VaynerMedia founder and CEO Gary Vaynerchuk has a simple leadership philosophy.
“Everything in business stems from the top, whether you’re the boss of two people in a three-person team or the head of a Fortune 500 company,” he writes in his new book, “#AskGaryVee.” “And everything that happens in a company is 100% the CEO’s fault.”
CEOs, after all, oversee their organisation’s leadership, which in turn makes them responsible for even the lowest level employee down the chain of command. When a company is successful, its CEO should praise the team members involved in a particular win, but when it’s struggling or enduring a scandal, according to Vaynerchuk’s argument, the CEO needs to handle all of the blame.
Vaynerchuk said he enjoys seeing this in sports, such as when a quarterback takes the blame for a failed play even after the wide receiver let an accurate pass slip through his fingers. In sports or in business, “People are going to fight for you when you’re willing to do that,” he told Business Insider.
But he wishes he saw this more often in his own career. “I’m stunned by how many CEOs and leaders want to throw other people under the bus,” he said.
He can’t help thinking, he said, “Are you lacking self-awareness at that high of a scale that you truly think the person you just anointed to be the director of X or director of Y and who is failing, you don’t realise that you could have prevented them from starting there in the first place, and that you’re an absolute part of that equation, of their lack of success?”
Vaynerchuk didn’t want to call out specific names, but Volkswagen America’s CEO Michael Horn was criticised for this very failure last year in a Congressional hearing over the accusation of Volkswagen’s use of illegal software in half a million cars to artificially pass emissions regulations. Horn flatly denied any knowledge of why the software was made to game the system, and blamed “a couple of software engineers” without claiming to know who was responsible.
On the other hand, General Motors CEO Mary Barra was generally praised by the media for her handling of a massive recall that happened two months after she became CEO in 2014. Her ownership of the crisis, which stemmed from decisions she didn’t make, inspired faith in consumers and was able to turn a potentially fatal blow to GM into a complete rebirth of the company that resulted in a record sales year.
“It’s no accident that when some companies change their CEO they go from winners to losers or vice versa,” Vaynerchuk writes in his book. “It may be the most important variable for success in running a business.”