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Stop Apologizing for Failed CEOs

That's leadership, huh? Dance until the music dies. But wait, the esteemed WSJ points out that his bonus, unlike Merrill's O'Neal, will be pro-rated. And the Merrill guy got more. And it's not severance, uh, technically.

Staying on the subject of misleading CEO worship, let's talk cars ... and not the one in which Jeeves will be ferrying Prince around. Just as we began to read flowery portrayals of General Motors (GM) CEO Rick Wagoner, it turns out that GM's comeback, as it were, met a turn in the road where there was a 1,000-car pile-up. But then along comes Ford (F), reporting hundreds of millions in losses, but doing better than expectations. Fair enough.

The Business Press Maven, in his soul, wants nothing more than for the American automobile industry to recover in full. But can't the business media learn from history (even, uh, this week's history) that it might be premature to declare a CEO brilliant in putting his car company on the comeback trail? Never mind.

Look at this horrid headline and subhead from Business Week: Ford's Shrinking Losses Play Up Mulally's Progress
A better-than-expected third-quarter performance shows its new CEO has the carmaker on the right track.

Imagine what we are going to read when (if ever) Ford stops losing hundreds of millions and makes a thin dime. But, remember, big comebacks of companies in horrible condition often show progress then regression. The real "Way Forward," as Mulally calls his strategy, instantly lionized, often involves a false start then going backwards.

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