Hold on a minute while The Business Press Maven tries some mentalism here. Eh, it failed again. What I was trying to do was will a more sensible world into being. Specifically: a world where a CEO wouldn't be portrayed as an absolute genius just because the winds of good trends he had nothing to do with creating are at his back.

Now don't get me wrong. Some of these CEOs might be competent managers and strategists, but why does the business press hurtle them into genius status just because they are benefiting from larger trends? There is a real downside to this for investors, which we will get to faster than you can say "overblown, tush-kissing article angle."

Take a recent Wall Street Journal story on John Deere ( DE) CEO Robert Lane ... ( pu-lease.)

The story was headlined "How John Deere Cut a Clear Path Across a Rough Field" ... and the answer was: through Lane's grace. Here's a sample of the breathlessness:
"Mr. Lane's strategy offers lessons to executives in other cyclical businesses who want to reduce their vulnerability to economic swings. It also shows how a consensus builder with an astute plan can mobilize change, even at an old manufacturing company steeped in tradition."

Has Lane solved cyclicality? Does he skirt all political infighting by splitting the difference like it was an atom? Has he mobilized the stale troops through the sheer force of his resolve and astuteness? Is astuteness even a word? It shouldn't be.

The point is that the article does not even touch on some larger trends that are helping Deere. We'll get to those. Instead, the article focuses on some small facts to build a larger legend of a manager who bends his little employees to his will through accessibility and incentives. The very day he became CEO, the article highlights, he moved his desk so he wasn't facing the doorway (call every business management school in the land!). Sayeth the personal ad for Lane -- uh, the article: "He didn't want to loom as 'The Wizard of Oz,' he says. The rearrangement conveyed something else, too: things were changing."

The Business Press Maven thinks the rearrangement conveyed something else altogether: that furniture was moving.

Look, it is hardly a fable to say that Lane seems to have some strengths. Would I put him in charge of a company? Probably. But any story about him must include -- as this powder-puff piece did not -- the worldwide trends that have made him one lucky Lane over the past few years.

The dollar, I don't need to tell you, has been a 99-pound weakling in recent years, which means equipment exporters like Deere almost can't help but do well. And a whole host of overseas countries are developing at a rapid rate, amplifying the advantage for American exporters.

Meanwhile, wheat and corn prices have been high stateside, favoring farmers, and -- importantly -- the Bush administration has been funneling money to the farm states without letup. Not that Lane isn't working miracles by, uh, moving his desk. But he has some advantages that should be weighed alongside his desk-location strategies.

At the bottom of the article, the Journal even warns that this will be part of a series. Next up: "How companies like Deere seek growth in the new business climate."

Hopefully, they'll include a big factor: luck.

Without allowing for that, reality is skewed. And when that happens, shareholders are skewered. Clippings like this help turn regular old managers into icons, and that leads to outrageous pay, which hurts shareholders. With undeserved praise, too, a CEO can become emboldened, less tethered to the board, and -- if he believes his own clippings -- more confident that gestures like moving desks move markets.

Lane is hardly the only one. Meg Whitman, eBay's ( EBAY) chief, has probably done an O.K. job overall. But because the novelty-act company she was heading hit the cultural zeitgeist at just the right time, she was portrayed as a genius. Now, as eBay faces serious competition and apparent customer fatigue, investors might have misplaced confidence in Meg's ability to pull rabbits -- or Pez dispensers -- out of hats.

Speaking of misplaced confidence, Carleton "Carly" Fiorina was high up at AT&T ( T) during high times there. She rode the resulting wave of good notice to the leadership of Hewlett -Packard ( HPQ). But there is an argument to be made that with the expectations of a worshipful press set too high, she could not survive larger challenges. She got the boot from HP, and now the company seems to be turning around -- without her. Some feel her strategies have won out, which makes a case for the fact that in addition to warping the better judgment of shareholders and costing a lot in overblown pay, the CEO that lives by the puff piece might also sometimes die of the puff piece.

Before my Dell ( DELL) laptop explodes, let me finish up with some talk about how the misuse of simple adjectives and adverbs can confuse investors.

After the close on Wednesday, we got a lead from MarketWatch about how stocks ended the session "sharply" lower. The Dow was down 121 points, a lot when the index was at 2,000. But at 11,000, it's only 1%, which counts as a crummy day, but not as a "sharp" drop, in my book. The tensions in the Middle East "weighed heavily" (by a factor of 1%) on a market "already unsettled by a poor start to the second-quarter earnings season."

Now listen: As you know, The Business Press Maven is a card-carrying pessimist, the sort of soul who craves darkness over light. But were the first few days of earnings season really poor? They made me uneasy, but poor? Eh, where's a CEO puff piece when I need it?
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial website twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children.