Executive Careers Blog

Execs: In Search of Transparency

Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the new iPod Nano in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008.

So if we have learned one thing the past decade, it's that transparency is good. Right? I mean, Jack Welch has said it, Ram Charan has told us, and many successful 2.0 businesses have ridden the transparency wave to great acclaim. So what's with a couple of headline makers this week?

First, Apple and Steve Jobs: The company says everything's fine, while its CEO and inspirational guru is off in Tennessee getting a liver transplant. And that was on the heels of the company saying everything was fine while the CEO withered away and eventually announced a leave of absence. "Hormonal imbalance" – right!

Next, the Governor of South Carolina: Last Thursday, Governor Mark Sanford disappeared without a trace and all weekend his whereabouts were a public mystery. Monday, an aide finally reported that the Governor had taken a state security vehicle (without security officers) and was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Get this for transparency: his last known location was near Atlanta late last week. A mobile telephone tower there picked up a signal from his phone,

according to a source familiar with the situation. Since then, the governor’s state and personal phones had been turned off, and Sanford had not responded to phone or text messages, a source said. Most mobile phones cannot be tracked if they are turned off. First lady Jenny Sanford (with whom the Governor has four children) said Monday her husband has been gone for several days over Father’s Day weekend and she did not know where. During the day Tuesday, his staff said – due to the furor in South Carolina – the Governor would be back in the office on Wednesday. Late Tuesday, the Governor re-emerged and announced that – in fact – he had been in Argentina, not hiking in the mountains as reported. He said he considered hiking but decided on something more exotic: Buenes Aires. He said he traveled alone and drove along the Argentia Coast but declined to provide further details.

Here's the thing. These two guys are hugely successful. iPod, iPhone, iTunes, MacBook, Pixas – need I say more about Steve Jobs ? And Sanford is (was?) often mentioned as a leading GOP candidate for President in 2012. Maybe that's why they thought they could get away with opaque communications and hidden behavior in The Age of Transparency. It appears – like the rest of us mortals – they will not.

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Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

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