Jeff Skilling is currently on trial for his role in the Enron debacle which brought down an entire company and most of its employees and was likely the major culprit in the California energy crisis of a few years ago. Under Skilling’s leadership, in less than a year Enron’s stock soared and then crashed in a spectacular flame of arrogance and deceit.
Skilling’s story is the age-old story of hubris. writes that “the very qualities that make Icaran executives special – self-confidence, visionary insight, and extreme competitiveness – spur them to take misguided and even illegal chances.” This sentence could have been written for Jeff Skilling.
“In part, Jeff Skilling’s influence can be explained by his particular brand of intelligence. When people describe Skilling they don’t just use the word “smart” — they use phrases like “incandescently brilliant” or “the smartest person I ever met.”
Skilling in the late 1980s wasn’t a physically striking man — he was smallish, a little pudgy, and balding — but his mental agility was breathtaking.
He could process information and conceptualize new ideas with blazing speed. He could instantly simplify highly complex issues into a sparkling, compelling image. And he presented his ideas with a certainty that bordered on arrogance and brooked no dissent. He used his brainpower not just to persuade but to intimidate.
Without question, Skilling’s formidable intelligence had a lot to do with turning Enron into a company that was successful — at least for a while.
But he also had qualities that were disastrous for someone running a big company. For all his brilliance, Skilling had dangerous blind spots. His management skills […]