[September 15, 2016] … or both! Cleaning up my attic of old cassette tapes made me pause as the memories of the 1980s came roaring back. For those who remember, the same can be said for that era’s television commercials from Crazy Eddie; “His prices are insa-a-a-a-ane!” Flashback … for a classic example of one of his ads, see this YouTube video (link here, 30 seconds). Like him or hate him, he was a very effective leader.
Eddie Antar, a.k.a., “Crazy Eddie” died this past weekend. A number of very good articles can be found that describe how Eddie fled from the country of Syria as a Jew to Brooklyn, New York where he founded one of America’s most successful electronics discount stores.1,2,3 Later, he would succumb to his collapsing retail empire and afterward found guilty of tax fraud.
Just a few short blocks from my home in Brooklyn, Eddie went into business with his father out of a storefront on Kings Highway. His marketing was simple; shop around, get the best prices you can, then come to Crazy Eddie and he’ll bet it. Nearly everyone in the New York City area knew Crazy Eddie whose stores had, some say, greater name recognition than Coca-Cola.
Like any good leader, Eddie knew about the psychology of people; their weaknesses, faults, needs, and desires. He had considerable loyalty among his customers, vendors, investors, and the common folk. Yet he skimmed millions of dollars and cheated investors. He took care of people and his employees adored him. But Eddie tended to be volatile and aggressively defensive.
There is a lesson here for any of us studying leadership. The best leaders can lead people to success or to failure. Sometimes success breeds a kind of false view that they are above the rules or that no one will question their decisions. In truth, leaders have their decision-making history scrutinized more often than not and they are never above the rules.
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