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A tribute to a time when CEOs weren’t treated like Celebrities — They just focused on doing their jobs.

“people sitting on chairs” by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Remember a time when Dressing in a Turtle Neck and Jeans, Dating a famous Actress, or appearing on the front page of a Gossip magazine wasn’t what CEOs and Business Owner’s were all about?

Because they worked in the background and did things that actually made a difference; their work was reflective of who they were.

We’ve now come to a time when Elon Musk’s penis size is more relevant than his accomplishments with Tesla and SpaceX, Mark Zuckerberg’s greatest achievement will be known as being the dude that Jesse Eisenberg played in The Social Network proclaiming “I’m CEO, Bitch.”, and the dude from Snapchat will be famous for that famous hot actress, I guess?

There was a time, when the sole purpose of a CEO was to fight for what’s right; and their work was truly heroic.

When mentioning names of truly heroic CEOs, the list would not be complete without mentioning (in my opinion) Two of the most outstanding and truly brave CEOs of their time:

Katharine Graham and James E. Burke.

Katharine Graham is not just famous for being the first Female Publisher; She’s an icon for being one of the most outstanding examples of leadership and bravery in exposing one of the most scandalous political conspiracy; Watergate.

She led The Washington Post at a time when most newspapers wouldn’t dare touch a story accusing a President of conspiracy to committing a crime.

Now, it seems it’s become the norm for making fun of the President through outlandish comedy and banal journalism.

What Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were able to pursue and publish under the leadership of Katharine Graham was not just the work of journalistic legitimacy, it was proof that a CEO was more than just the public image of a company; they truly were the backbone of the Business’ integrity and success.

Whilst we might hail Steve Jobs as a hero, few will ever admit that it was the work of Steve Wozniak and John Lasseter that truly was the stuff of legend.

The man was riddled with conflict, an over-inflated ego, and a demeaning outlook towards his employees.

Back then CEOs didn’t go on Twitter rants or think it was cool to make ‘420’ jokes about their Stock Price — Yes Mr. Elon Musk, I’m talking about you.

CEOs weren’t considered ‘cool’, they weren’t celebrities.

Their hopes and dreams didn’t rely on being rated ‘Sexiest CEO of the Year’.

It’s this celebrity status that we now hold CEOs to that has led to the decline in leadership and rather more public meltdowns.

Because we idolise CEOs like they’re a movement; like they’re truly changing the world.

Truly changing the world didn’t mean poking fun and making homophobic slurs.

Changing the world wasn’t making cameo appearances on Sitcoms and Movies.

It wasn’t the 18-hour work routine or the 5 Steps to Success program.

It was just simply doing the best to maintain a strong leadership.

And that’s what CEOs are supposed to do.

When we start idolising CEOs like they’re a rock-band and view their companies like Woodstock, it is no doubt that these lunatics melt under pressure.

During a time of turmoil, CEOs didn’t launch into attacks on their critics but rather focused on fixing the problem.

James E. Burke didn’t go on television to talk about how he was dating Grimes and how smoking weed is so cool, dude; he went on to discuss a truly important and necessary public service message and instil a sense of hope that the products his company made were truly safe for the public.

Start-up culture, as cool as hip as it may be, has made CEOs the centre of a Business.

Imagine Katharine Graham going on a Tweet rant about Watergate or James E. Burke blaming the media for blowing the Tylenol poisonings out of proportion.
I believe their legacy would have been much different today.

A truly great Business must be able to endure with or without its’ CEO — through their legacy and the work-ethic they leave behind and instil within the business the very values it is meant to uphold.