Leaders often put their foot in their mouth. After all, leading is a high pressure, high visibility, and high-risk job. Let’s look at one of Larry Ellison’s public moments that took place in 2010 when he exemplified how to put your foot in your mouth. Then consider what lesson you can take from his word-slaughter incident to be a better leader. It’s a simple yet powerful lesson.
Larry is famously known as an American business magnate and investor. His name is synonymous with Oracle Corporation. He is the co-founder, executive chairman, chief technology officer and former chief executive officer of Oracle Corporation. Bloomberg listed him as the tenth wealthiest person in the world as of April of 2022. At the time he was estimated to be worth $103 billion. Pretty cool, huh? Still, as we know, the more you accomplish the greater your moments will be when you put your foot in your mouth. Your goal is to minimize those occurrences in your life.
Now that we are clear about some of Larry’s accomplishments let’s analyze one of his less than stellar comments. In 2010 when talking about Apple’s past decision to hire back Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison was quoted as saying, “Worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”
You may be thinking, ‘so what, who cares what Larry said about Apple and Steve Jobs.’ Odds are you’re lacking details about this situation. It was a long time ago so it’s hard to know and consider the details. That’s the point though when it comes to speaking wisely. Speaking out of turn results from flippant behavior. It’s easily preventable. Leaders have less room for error when it comes to negligence with one’s words. The expectation of a leader being a wise prophet like individual looms in the back of our minds.
Here is the background on what makes Larry’s comment controversial. When he said, “Worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago,” he was calling Apple’s Board idiots for taking action against a CEO who falsified company expense reports to pay for sex with a former contracted employee unjustified.
When you know the details doesn’t it makes you want to say to Larry, ‘c’mon, son. What the hell were you running your mouth for about all that!’ Unless Larry believes that in the popularly debated topic of turning a blind-eye to indiscretions of top performers, one should give more leeway to people who perform above average. Bold if that’s what you’re going on record with Larry. Otherwise, know all the facts before speaking.
Speaking in the heat of the moment crushes many leaders. Everyone gets rattled sometimes. You can prevent damage to your reputation and avoid causing pain to others even if you do get rattled. This requires poise. Think before speaking. Don’t throw around examples of others lightly. Know your facts and when you don’t then make it clear that you don’t. These aren’t’ fake it till you make it situations. The simple yet powerful lesson Larry unknowingly taught with that quote is that impulse control is a leader’s responsibility.
Use these three tips to evolve as a leader. First, concentrating on controlling our emotions allows us to think more clearly and mindful. Second, avoiding tearing others down to make your points is priceless. Third, consciously use your words and sentence structures to give meaning, life, and strength to your messages. Remember, people naturally look to leaders to be eloquent and thoughtful. Although slip-ups happen, perfecting the craft of posie, grace, and eloquence with words strengthens your leadership abilities immensely.