When Leaders Fail to Be Leaders

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be all-controlling, all knowing and all seeing until something goes wrong and then decide that you’re not really accountable. It happens all the time. Especially at the top of the house and it’s where JPMorgan Chase finds itself right now; in a two billion dollar mess that their all-powerful leader never saw coming.

Jamie Dimon seems like a good leader, steadfast, bold, courageous and just arrogant enough to come across as likable. He’s been known to go off-the-mark, he’s been known to inspire others, and he led his company through the great financial meltdown. But, he’s not infallible, and when it came time to take accountability for this mess, he passed the buck. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be the omni-present leader who gets into all of the details of your organization and then claim ignorance when a debacle like this occurs. The New York Times ran an article the day after the announcement, claiming that he was caught by surprise with this announcement.

People that work in that organization will tell you that Jamie doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to the details. His leadership team reports out their financials weekly in the utmost detail. Two billion dollars, is still two billion dollars. Even if it only accounts for a tenth of their total worth that kind of money doesn’t get lost on him. So how is it that when it comes time to take action it’s his chief, Ina Drew, that takes the hit? I’m not calling for his head, he’s done too well with the organization. But, shouldn’t he protect her? He stands up to others all the time, how can he let her get pushed out the door?

Aren’t good leaders supposed to stick up for their people? Aren’t they supposed to take the heat when things turn south? I don’t buy the argument that he was surprised. He set the framework for the group in question to take ever larger bets. He committed to this strategy, for better or worse, but when it failed, he failed as a leader to be accountable.

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