Leadership, “Reputation Matters” Forbes, December 29, 2014

Indecisiveness is rarely a winning response in crisis. But in the case of Sony ’s handling of The Interview I fear that the leadership problem is more than that. It involves knowing — or not knowing — exactly what guidance to listen to, and what decisions to make before, during, and after a crisis occurs. No waffling is allowed.

In a series of moves that seem as if they were actually taken from the ill-fated movie itself, Sony has exhibited not only a lack of judgment, but a seeming propensity to cave, successively, to each strong opinion that has been thrust upon it. And there have been a lot this holiday season.

First the highly ill-advised movie advocating the murder of an actual living person was green-lighted – we assume due to pressure from powerful Hollywood players. (Hadn’t they heard of the fictionalized movie countries of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick in The Mouse That Roared or Sarkhan in The Ugly American?) Then when a devastating cyberhack, possibly from the country ruled by that actual living person, caused the entire studio – and its employees – to pay dearly for the decision, there was stunned silence. The hackers’ subsequent illegal release of mortifying emails showing off the industry’s underbelly prompted a tepid apology, and possibly a willingness to acquiesce to the hackers’ demands before more emails were released. And finally, when the hackers appeared to threaten violence to movie-goers, and major theater chains announced they would not show the film, Sony pulled it for good. So they said.

But now, in the face of the administration’s objection to a foreign government threatening our freedom of speech, and the willingness of some smaller theaters to show it, thereby bringing in some revenue, it’s baaaaaack. My head is spinning faster than that girl’s in The Exorcist. […read more]