Sympathetic Reputation

May 22, 2010

Sympathetic Reputation

When I visited Amsterdam, someone mentioned an incident of a sympathetic CEO.  A discussion arose about how CEOs could make a greater show of empathy for those affected by normal day-t0-day events such as delayed flights due to volcanic ash, safety incidents, food recalls, investment losses, etc.  When I first heard the word “sympathetic” in the same sentence as “CEO,” I liked the ring of it. However, I immediately thought about how infrequently this topic has come up in all my years of following, studying and working with CEOs.  Why is that?  I think we all know why.  Empathy is not not what makes great CEO reputations. Nice to have but not necessary perhaps.
Along the same lines, I was asked why CEOs do not apologize enough. I often get asked this question and frankly, I wonder if there are too many CEO apologies today.  My fear is that it is easy to apologize and the more there are, the more dilutive the effect might be.  The sense  in our Amsterdam meeting was that CEOs do not apologize enough when things go wrong.  I usually respond by saying, “Name me one CEO who apologized that was sued.”  I really can’t think of any right now although there must be one, don’t you think?

Those are my thoughts for the day. The sun is out and I am going out to play and be sympathetic.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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