“Strong of chin, stout of spirit”*
US corporate structures often confer CEOs significant power, even as the trend toward team-based leadership is growing. The shift of power dynamic can be particularly noticeable when the CEO is promoted internally, and old patterns of relationships are affected by new patterns of power, influence, and decision-making. As can be seen from this vignette, how these changes are navigated depend strongly on the individual personalities and style of the CEO. Lorenzo is probably someone disinclined to talk much about feelings or relationships. For that matter he seems to be more comfortable being self-sufficient than open himself and his thoughts up for discussion. On the one hand this can be a strength, or at least perceived as a strength, not the least by Lorenzo himself. “Strong of chin, stout of spirit, strong but silent” is after all right in the center of the norm for masculine men in American and many other cultures. On the other hand, research shows that being too identified with the need to project strength and hide vulnerability can itself become a serious psychological liability when the ability to share is not part of a person’s repertoire of interpersonal skills. In the case of Lorenzo, it’s possible he did not have this limitation as a rule. However, once he felt the organizational responsibilities and pressures of the role of CEO, he opted to suppress his personal feelings and needs for affiliation in favor of the difficult decisions he felt the company needed.
Lorenzo also chose a path of leadership in which power was centralized in him. Although he did not enjoy the interpersonal price he paid, he believed, correctly or not, that swift execution was a greater priority than making friends. Thus, we can see that loneliness is built into the role of CEO when she or he makes choices with far-reaching implications, without guarantee of success. Even the choice of doing it differently, more democratically, is itself a choice. And every choice has its detractors.
*Adler, Eric. “A good man is hard to find – especially in the mirror.” March 22, 1998 edition of the Chicago Tribune.