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18 Executives Who Lead By Fear

In Uncategorized on September 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Everybody thinks they’ve had a bad boss.

But few have had one whose mere presence can send people scrambling back to their desks to work through the night.

Some of these people have crossed the line at times. Many others are or were at the top of their fields.

Whether such tactics are worth the results is something that’s always up for debate.

Weinstein Company Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein

Weinstein’s outbursts of rage are legendary in Hollywood and beyond. He once put a reporter of the New York Observer in a headlockbefore throwing them out of a party.

He’s described in a New York Magazine profile as “unbelievably hard on staff.” Continuous battles with Disney executive Michael Eisner saw him leave his company, Miramax, in 2005.

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus

Zynga is not all fun and games. Dealbook’s Evelyn Ruseli describes a culture where Pincus obsessively tracks analytics for all staff, sets harsh deadlines, and aggressively pushes his employees to meet them.

That management style fits the personality of Mr. Pincus, who is described by analyst Michael Pachter as being “driven to the point of a madman.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison

Ellison is well-known for his lavish lifestyle. He’s also an incredibly aggressive and ruthless executive. A biographer described him as “a modern day Genghis Kahn”.

He’s known for his incredibly aggressive and hostile takeover maneuvers. During the takeover of PeopleSoft Ellison pre-announced 5,000 firings and repeatedly insulted the then-CEO.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Perhaps experience and being on top have softened her, but despite her reputation at Google for being incredibly smart and hard working, the Wall Street Journal reports that she has a brusque and micromanaging style that made her a difficult boss.

The WSJ cites an obsession with detail that went down to variations in shades of color in new Google products.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon

Dimon is intensely involved in every aspect of his banks business and will interrogate subordinates for hours over numbers and possible disaster scenarios.

A New York Times profile describes him as extremely blunt and a “famously bad listener,” someone who routinely interrupts and finishes other people’s sentences.

News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch has a well-earned reputation for ruthlessness. There are allegations that those who attempted to investigate the recent phone hacking scandal came under intense pressure from his organization.

When Murdoch attempted to break the power of the Fleet Street print unions who made up his workforce, he fired 6,000 union workers at one stroke and moved his operation to a plant in Wapping “with razor wire and prison-like security systems.”

Film and theater producer Scott Rudin

Scott Rudin is notorious as one of the all time most terrifying people to work for. The Wall Street Journal reports that Rudin went through some 250 assistants in just 5 years, driving them away for things as trivial as producing a confusing chart, or minor lateness.

He occasionally sent them on their way with thrown projectiles.

Martha Stewart, Chair of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

In contrast with her cheerful and domestic public image, Martha Stewart can be a very intimidating boss. She’s not great at giving up control either.

Stewart pushed out two different CEOs, Susan Lyne and Wenda Millard, within one year.

Her attitude towards others has backfired. Testimony from a Merrill Lynch broker’s assistant whom she was particularly rude to helped lead to her conviction on insider trading charges.

InterActiveCorp chief Barry Diller

Barry Diller is one of the most successful media executives in history, turning Fox into the giant we know today and building a massive internet media conglomerate.

However, his employees have reason to be fearful. Fortune Magazine describes a meeting in which Diller hurled a video tape at an executive with such force that it went through a wall.

Goldman Sachs President and COO Gary Cohn

Gary Cohn is one of Goldman Sach’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein‘s closest deputies.

However, he’s known for an intimidating management style. Bloomberg reports that Cohn told a colleague that he “can’t remember the last person he yelled at.” He’s also known to practice the silent treatment on those that displease him.

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman

After there was discontent over bonuses earlier this year, James Gorman was less than sympathetic. Gorman told Bloomberg that employees that define happiness by their yearly compensation have bigger problems, and anyone that was unhappy could get up and leave, because “life is too short.”   

Ford Executive Vice President Mark Fields

Mark Fields is apparently set to be named Ford’s COO and heir apparent to Alan Mulally.

He’s known for being particularly passionate about the job. Bloomberg cites an incident from a book by Bryce Hoffman in which Fields nearly came to blows with the company’s CFO over proposed budget cuts to one of his ad campaigns.

CEO of Landry’s Restaurants Tilman Fertitta

Tilman Fertitta has gobbled up a huge array of restaurant brands, including Morton’s and The Rainforest Cafe.

He hasn’t necessarily made friends on the way. A recent Forbes profile called his style ruthless and controlling, and cited the book of one of his targets as calling him “a brash, arrogant, bargain-basement, bottom-feeding acquisition nemesis.”

Fertitta drastically cuts costs at his acquisitions, and involves himself in everything from fabric choices to the composition of dishes.

Mesa Air Group CEO Jonathan Ornstein

Ornstein’s company has had a fair amount of success flying shorter routes for larger airlines.

However, he’s known as a particularly volatile boss. His former assistant told the New York Times that she used to monitor his moods in order to warn away executives when he was particularly angry. She describes him as being in an unapproachable bad mood 60 percent of the time.

US Airways President Scott Kirby describes him as someone who is “…loud, volatile, insulting, doesn’t listen to the other perspective.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer’s temper is known to get the best of him from time to time. Though Ballmer asserts the story’s an exaggeration, former employeeMark Lucovsky claimsBallmer threatened to “kill Google” and hurled a chair across a room on learning he was leaving the company.

AIG CEO Robert Benmosche

Appointed Chief Executive of AIG shortly after it’s bailout, Benmosche has what’s been described by the FT as a “short temper and a robust management style”.

The Wall Street Journal reports that he quickly garnered a reputation for being provocative and upsetting others in pursuit of his goals. Benmosche threatened to quit just three months into the job over Congressional restrictions on pay.

WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell

Head of the world’s largest advertising company, Sorrell pays intense attention to every one of the component companies in his business.

The Telegraph reports that employees wonder if his constant contact indicates that he’s implanted with a Blackberry chip. He’s also been known to resort to legal measures to delay employee departures.

MTV Founder and Clear Channel CEO Robert Pittman

Bob Pittman helped create MTV and build AOL in some of its best years.

The Guardian points to abrusque and abrasive management style as a reason Pittman was pushed out of the combined AOL Time Warner shortly after their merger.

BONUS: Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and Andy Grove

Steve Jobs: An undeniably brilliant executive, Jobs could be incredibly abrasive to coworkers. One of the less obscene examples from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs is his response to a request to give Pixar employees two weeks’ notice before terminating them:

“Okay,” he said, “but the notice is retroactive from two weeks ago.”

Jack Welch: He certainly got results, but his management style was famously terrifying. Businessweek describes how, on a yearly basis, he would rank all of his managers and fire the bottom 10 percent.

Welch combined that ruthlessness with omnipresence. He constantly drove his staff to perfection. Employees throughout the organization would get handwritten notes outlining their success and failures, and would hear it repeatedly if their performance was not up to standards.

Andy Grove: Though incredibly successful as the co-founder of Intel, Grove could be aggressive, even paranoid. He has something of a sense of humor about it, titling one of his books “Only The Paranoid Survive”

He was named as one of America’s toughest bosses by Fortune in 1984, and imposed a strict 8 A.M. arrival time and strict discipline for everybody, from blue collar workers to his fellow managers.

 

Written by Max Nisen          mnisen@businessinsider.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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