Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

What a Well-Known Clothing Store Can Teach Us about Autocrats and Big Egos

During the 2003 to 2007 period, Abercrombie & Fitch was highly successful, featuring clothing for the “elite, cool, young adult,” with advertising that was very brash and sexy. The stock price rose from $30 to the low $80 range. In a recent issue of the New York Magazine, the story is told of that successful period, and the difficult times since then, with the stock bouncing around in the low $30’s recently. In particular, they focus on the CEO, who has been in place since the mid 1990’s. While the company has been struggling over the past five years, the CEO has not changed a bit regarding his authoritarian approach.

The writer summarizes the CEO as “famously autocratic” and cites two quotes from colleagues: “life starts and stops with the CEO.” “He kind of looked down on all the people around. He looked like he was listening to you, but I don’t think he ever was.”

It is also noted that the CEO put in place some very strange company rules and rituals. For example, the magazine article reports a designer showing up at a meeting with the CEO wearing black jeans and leather soled shoes. The designer commented that the CEO “stared at me like, The nerve of this guy! He couldn’t stop looking at my shoes.” Corporate employees were expected to always wear distressed Abercrombie jeans, oxford shirts bearing the Abercrombie moose logo, and casual footwear (not leather-soled shoes!).

It gets worse. There was a 40-plus page standards manual for dress and behavior on the corporate jet. For example, a male staff member of the plane had to be approved by a particular New York modeling agency and wear a “spritz” of Abercrombie 41 cologne and boxer briefs under Abercrombie jeans! Also, when the CEO made any kind of request of the staff, the proper response was “no problem,” not “yes” or “sure.”

So…why should you avoid people like this? Here are three reasons:

1.) Your ideas are not wanted - These individuals believe they are highly talented and that their organization is totally dependent on their brilliance.

2.) Your growth potential is judged against flawed values – People who do well tend to be the loyal order takers who conclude early that pampering the boss is the way to get ahead.

3.) You don’t learn how to lead – Instead, it is all about taking orders and implementing exactly what is asked of you.

The conclusion is clear: Autocrats and big egos can be detrimental to your career progress!

Subscribe to the Gutsy Leadership Blog's RSS feed ...