Every company needs a scapegoat. When a business is reeling from federal indictments, creditors' liens or lawsuits from orphans, someone on the corporate roster should embrace the blame. Unfortunately, most executives, especially the guilty ones, lack the talent for self-sacrifice. They will deny everything, demand exorbitant "retirement" packages or squeal to the grand jury. The company, the media and the investors deserve a more obliging scapegoat.
I recommend me.
Yes, corporate America, I am your perfect dupe. Hire me as the blameworthy executive, then incriminate me at press conferences and stockholders' meetings. After I confess to your failures, I can be humiliated and fired. If the company is a Japanese subsidiary, I can also feign suicide. The public will love the spectacle, and it might even improve employee morale.
I will do all this for a fraction of what an MBA would charge. Furthermore, I can impersonate a whole repertoire of scapegoats. You want a culprit who is the embodiment of everything wrong with your company. I can offer a selection drawn from the biggest buffoons in history: two thousand years of incompetence for your every need. The magnitude of their ineptitude is guaranteed to make you look wonderful. Whether you want a sneering ass or a blithe idiot, I have the ideal scapegoat for you. Choose among these classic models:
Is your company a fiscal shambles, but the corporate headquarters wins architectural awards? Then, you want the Louis XV model. King of France from 1715 to 1774, Louis was handsome, charming and completely oblivious. France was the richest and most cultured country in Europe, yet its government was bankrupt of money and ideas. The Crown actually lost the treasury in the stock market. Of course, the government could have raised money by enacting new legislation, but that would have distracted Louis from his mistresses.
|Julian the Apostate|
|Pope Leo X|
|Source: Corbis/Francis G. Mayer|
Indulgences -- pardons from Purgatory, bought from the church -- allowed the purchaser to bribe away his sins while subsidizing the work of Michelangelo and Raphael. Who could resist that bargain? In 1517 Martin Luther did, but Rome just ignored the complaints of an obscure German professor. In 1520 Raphael died, and the pope finally noticed that there was a Reformation. By that time, however, the Church had already lost its market dominance in Northern Europe. Many people preferred the superior German design and engineering of Protestantism. What's more, Luther's Heaven had a lower overhead than Rome's. The Leo X model is perfect for any lumbering conglomerate that never imagined that there could be competition. It has traditionally suited executives in the American automobile industry and could be easily updated for New Economy behemoths such as Microsoft (MSFT). Embracing innovation, seizing the initiative -- and then having no idea what to do next: If this is your company's problem, my Comte Charles d'Estaing model can be your dynamo of disaster. He is one of the mercifully obscure figures of the American Revolution. In 1778, Comte d'Estaing was appointed the admiral of the French expeditionary force to America. Unfortunately, d'Estaing was an army officer and unfamiliar with water. But the outstanding feature of his career was the number of times he was captured by the British. He set sail for Rhode Island and went to the West Indies. The following year, he succeeded in landing a French army in Georgia. Taking command of the troops at the battle of Savannah, d'Estaing did everything necessary for the British to win. This time, however, he was careful not to be captured. For his role in losing Georgia to the British, d'Estaing was discreetly reassigned as naval attache to Spain, where presumably incompetence went unnoticed. In 1793, d'Estaing culminated his career by appearing as a defense witness for Marie Antoinette; he managed to get himself guillotined, too. The Comte d'Estaing model is ideal for such special occasions as reorganization, restructuring, downsizing and other forms of corporate transition or -- as the case may have it --self-destruction.