A glut of “yes” men is probably one reason Martha Stewart hasn’t made the comeback she so anticipated.
When she returned to the offices of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2005, after a prison sentence, Stewart was ready for her comeback. It hasn’t happened yet.
Signs that she let ego get in the way of her business’s best interests:
√ Stewart asked that Charles Koppelman, former CEO of EMI Music, be named to the board. At a time when her board was freezing her out, Koppelman had told her, “I’ll help you get the company back.”
He made her feel appreciated, even though he had a track record as a spendthrift, and one of her top board members resigned in protest after Koppelman’s appointment. Aggressive expensing and outsize compensation were soon to follow.
√ Stewart slowly displaced those who had been willing to stand up to her.
Her new circle of advisors included CEO Susan Lyne, who replaced Sharon Patrick. Patrick had known Stewart long enough to speak her mind. Not so, Lyne.
√ Stewart wasn’t alarmed by the unusually high executive churn. They felt thwarted by Stewart in their attempts to bring the company back to profitability.
Robin Marino, for example, who was responsible for merchandising until May, says that Stewart insisted on personally approving thousands of items, making Marino less effective.
“At a board meeting,” recalls one attendee, “Martha walked in with a pot, slammed it on the table, and goes, ‘This is crap. I don’t want my name on it.’”
As a leader, you must sometimes get out of your own way to allow your company (and stock price) to soar.
— Adapted from “The Comeback That Wasn’t,” Benjamin Wallace, New York magazine July 31, 2011; Photo of Stewart at the 2010 Time 100 Gala; David Shankbone, Creative Commons
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