直言不讳的CEO太少 We need more CEOs willing to speak their minds
I’m speechless,” Larry Ellison said last week about the appointment of Leo Apotheker as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Only it turned out the Oracle chief wasn’t speechless at all. He had rather a lot to say and
“我彻底无语了，”拉里•埃里森(Larry Ellison)就日前惠普(HP)任命李艾克(Leo Apotheker)担任首席执行官(CEO)一事如是评论。然而后来的事实却证明，这位甲骨文(Oracle)的掌门人压根儿就没有“无语”。相反，他 大发议论，还给多家报纸发了电子邮件，对惠普挑选“一个因工作业绩一塌糊涂而刚被SAP开掉的家伙”提出异议。他还补充说，“惠普董事会应该为此集体请 辞”。
e-mailed various newspapers to protest that HP had chosen “a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP”, adding, “the HP board needs to resign en masse”.
两天后，当各方开始抨击这项任命时，杰克•韦尔奇(Jack Welch)也打破沉默，发表了自己的高论。他说，惠普董事会“是在犯罪”。“这个决定彻底惹恼了众多CEO。他们心中竟然没有考虑过其他任何人选。他们 把领导力培养丢到什么地方去了？这些董事究竟是干什么吃的？”
Two days later, Jack Welch turned out not to be speechless either when it came to rubbishing the appointment. The HP board had “committed sins”, he said. “They end up blowing up the CEOs and don’t have anyone else in mind to come in. Where the hell was the leadership development? Who are these board members?”
What is happening? Is it now okay for business leaders to launch vigilante attacks on each other when they think they spot incompetent behaviour? Has the dreary fashion of looking the other way and minding your own business come to an end? It would be great if it had.
25年前我刚当记者时，英国还有那么几位天不怕地不怕的商界大佬以直言不讳为快。但待 到温斯托克勋爵(Lord Weinstock)和约翰•哈维-钟斯爵士(Sir John Harvey-Jones)一离世，“口无遮拦”的时代就一去不复返了。当代的CEO们似乎不表达任何看法，特别是不表达负面看法。即使真到了憋不住的时 候，也早有律师和公关顾问劝戒他们隐忍不发。
When I started as a journalist a quarter of a century ago, there were a few bold British business figures who were happy to say what they thought. But when Lord Weinstock and Sir John Harvey-Jones died, bad mouthing died with them. Modern CEOs seem to have no opinions, especially not negative ones. If they feel one coming on, they have been trained by their lawyers and PR advisers to suppress it.
I have quite often had the experience of interviewing a business leader who said something about another company that was not interesting enough to print, only for them to phone up afterwards in a panic, pleading with me for their innocuous remarks to be scrubbed from the record. Everyone lives in mortal dread of getting into trouble. CEOs are all shacked up together in a glass house in which no stones ever get thrown.
那么，上述各方对惠普的抨击是否标志着风向的根本转变呢？恐怕并非如此：埃里森这个人 做事向来想怎么干就怎么干，况且不管怎么说，他与SAP还有一段由来已久的纠葛。韦尔奇也可以随心所欲地评头论足，因为他已经退休，无需再与惠普董事会打 交道。他现在是一位评论家，心里很清楚不愠不火的批评会让他写的书卖不动、让他的讲座没人乐意听。
So does the crossness over HP mark a general change? I fear it doesn’t: Ellison has always done as he chooses, and in any case has a long and horrid history with SAP. And Welch feels able to throw stones because he is retired and will never need to do business with the HP board. He is a pundit, and being bland doesn’t sell books or fill lecture halls.
我禁不住希望会有其他人前赴后继地跟进，因为这样“尖酸刻薄的批驳”有两大重要功效。 其一纯属嬉笑逗乐；人人都爱看打得不亦乐乎的群架。比方说在英国《金融时报》的网站上，“甲骨文对惠普挑选的主管愤愤不平”这样的新闻，肯定要比“欧洲之 星(Eurostar)签下价值6亿欧元的机车订单”更具点击率——即便后者可以说更为重要。
I can’t help wishing that others would follow, as such vicious attacks serve two important purposes. The first is the sheer fun of it all; everyone loves a good punch up. On FT.com, the headline “Oracle fury at HP choice of chief” was infinitely more clicked on than, say “Eurostar places €600m trains order” – even though the latter is arguably more important.
可是更深刻的意义在于：由这些“老资格”来发表尖锐意见是件好事，因为此举可以让讨论 更加有的放矢。网络上充斥着一无所知者的八卦恬噪之言。大家都可以在网络上相互攻毁对方；这倒是全世界人民挺不赖的消遣方式。各位领袖早就习惯了普通网民 的谩骂与攻讦，那么，面对对他们所说言论知根知底的人发出的刁钻诘问，他们还能做到气定神闲吗？
More than that, though, it is good for senior people to speak out, because it makes the discussion better. The internet bristles with the low-grade views of people who know nothing. Everyone slags off everyone else online; it’s a great global pastime. All leaders are used to having virtual rotten tomatoes slung at them from nobodies, so surely they are big enough to take the odd attack from people who actually know what they are talking about?
Whether Ellison is right about Apotheker I have no idea. But Welch’s view about the inept changing of the guard at HP is correct and needed saying.
HP has 150,000 employees – so it is impossible to believe that none of them was good enough to be groomed for the top slot. We know that internal candidates are far less likely to fail than external ones and we know that boards need to focus on this. I’m on a board myself and Welch’s reminder makes me feel properly anxious.
至少，惠普的这场口水仗表明，高管中敢于“直言犯忌”的人比市场期望的要少。即便 CEO们感到现在不得不保持缄默（因为保持缄默有时候有助于他们保住自己的饭碗），他们也可以对退休之后畅所欲言心向往之。在我看来，相比更为常见的退休 后出路（加入政府专责小组，比以前更守口如瓶），作公司“惹事佬”的工作更有意义。
At the very least, what the HP spat shows is that there is a gap in the market for more feather-rufflers among top people. Even if CEOs feel they have to keep quiet as holding their tongues is helpful when it comes to holding on to their jobs, free speech could be something they look forward to in retirement. The job of corporate hell-raiser strikes me as much more worthwhile than the more common retirement route of joining a government taskforce and keeping lips zipped tighter than ever.
突然间，我脑海中想到了一位理想人选：雅虎(Yahoo)的卡罗尔•巴茨(Carol Bartz)。在YouTube上有一段她唠唠叨叨介绍自己企业的视频，浏览者只有廖廖300人。但在上面还有一段“雅虎CEO卡罗尔•巴茨对迈克•阿灵 顿(Mike Arrington)说‘滚蛋’”的视频，浏览者已超过209506人。如果她真得因为受欢迎度不高、难以执掌公司而被雅虎扫地出门，她倒是公司“惹事 佬”的不二人选。