One time, I interviewed with a CEO that had me instantly wrapped around his finger with the vision of what his company could do, what it would do eventually. His technological mind had brought him much success and a significant fortune in Canada, where he had built a couple of tech companies to a point where they could both be sold for a considerable profit. He had an idea for another company but wanted to expand into the United States. He landed in Silicon Valley for a time and then relocated to Newport Beach, where he ventured into university technologies and was able to gather the funding necessary to build yet another company.
Needless to say, I joined his company and loved it from the minute I started. He was an incredible visionary. He quoted Peter Senge and Everett Rogers and John Wooden. He loved to see the sparks when great minds worked together and made that entrepreneurial magic happen. He led with what we all believed were strong ethics and a design for company greatness. I loved hiring folks to join our company. I loved hooking them with company culture and what a great opportunity it was. Then, September 2007 happened and life, as we had known it, started to change.
My requisitions began to constantly be altered, offered salaries began to drop. The phone company called and threatened an admin assistant that they would shut off services and remove all the phones. Somehow an agreement was reached that kept our phones live each month. I knew that my position was threatened, but I believed "our visionary, our leader." I wanted to believe forever but the writing on the walls became clearer and I knew I needed to look for another job. If hiring ceased completely, what need would there be for a Manager of Recruitment?
And yet, I still believed in the company vision and the company mission. That is what kept me loving my work and why it was so hard for me to take another job..., but my gut kept telling me it was time. I took another position after deliberating for two months. I guess I was hoping for a miracle that Christmas, but 2007 held no miracles. I left without much fanfare, my two-week notice was ignored and I was immediately escorted out of the building with my two boxes. I began to hear stories, dreadful stories of deceit and ruin. Our beloved leader, our visionary, had led us down a fake, primrose path.
He had lied, he had cheated, he had stolen from us. Money, hope, dreams, and trust. He took it all. Why did we buy in? Because we believed in a plan, we followed a charismatic leader that seemed to know what he was talking about - we believed because we wanted to. I learned many lessons, we all did. Mostly, I learned that great leadership is more than someone talking you into something, it is more than the talent of coercion. But interestingly enough, greatness rose around the rotten core we all had been drawn to. Others that worked there have grown their own companies, or gone on to better careers, or finished school, or joined growing companies - taking with them, with us, more than simple life lessons. We have taken with us complex business lessons of ethics and intricate thought processes. And we were touched by greatness, even if it failed, we had been part of something great.