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The bosses we deserve: impostors as executives


It is time not only to make higher ethical demands on managers, but also to enforce them. In politics as well as in business.

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The Chancellor candidates:

Annalena Baerbock, Armin Laschet, Olaf Scholz

Photo: Sean Gallup / EPA, Getty Images;

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Four candidates for important political offices - and four big question marks: Annalena Baerbock, Armin Laschet, Olaf Scholz and Franziska Giffey.

They are all currently in the limelight more because of their personal misconduct than because of their political projects or programs.

Even if not all allegations are clearly proven.

Heiner Thorborg

Heiner Thorborg is one of the most prominent personnel consultants in Germany.

After ten years as a partner at Egon Zehnder Int.

he founded Heiner Thorborg GmbH & Co. KG, Heiner Thorborg & Co. (Zurich) and the "Generation CEO" initiative.

All other articles by Heiner Thorborg can be found under Thorborg's column.

Baerbock now has probably the most intensely polished résumé in the republic.

As a university lecturer, Laschet awarded grades to students whose exams he had messed up with.

As Hamburg's mayor, Scholz is said to have held his hand protectively over the MM Warburg & Co bank in the Cum-Ex affair.

And Franziska Giffey cheated on her doctoral thesis and not only lost her title, but also her ministerial office.

Baerbock and Laschet behaved like a fool, Scholz and Giffey probably knowingly did the wrong thing.

None of them seem really convincing anymore.

When asked about character - an essential criterion for aptitude as a manager - all four look at least embarrassing.

No clean company anywhere

Well, all politicians have a pragmatic relationship to the truth, but can a politician who runs through the imagination when writing her own résumé really lead the largest economy in the EU? And if a person cannot admit that he has messed up a few exams, can we expect him to tell his people the truth unvarnished in times of crisis? And can someone who claims that they cannot remember exactly how much tax deals they have run into millions can still be taken seriously with the statement that they will be able to handle public finances well in the future?

But sometimes with the indignation.

Anyone who is upset about "these disgusting political figures" is just as ridiculous as the four doused poodles themselves. Because seriously: Is it really cleaner in other areas of our society?

Pretty much every club has its scandals right now.

The gentlemen of the Catholic Church cover up the worst abuse, in the Bundeswehr, of all things, the elite troops sing anti-Semitic songs.

And in business, we have recently seen the VW diesel scandal, the Cum-Ex affair, the Wirecard debacle and the collapse of Greensill.

Confused chutzpah with charisma

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. CVs that testify more to the writer's fantasies of grandiosity than to actual competence? You know in all companies. Refined results of project studies? Souped-up balance sheets? Adventurous sales forecasts without a real background? And so on and so on. In all areas there are people who feel called to the highest offices without any demonstrable experience - and there are enough people who confuse precisely that with charisma.

In business, however, even the most insane scammers will eventually be discovered because numbers don't lie.

The tax offices want their cum-ex money back, Wirecard boss Markus Braun faces many years imprisonment if convicted.

His partner Jan Marsalek is hunted like a wounded hare.

And when Credit Suisse gambled away half of its equity with collapsed hedge funds, the stock market price plummeted to such an extent that the shareholders were already making heads roll.

Ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn has to shell out 11.2 million euros from the private box in a liability settlement with his former employer VW, his liability insurance adds another 270 million for the breach of duty in the diesel affair.

Lies must have consequences

Whether that is enough to compensate for the damage that Volkswagen has inflicted on the "Made in Germany" seal of approval can still be discussed, but in business: if you lie or cheat, in most cases you will feel the consequences at some point.

Even if one or the other youngster with chutzpah, who later jazzes up his internship for project responsibility, gets away with it: In the long term, he will only stay in the permanent position that he has secured if he is able to perform.

In contrast, many politicians are apparently simply hoping that the media will soon drive another pig through the village and that their polls will recover again by the next election.

Then they wonder about disaffection with politics.

Business bosses are not child prodigies either, but at least capitalism strikes self-cleaning at some point in the event of undesirable developments, which obviously cannot be said of our democracy.

If we don't soon start making higher ethical demands on our managers and then enforcing them, we will get exactly the bosses we deserve.

In politics as well as in business.

Editor's note: Heiner Thorborg is a member of the


makers of

Nevertheless, this column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial team of manager magazin.

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2021-06-22

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