Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


You've always suspected as much, haven't you?

You look at so many captains of industry and wonder how they rose above the rank of corporal.

They dress well enough (well, most of them), but if you get beyond the smoke and the mirrors, what do you find? More smoke and more mirrors? Anything else?

I am moved, therefore, by an article in the Financial Times which offers a sanguine view of business leaders.

It cites research from the London School of Economics. These researchers must be wily types -- or merely excellent choosers of wine when they interview their guinea pigs.

For they managed to elicit delightful quotes from recruiters on the subject of CEOs.

Here's one: "Obviously they have to be reasonably intelligent and affable and sensible and so on [but] it's not like they're one in a million. They're like us, yes, exactly like us."

Some might think that if they're exactly like recruiters, their main skill is to tell heinous, easy fibs in the pursuit of heinously easy money.

How comforting, though, that CEOs might not be anything special.

Here's another recruiter quote: "There is luck in being a candidate, luck in being chosen and luck in the choice turning out to be better than 'mediocre.'"

You always knew this, didn't you? In fact, you always suspected there were two types of CEO: Those who impress recruiters for no obvious reason and those who are slightly better than those who impress recruiters for no obvious reason.

Indeed, the recruitment industry might enjoy some of the responsibility for CEOs' alleged mediocrity.

Asked whether they follow the actual performance of CEOs once the commission had rolled in, one recruiter admitted: "We don't do that in any sort of formal way. I mean, you know, obviously we will, when we place somebody, hopefully then they become clients or, you know, you stay in touch with them."

This is what an adult calls networking. This is what a child might describe as a merry-go-round.

Those inside the game milk it for all it's worth. Those on the outside work to provide more milk.

Could it be that so much of a CEO's reputation is based on gossip, tittle-tattle and the ability to avoid scandal, ride a stock market upturn and then get recruited for another exciting job with an even vaster package?

Could it be that there's an inner ring of influence that's hard to penetrate, but once you're in it, you have to be deeply, deeply mediocre (or undergo a sex scandal) to leave it again?

Perhaps, though, selection has to be made somehow. It's little different from choosing an employee, a lover or realtor. The good ones are very, very hard to find.

But this might mean that the majority of CEOs are actually a waste of money. Perhaps Zappos has it right. Just have a flat structure, do away with hierarchy and have lots of parties.

It's surely worth trying, isn't it?