Businesses don’t fail, leaders do

Wordcount: 814 Time to read: 4 minutes

On New Year’s Day, 2021, CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon began a segment with “The pandemic touched every part of the economy in 2020.” What I heard on my head was every part of the economy suffered in 2020 because of the Pandemic.

I have a big problem with that statement.

We all have good times and bad. No individual or business can avoid all problems, pain, or loss. To imply everyone is worse off now than they were a year ago is simply not true. I know numerous individuals and businesses, including restaurants, who did better, by their own standards, in 2020 than in 2019.

Some form of disruption happens every day. To say the pandemic, even though it continues to be remarkably lethal and detrimental to society’s mental health, is anything more than an unusually massive form of change that happened incredibly fast is wrong.

Regardless, it is the responsibility of every leader to ensure the health and well-being of their organization. Adapting to change is one of the fundamental aspects of fulfilling the leadership role. If leadership is not to be held accountable, then who?


What about the pandemic? Surely you can’t blame leadership if they fail due to an unpredictable global natural disaster!

Of course I can. And do. Because they are responsible.

A 2020 example of how one organization responded to the COVID-19 pandemic comes from the stock market. In this example, good leadership was the difference between success and collapse.

I’ve been a stock market options junkie ever since I first learned about options in 1973 just after the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) was formed.

I scratch that stock option itch with a subscription to Barron’s. Like those who subscribe to paper newspapers for the comics and games, I subscribe to Barron’s for their options related column titled The Striking Price.

To my total surprise and glee, the columns’ topic in the December 28, 2020 issue echoes the point I make in my upcoming book Businesses don’t fail, they commit suicide; no business ever failed due to external forces.

Here are the first three and last paragraphs of that column.

Placing a Bullish Bet on Disney Before Earnings

Walt Disney’s strategic pivot in 2020–one of the worst years imaginable for a theme-park operator–is a case study in how effective leaders are often a company’s most important asset.

Executive abilities are never carried on a corporate balance sheet or given some tangible valuation, but Disney executives are proof of just how much a good team can accomplish even under dramatic pressures that seem to threaten the economic essence of their company.

When investors were determined to see nothing but trouble for Disney as the Covid-19 pandemic threatened earnings by shuttering theme parks, the company’s leaders developed a streaming-content strategy that has seemingly changed the company’s fortunes on Wall Street.

Disney stock, which was largely written off as a casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic, has since become one of the great success stories of a difficult year. Shares are trading near a 52-week high, and investors are excited about the future, especially as the pandemic seems poised to end in 2021 thanks to the vaccine rollout.


There is good reason large, successful companies give their leaders disproportionately large amounts of compensation. They accept responsibility for the health and well-being of their companies AND have the capacity to fulfill it.

Jack Welch’s’ leadership created and maintained General Electric status as an international blue-chip stock until his retirement when the company all but collapsed. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadell turned Microsoft around after Steve Ballmer’s disastrous run as its CEO. Steve Jobs returned to Apple to save it from John Sculley and was succeeded by Tim Cook who has led Apple’s continued growth.

Each of these huge, publicly traded companies were startups at one point. They’ve seen ups and downs due to the ability of their leaders through turbulent and trying times. These are some of the most public examples of the impact of leadership. The leadership responsibility is inherent in EVERY leadership role regardless of the individual or organization, large or small, public or private.

▪ Is your business still searching for the yellow brick road leading out of the pandemic’s dull ache?

▪ Do you yearn for a real competitive edge in this rapidly changing environment?

▪ Do you want to get back to pursuing opportunities for growth and profitability?

▪ Do you want to get back to actively serving customers?

Stop holding on to wait out the pandemic. Make the time to think and strategize with key staff and discover hidden opportunities. Open your mind to new perspectives, what you can do, not what you can’t.

If you’re ready to start exploring and want help from someone who’s been there, done that, and won, call 916-798-0600 or email and let’s talk about how I can help.


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