A bullying business owner lit up the Internet, group texts, and niche media for a particular community of interest. It was 2021, mid-Covid emergency, and I had once known the woman who had become that moment’s Main Character for a specific world.
I saw a very similar story the other day, front and center in one of the mainstream news apps. A young, smart, creative person started a business; then, they didn’t always treat people well.
Both of these business owners are women. Both learned their business on the job; each started with product knowledge, but no relevant business operations experience. Both businesses had early success.
I keep thinking and writing about media-authored narratives about (business) women. Unlike the men who tumble from grace, only to find their story arc resolve in redemption/return, women frequently slide off the glass cliff into...silence?
Friends who worked for the woman in our circle had shared experiences over the years, good and bad. My interactions with her had been positive and mutually supportive. She had always been generous when I asked her to provide (free) space for community events and fund raisers. Like me, like most people, she is not a saint, not an evil genius. If the story on the Internet was a truth, it is not her entire story.
I shudder to think about some lessons I learned, pre-Internet. Like, anything I had said at work might be repeated, sometimes distorted, and sometimes turned against me. What I wore – even outside of the office, not kidding – might generate workplace chatter. My inability to manage every single one of my emotions, at all times, would cause some to fear me. I had to adjust, and adjust my expectations.
These are management-adjacent lessons; they're about factors that mediate perception of one's leadership abilities. Sort of “executive presence,” but not exactly. Learning curves are on display, mediated by engagement-mining algorithms; the entire Internet is a magnifying lens. I'm not sure my career would have survived learning online.
Today's expanded platform for public judgment is a feature, not a bug.
Related, and other, reading
- Melissa DeRosa’s Revenge Campaign Rebecca Traister on power and media evokes, for me, a blazing Möbius dumpster. (New York, October 24, 2023)
- Are you monomythic? Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, by Craig Batty, at The Conversation. The author is an instructor in screenwriting.
- I'm in the middle of Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss' Glossier, by Mariza Meltzer. (library) (Bookshop) So far, not a takedown of Weiss; in that regard, a breath of fresh air.
- I recently mentioned that I'm undertaking the evaluation of a Heroine's Journey, via media portrayals of Carly Fiorina's career. I picked Carly because I didn't feel warm and fuzzy about her, and just finished her Tough choices: a memoir (library) (Bookshop.) I switched between audiobook and the ebook, and enjoyed her narration of her own story. As memoir, it's not Wild (lol.) Sometimes it reads like a powerpoint; sometimes she ups the emotional ante. More to come on Carly.
- Since the beginning of the Sam Bankman-Fried Hero's Journey, I have swung between indifference, boredom, and annoyance. How did this Not Very Serious person come to command so (waves hands) much, so quickly? Why must I know about his suits from the Macy's bargain racks, why is the judge involved with his clothing budget – won't his family supply him with clothing? His hair and haircut, also nope.
Thanks to my public library, I have my hands on Going infinite : the rise and fall of a new tycoon, the Michael Lewis (library) profile of SBF, which I plan to at least rage-read. Speaking of rage, Chicago's WBEZ has now emailed me twice about seeing Lewis in conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin. Nosebleed seats for Lewis' book tour start at $57, and it's not even* billed as a benefit for WBEZ. wth? (Disclosure: I have been a fan of several Lewis books; I'm also a proud WBEZ member.)
- Warm Take: Executive Presence. May 16, 2021.
Thank you so much for reading my newsletter! I started out today before dawn with a Warm Take on Bullying and Bystanders...a topic I may come back to in a deep dive, because it's a lot. I also have future deep dives planned on Care, and Advice.
After leaving Twitter, about a year ago, I'm experimenting with the kinda-old-Twitter-like Bluesky. I'm not sure yet, but it seems not awful? If you're interested and not there yet, I have a handful of invites. Reply to this note, and I'll distribute invite codes until I've given them all away. If you're already there and want to say hi, here I am.
If you're a fan of Daylight Savings Time, it was pitch-dark for hours after I woke up and started writing this morning; I'd like to speak with your manager?
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please send me a note! And like my other Warm Takes, it's unprofessionally edited by me. Should I read this back 5 minutes after I send it, and catch a typo or inelegant turn of phrase, I may fix it later, on the Internet.*
May you and your loved ones be safe, healthy, and free.
*Correction: my screed about WBEZ and Michael Lewis' pricey book tour tickets originally said that it was "billed as a benefit for WBEZ," which was wrong and also not what I meant to say. A WBEZ benefit would be awesome, and I'd hardly complain about the ticket price in that case: it was not billed as such. I felt like this event was the capture of a public good in the name of selling Lewis' book.