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."