Posted by: Jon Fine on July 6, 2006
The following was sent to a BusinessWeek colleague and the veracity of it was confirmed with the sender by another editor here, Deborah Stead. (Emphasis mine on the below. What follows is kind of gruesome, but I am forced to agree on one point: Death is certainly one way of “denying reality.”.)
From: Dave Overton
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2006 12:27 PM
To: Beucke, Dan
Subject: [NEWMANPR] - Why the demise of Ken Lay?
One of the top reasons why CEOs get fired is “Denying Reality.” In milder cases, a CEO will quit rather than let a horrible truth puncture their fantastical views. Or they’ll blame their workers or board. They’ll craft all sorts of psychological defense mechanisms to avoid shouldering culpability.
One could argue in Lay’s case that the truth he would be forced to confront (bankrupt company, displaced workers, destroyed nest eggs, prison, etc.) was so horrible, and so unavoidable, that his body simply shut down rather than confront a terrible reality.
Lay’s death may be the equivalent of a child sticking their fingers in their ears to avoid hearing something bad. But a lot more final.
Mark Murphy is CEO of Leadership IQ, a Washington, D.C. based management consulting firm.
Mark has some interesting thoughts on the demise of Ken Lay and how others can avoid his fate.
Please let me know if you would like to speak with him.
Thanks for your time.