Be a CEO Villain in Six Easy Steps

Last Updated Oct 28, 2008 2:39 PM EDT

A lengthy parade of ex-CEOs destroyed by the financial crisis is expected to appear before Congress in coming months. But they have to learn to get their roles right.

Richard Fuld, former head of Lehman Brothers, did not understand his proper role. "You're the villain, so you gotta act like the villain," Florida Congressman John Mica told fatalistic Fuld.

According to a blog by public relations specialist Paul Pendergrass, there are six easy steps to play the role of villain with panache. Here they are:

  1. Drag your feet. Delaying testimony and documents helps build up suspense that you really have something to hide.
  2. Fight your inner scapegoat. Whining won't get you anywhere.
  3. Try to play both courts. Congress offers both subpoenas and television cameras requiring very different skill sets. One requires legal skills; the other acting skills. Try to handle both badly and you'll be a villain like Fuld.
  4. Bury your contrition. Go ahead with that Mea Culpa, but make sure you blame lots of others, especially your underlings.
  5. Say one thing; ooze another. If your apology is in a prepared speech, make sure you sound like you really don't mean it.
  6. Confirm you're out of touch. Sure you've been confined in elite clubs and business jets for years, but pretend you are a regular guy.