You can’t turn around without hearing something about Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s resumé padding and fictional computer science degree— the last thing the ailing tech company needs. In a world where business leaders are endlessly scrutinized, who is at fault here?
Since Thompson served as the CEO of Paypal before heading to Yahoo, Yahoo was undoubtedly not the first company to miss an error such as this. And since Thompson personally approves all SEC filings, as do all public company CEOs, he knowingly submitted such an error to the regulatory body.
How did the board miss something like this? And didn’t Thompson realize that someone was bound to figure this out in our internet-obsessed world?
Resume padding isn’t new, but CEOs are especially visible and you owe it to your company and your shareholders to be as transparent as possible.
So what caused this?
Lead by Greatness: How Character Can Power Your Success author David Lapin thinks that outside pressures may have driven Thompson to fudge his background:
“In no way trivializing or justifying misrepresentation to a Board of Directors even of something relatively minor, one has to wonder whether declining ethics is the reason a thing like this would probably never have happened with the greats of yesteryear. There is another dynamic to consider: The public’s often brutal pressures on business leaders. Consider the market’s obsession with quarterly growth that causes business leaders to do weird things for their own and their company’s survival (not a justification but a contextualization).
Our obsession with academic credentials is another example of society’s distorted values into which leaders play. Many highly credentialed leaders failed their companies and some under-credentialed leaders succeeded. If we focused on track record, character and experience, rather than credentials, leaders wouldn’t feel insecure about graduate insufficiency and would be more comfortable in their own skins. Again this does not justify lying – but it frames the lie in a more serious societal context. As for Daniel Loeb – me thinks the lady protesteth too much. What is his real issue?”
Jeff Sonnenfeld, the associate dean for executive programs at the Yale School of Management, came down much harder on Thompson when he spoke this week to The New York Times’ Dealbook:
“This is not some stray Wikipedia listing. He sought out the search committee and sent this manufactured credential to them. It’s a fraudulent representation. On top of that, it sets a terrible model at the top. Why should anyone believe in the integrity of any of their reports. How does he enforce compliance with any integrity standards? If I was on this board, I would check through other material representations he’s offered.
He has a clipped wing. It really diminishes his credibility. There has been a number of times when a company has allowed an executive, who lied, to stay on, but that’s not a good approach. The board definitely needs to make a change. Amazingly, Yahoo still has a substantial value and brand, and they deserve so much better than this. Its an insult to Yahoo’s employees.”
The board member in charge of hiring Thompson is stepping down. How should Yahoo handle Thompson?
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