Letting Your Head get as big as Your Title

Phil was a rather low-key character when he joined the company about two years ago. He was replacing the VP of Purchasing who retired after thirty years of service. Phil seemed like a normal type of guy at first. The new division president who had a reputation as a real “cheap shot” and “smartass comment” artist had personally recruited him. That fact made everyone a bit wary. The other new VP’s brought in by this new dynamo were reported to be chums from another company and apparently cut from the same cloth.

It didn’t take Phil long to reorganize the purchasing function and have his title changed to Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Management. That was OK. Perhaps the old VP of Purchasing was a bit behind the times when it came to modern business functional titles. About a year later, the IT director left (rumored to have been forced out) and the division president put out an announcement that Phil had some previous experience in that area and would also take on that additional role. Phil’s official title now became Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Management and Chief Information Technology Officer. That seemed like kind of a strange combination but most employees and managers were glad that yet another crony with the president’s temperament was not coming on board.

Then six month’s after that announcement, the business unit leader of the national catalogue sales and distribution unit abruptly left the company. You guessed it! Another memo from the division president announced that Phil had volunteered to take on that responsibility as well. Everyone waited and held their breath. The very first memo published by Phil after his latest appointment listed the following after his name: Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Management, Chief Information Technology Officer and Vice President of National Catalogue Sales and Distribution. Every internal document generated by Phil after that carried this 20-word moniker. What was this guy thinking? Sure he was experiencing a meteoric rise within the organization, but to just keep tacking new words on to his title was getting a bit goofy. Phil’s apparent fixation with titles instantly became the fodder for a bevy of jokes and parodies around the division. Someone found some company letterhead embossed with Phil’s name and description of his lengthy new rank and circulated them around the offices – with many hilarious amendments. Speculation ensued about how large Phil’s business cards would have to be in order to fit his name, the required company information and logo as well as his massive title. There was talk of even starting an office pool to guess the correct size.

But it wasn’t the size of his business cards that became the issue for the employee’s of the national catalogue sales and distribution business unit; it was the new size of Phil’s head. At first, folks began to notice the telltale arrogant strut and the cocky attitude. The “cheap shots” and “smartass” comments could not be far behind. No one that guessed it was coming was disappointed. The worst of it rained down on the unit’s financial director. The director was responsible for a weekly Monday morning “Flash” report of the unit’s prior week’s sales and expenses. The top brass apparently held a vigil each Monday morning eagerly anticipating the data. Everything was going well until the Monday happened to be Memorial Day, a recognized company holiday. Someone ran into the financial director at around noon on the Tuesday after the holiday. He was ashen and in shock after having been royally reamed by Phil. It seemed that the financial director had taken the holiday off as was customary in the company. When he returned on Tuesday morning, his voice mail was jammed with frantic cell phone messages from Phil demanding the “Flash” report data. A major confrontation over the issue had taken place between Phil and the financial director earlier that morning. According to the financial director, Phil had stormed into his office at the opening bell demanding to know where the director had been the day before. The director replied that he had been enjoying the holiday with his family. Phil then went into a tirade about the importance of Monday “Flash” report and the director’s responsibilities. The director defended his actions by stating that Memorial Day was an official company holiday and that it had always been customary to observe Monday holidays and reschedule the “Flash” report to Tuesday. Phil reportedly stated that he didn’t care about holidays and threatened the financial director with termination should he ever put a mere holiday ahead of his responsibilities again. It was reported that the confrontation had become very loud and heated. Several employees reported the melee. Phil had apparently acted like a real ass.

Shortly thereafter, the corporation’s CEO and board canned the division president and his cronies. The regime had not even lasted three years. They will certainly all reappear in some high falluting and well-paid positions in some other companies. “Cheap shot” and “smartass comment” artists seem to be needed in every modern American corporation these days. Phil’s “canning” was particularly unceremonious. He just disappeared one day – along with his title. No one was ever graced with seeing any of his business cards.

Moral of the story – Titles do not make leaders.


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