies.”

Charney, of course, finally was given the boot by the board of American Apparel after a series of brazen sexual episodes over the last several years, including a sexual-harassment determination against the company by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But Charney’s actions were remarkable mainly by degree. Other business chiefs lately also have become known for lack of decorum and judgment, at the very least.

There are T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who became known for “trolling” competition provocatively in social media; Whole Foods Markets CEO John Mackey, who was known a few years ago for surreptitiously commenting on his company and rivals in online forums; Andrew Mason, Groupon CEO, who among other things posted video of himself doing yoga in his underwear before the digital-discount startup nudged him out last year; and Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft, who “cried, danced and yelled his way” through the company’s farewell for him last year, according to Yahoo.com.

Not surprisingly, many of the on-the-edge CEOs are chiefs of startups in Silicon Valley, where iconoclastic behavior often is interpreted as a sign of cultural hyper-relevance that is associated with the sort of paradigm-busting brilliance which leads to tech riches.

About Dale Buss

Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.