Saturday, July 17, 2010
The CEO Archetypes #3 The Thomas Crown
I have worked with a few of these authentically cool dudes. Jim Pelkey, Greg Reyes, Ryan Wuerch, Peter Hopper, Roy Sardina and Tom Adams. I met John Chambers once...he is the southern gentleman's version of the archetype. John knows the difference between velvet and velveteen.
I have also met or worked with a few close-but-no-Chohiba Thomas Crown's. Larry Ellison appears to be a Thomas Crown, so does Ed Zander. But, for me, neither one has the subtlety to pull it off. Ted Turner is a Thomas Crown in his own wacky way.
The hallmark of this archetype is complexity.
Thomas Crown's are generally sales and marketing guys that have moved into CEO roles. They know appearances count because it reflects their attention to detail, not because they are trying to impress anyone. Who would they worry about impressing?
In my experience a Thomas is a hands-off manager. They stay focused at the 100,000 ft level, allowing their team to run day-to-day operations. They are deal hounds, always scanning the horizon for the next big partnership, merger, acquisition or product opportunity. They think about shareholders. They care about employees. They are demanding yet understanding with their executive team. If you are an employee in one of their companies you might never see them. They do not practice much management by walking around. And yet you feel their presence every day in every decision. They do not need to be hands on because their presence is pervasive.
The Thomas likes engineers and technologists, but has no problem going outside and buying rather than making technology to sell, leaving their team scratching their heads wondering what went wrong. Nothing went wrong, but when a Thomas sees something of value, they seize it...no sentimentality here about what their own team is working on.
A Thomas is a loner. A great guy, but not exactly a buddy. Too much of a gentleman to be class conscious, he is as likely to ask his favorite barrista at Starbucks to crew on his boat as he is his CFO. No one would ever think of asking him to be crew. He is only captain.
The Thomas' always run big companies. Even when they are only doing $10 mil in revenue, the Thomas already sees it as a multi-billion-multi-national enterprise. These guys are complex and they need the complexity of the large diverse company to occupy their craniums. So they create complex products, businesses models and organizations. It keeps them interested.
For these guys, money is just a scorecard. It can be made, lost, replaced many times. That is the fun. They seem not to fear failure, but to consider failure their adversary. The are playing a game against it. Sometimes they play at the hairy, scary edge.
What the Thomas knows cannot be replaced is time and wasting, losing or squandering it is a cardinal sin. Don't be late with a Thomas or they will likely have left without you.
These are the glamorous CEO's. They are legend. They are the ones movies get made about. If someone is going to be a super-hero or jewel thief in their spare time, Hollywood believes it is this archetype. In my experience the opposite is true, most of the Thomas Crown's I have dealt with are family men with long-term marriages and kids.
Of course they play lacrosse with their kids, not baseball.
I like these guys. They value their corporate cultures. They worry about whether they have the right talent in place. They encourage strategic thought. They don't dip their pen in the company's ink. They might face an indictment or two...but other than that they are an HR wonks dream.
Ok, #4 is Michael Scott.