Todayâ€™s Wall Street Journal carried an article entitled â€œBear CEOâ€™s Handling of Crisis Raises Issuesâ€ that details James Cayneâ€™s golf and bridge tournament attendance during the meltdown of two of Bear Stearnâ€™s investment vehicles. Is James Cayne a master delegator or is he guilty of gross dereliction of duty?
Cayne is characterized as a blunt, hard-charging former scrap iron salesman that came through the ranks of the companyâ€™s brokerage division, taking control of Bear Stearns as the CEO in 1993. For 14 years he caucused with small groups to set corporate strategy, seeking consensus from his associates. The article indicates that he doesnâ€™t travel for business (implying that he delegates that function to others).
However, the article casts aspersion on the character of Mr. Cayne as it describes his trips to
Bearâ€™s President, Alan Schwartz, claims, â€œAnyone who thinks that Jimmy Cayne isnâ€™t fired up every day and ready to get to work hasnâ€™t been living in my world.â€
While some may measure wealth by the amount of money you have in your investments, the true measure of wealth is the amount of discretionary time you have. By all accounts, Mr. Cayne had bothâ€”a salary of $34M and lieutenants who would watch over the business during his long weekends
But, where does the enjoyment of discretionary time cross into dereliction of duty? It may not be fair to compare Mr. Cayne to his peers such as James Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase, Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers, or Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, who have all cancelled personal plans to deal with crises at work, because they most likely have different measures of wealth and possibly a more hands-on management style. However, the answer may be found in Mr. Cayneâ€™s own actions. After the fund meltdown, he fired his co-president, Warren Spector, for being away from the office during the crisis. Where was Mr. Spector? In
Delegation of responsibility is critical at the CEO level. However, the CEO has three choices in this situation: allow others the same latitude to delegate as they see fit and accept the consequences, step in and change the rules by becoming personally involved in times of crisis, or be very clear that the rules followed by the CEO do not extend to anyone else.
In this case, Mr. Cayne appears to have failed in his leadership responsibility by choosing to escape the mounting pressure of failing funds and increasing investor unrest by leaving the City and gratifying himself rather than staying at the helm to weather a storm.
May we all learn from this example and lead by our own examplesâ€”and allow others to do the same.