Leading Blog






01.19.07

Bob Nardelli: “I want an autopsy!”

Bob Nardelli
As you know, after a board meeting on January 2nd, Home Depot announced the following day that the company and Bob Nardelli had “mutually agreed” that he would resign. Business Week reported, “As the news of his resignation on Jan. 3 shot through Home Depot's white-walled Atlanta headquarters and reached stores, some employees text-messaged each other with happy faces and exclamation points. ‘I think that it is being received well. Most people believed that Bob was autocratic and stubborn,’ says an assistant manager in an Atlanta store who asked not to be named.”

BW continues, “Nardelli alienated customers just as thoroughly as he did employees” and his “data-driven, in-your-face management style grated on many seasoned executives, resulting in a massive turnover in Home Depot's upper ranks.”

Bruce Nussbaum, on his Business Week Innovation blog, wrote a post on “why command and control is so bad.” Bob Sutton pointed out on his blog that “a numbers-based and quality focused organization need not be top-down, where bosses use numbers to lord over and push around their underlings.” While all of this is true, a numbers-based and quality focused organization may also be top down and still place an emphasis on people and with longer-term results. These aren’t either/or propositions. It requires a different kind of leader.

Jack Welch is reported by Patricia Seller in a June 9, 2002 article in Fortune, to have called Nardelli the “best operating executive I’ve ever seen”, but in the end he “had to go with his gut” in bypassing Nardelli for the top spot at GE. Nardelli understandably stunned and hurt, demanded, “I want an autopsy!” Maybe even Jack Welch saw something beyond the numbers. Perhaps at Home Depot, Nardelli finally got his autopsy.

Mr. Nardelli’s problem seems to be one of attitude. If you have respect for people, if you have their best interests at heart, you can still bring in the numbers. A leader’s people and political role are spotlighted now more than ever. Mr. Nardelli ultimately failed in this arena. "I used to play football," Nardelli said when asked about the challenges of being a public company CEO today. "In football, you always know the score. Now, it's like we are ice-skating, and you've got a bunch of judges on the sideline shouting out the scores." Let’s hope while Mr. Nardelli is fielding calls for his next job, he takes time to reflect on attitude. While Six Sigma is a valuable process tool, it can and should work within a framework of respect for people. Leadership is the same as it ever was and it's still about people.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:48 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leaders



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