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HP's Mark Hurd: Brilliant CEO Self-Destructs


Silicon Valley may be shocked over the sudden resignation of HP CEO Mark Hurd following a sexual harassment probe that uncovered inaccurate expense reporting, but The Corner Office readers shouldn't be.

Just a few weeks ago, in 10 Ways to Destroy Your Management Career, I outlined some very specific ways even the most prominent and successful executives might self-destruct, and Hurd's apparent indiscretions fell right in the cross-hairs of two of them.

We'll come back to that in a minute, but first, a few details of this most sordid affair from an engadget.com live blog of the HP conference call that just took place this afternoon:

HP is saying that Mark Hurd submitted inaccurate expense reports to conceal his relationship with the contractor, and that violated HP's standards of business conduct.
In the call's Q&A, HP added the following:
We're not going to get into details, but there were numerous instances, and the issue was integrity at the highest levels. The amount is not the issue from the board's perspective.

We're not going to talk about Mr. Hurd, but HP paid the contractor's fees for services and her expenses -- there was a question about whether her services were actually provided.

Mark Hurd resigning has nothing to do with the operational performance of HP -- it has everything to do with his actions and integrity.

Hurd's demise actually came about when a probe into a sexual harassment claim uncovered fudged expense reports that were meant to cover up Hurd's relationship with a marketing contractor, as explained in HP's press release on Hurd's resignation.

As I alluded to earlier, my post on executives self-destructing included the following as the third and fifth ways to destroy your management career:

Pad the perks. It's surprising how many bright and successful [executives] take advantage of their company and its shareholders. Depending on the severity, it could be considered embezzlement ...

Sexually harass or discriminate against an employee. In this politically correct era, it doesn't take much --

And, as I also said in the post:
Every day, managers and executives just like you self-destruct. They don't just shoot themselves in the foot. Nope. They destroy their jobs, even their entire careers, and in dramatic fashion.
The lesson, folks, is you've got to take this stuff very seriously. It happens all the time.

All that said, since Hurd was an extraordinary CEO I've often credited with one of the most successful turnarounds in modern history, I guess the title of another recent post is also fitting: "Sometimes, it Sucks to be Right." This is definitely one of those times.

Image Courtesy HP

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