The Sword of Damocles


There's a great post by Ben Horowitz how he could have ended in jail if it wouldn't be for a bit of luck and some great counselling. Experience of Ben Horowitz serves as a great illustration of hidden traps of holding an executive function that is mostly unbeknownst to regular employees. I know thousands of engineers and other rank-and-file employees and I know nobody who would end in jail for doing their jobs. On the other hand I know quite some executives who were drawn into costly and time-consuming litigation regarding their statutory duties as officers in charge, including a very personal experience that I have inherited from my father (and which goes on for more than a decade now). When courts issue their final sentence it's easy to vilify the perpetrator. It's actually the right thing to do since public condemnation is the most potent force the law has at its disposal. But for an executive making day to day decisions the case is much murkier. First, the law is clear only in extremes, while most of real life situations happens in the legal gray area. Second, an executive who is too careful and mostly cares for the safety of his or her ass, misses many opportunities that competitors are more than willing to exploit. I wish every employee would have a chance to experience also that side of an executive function. I'm pretty sure it would result in much less envy when discussion comes to executives' compensations!