I'm beginning to worry about Meg Whitman.
Typically I don’t cry for billionaires. But even billionaires need a little self-love. Whitman, more than any public figure in California, seems bent on punishing herself.
First, she spent more than $150 million of her own money running in a 2010 campaign she had no chance of winning – for a job that may be one of the worst in the American public sector.
California governors are so hamstrung by the state’s governing system that there’s not much they can do but serve as a scapegoat for the state’s troubles.
The entire world knows the state can’t be governed. One has to wonder what’s wrong with a person who seeks the job, and at such great expense. A candidate for such a job must have a fair amount of self-loathing.
And if there’s a private sector equivalent to the California governorship, it’s the CEO’s job at HP.
So what does Whitman do? She seeks, and gets this job.
HP is a company that probably is ungovernable. Its board of directors – Whitman’s new bosses – is routinely described as one of the worst in American business. The company faces big problems in its core businesses.
The last two CEOs have been fired in a nasty way. And its public reputation could hardly be worse; this is a company that spied on reporters. If you were to put a villainous tech company in a movie, HP would be a pretty good choice.
So why would Whitman take such a job?
Clearly, this is a person who enjoys challenges. And there’s probably some strategic thinking about taking on a job where expectations are low.
If Whitman were somehow to turn HP around, she would be a hero.
Yes, the desire to take on challenging jobs is admirable in a way.
But there are challenges, and then there are challenges, and then there’s Custer marching into Little Big Horn – and then there’s wanting to be governor of California or CEO of HP.
You really do have to wonder about the mind of someone who would seek jobs like that. Does she enjoy punishment and pain?
Maybe a little too much?