‘Tis the season for year-end lists, which tell us everything from the fact that Rebecca Black mattered on Google in 2011 to Time’s idea that the collective “protester” was the person of the year. There are lists for music, books and movies. Even Barbara Walters has a list to name the most fascinating person of the year (it’s Steve Jobs, of course).
Not to be left out, we at Post Leadership decided we needed our own year-end list. But rather than highlight the best leadership moments of the year—our esteemed panel has already picked a few of those —we thought we’d highlight some of the worst. After all, this was a year, sadly, when examples of poor leadership (bad decision-making, selfish actions and inexplicably bone-headed moves) seemed to outnumber the good.
Any such list is unscientific at best, so we’ll admit there are numerous examples of leadership gone wrong that were not included on this list (Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, just to name a few). Our intent, however, is not to create a list of authoritarian heads of state or every poor instance of leadership of any kind. Rather, we wanted to pull together the stories that made us scratch our heads about people from whom we think we should expect more.
Enough throat clearing, then. Here—with apologies to David Letterman—is our “Top 10”:
10. Obama and Boehner battle over the timing of the president’s jobs speech.
In the grand scheme of things, this was a pretty inconsequential event. But for what it says about the ridiculous nature of what brings Washington to an impasse these days, it’s worth remembering. At the end of the summer, President Obama asked Speaker of the House John Boehner if he could address a joint session of Congress during prime time on Sept. 7, the same evening as one of the Republican presidential debates. The Speaker cited House scheduling conflicts and encouraged the president to consider Sept. 8 instead, the same night as the kickoff game for the NFL season. While the White House said GOP leadership had OKed the requested date, Boehner’s office said it hadn’t. The episode was embarrassing for the president, trivial given the circumstances, and silly on all accounts. If we can’t get two sides to agree on the date of a speech, how can we possibly get them to solve the extraordinary problems facing this country?
9. HP’s board loses another CEO.
There was no shortage of CEOs who lost their jobs this year. NPR’s board pushed out its chief executive, Vivian Schiller, following a conservative sting operation. Yahoo’s board unceremoniously fired Carol Bartz over the phone. And Olympus got rid of its CEO, Michael Woodford, after he dared to blow the whistle on accounting fraud. But as newsworthy as each of those stories may have been, no CEO dismissal this year says more about the state of governance in corporate America than the departure of former HP chief Leo Apotheker (he was replaced by Meg Whitman). The HP board’s rush last year to fill former HP CEO Mark Hurd’s seat led to the choice of a leader who had recently lasted just 10 months as CEO of SAP and would only last at HP for 11. This happened, mind you, after both Hurd and his predecessor, fellow HP outsider Carly Fiorina, failed to last in their jobs, too. Apotheker’s short stint atop HP says less about the company’s specific industry challenges than it does about the persistent need for boards to do a better job grooming internal leaders instead of seeking a savior to fix their problems.