How AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Lost His Leadership Authority


It is absurd that he should rule others who knows not how to rule himself.Latin Proverb

If you spent any time online yesterday, especially if you read business websites, you probably heard about AOL's CEO Tim Armstrong firing one of his employees during a meeting in front of 1,000 people.

The offense? The now fired employee, creative director of AOL's Patch, Abel Lenz, was taking pictures during the meeting.  Apparently Lenz ALWAYS takes pictures and posts them to the company website, but Armstrong had no patience for the attention (at least not on Friday).

Instead, about 2 minutes into the meeting, Armstrong, without missing a beat says,

"Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!"

Then Armstrong pauses a few seconds and continues on with his talk.

It is, perhaps, one of the most intense, off-putting displays of executive power I've ever heard.  Listen for yourself.  I've embedded the link courtesy of Tech Blogger Jim Romenesko. Skip to the 2 minute mark if you just want the moment of the outburst.

What adjectives come to mind when you hear such behavior?


How is it that someone smart enough to be CEO of a Fortune 1000 company is so utterly clueless about the fragile nature of leadership?

In a quick, impulsive move, Armstrong damages his authority and ultimately causes negative ripple effects for the entire company.  What will this do for talent recruitment? What's the impact on employee morale? Will investors feel more confident with the man at the top?

Are YOU more motivated to do business with AOL companies?

Sure, it's not fair to judge a career by a single incident, but being in the top seat isn't a function of "fairness."

This story serves as a cautionary tale to any and all of us who sit in a position of authority; it's absurd to think we can rule others if we can't rule ourselves.