I Hear the Crash of Ten Pins Falling …

HP. Boeing. AIG. Bye, bye hyper-powerful CEOs. (In the space of just a few weeks.)

Fiorina.
Stonecipher.
Greenberg.

And Bernie Ebbers will probably die of old age in jail.

Three of the four failed the "character test" (Stonecipher, Greenberg, Ebbers).* (*Way to go Wall Street Journal, ever on top of trends ... a headline yesterday suggested that in future CEO selection process there was now a need to look for "character." Wow! Great insight; remind me to renew my subscription.) Three of the four (Fiorina, Greenberg, Ebbers) were close-to-the-vest Centralizers.

If nothing else, this does remind us how ludicrously tough it is to lead giant institutions these days: One must indeed have "character" of the first order. Plus a Gerstner-like knack for wrenching entrenched "cultures" in Bold New Directions. A Larry Bossidy-like maniacal Bias for Execution. A Peter Lewis (Progressive)-like knack for Speed. A Welch-like ability to pick Great Talent ... and then to give that Talent its Head! A Jobsean instinct for Disruptive Innovation. A Gatesean and Scottean (Lee, Wal*Mart) love of the Fray of Business. Nardelli (Bob, Home Depot)-like Energy. And a decent grasp of Strategy.

Can anybody truly do all this? Home Depot's Nardelli comes the closest, in my book (blog). He actually scores an "A" or "B+" on each of these dimensions. No mean feat.