There are some things you can just bank on

Even people like me who think that derivatives are something you learned for a semester in high school calculus and then forgot as fast as you could, and that hedges are what separate property in England, should not be surprised to know that the root cause of the ginormous snafu at JP Morgan Chase, where they lost two billion dollars “betting” on certain risky investments, came down to an absence of leadership, egos and office politics.

It appears, at least according to the NY Times article hyperlinked above, that the Chief Investment Office, Ina Drew, contracted Lyme Disease, was out of the office for extended periods, and during that time in-fighting and a lack of leadership caused chaos, an absence of oversight, and decisions that the CEO characterized as “stupid” and “sloppy.”   [side note – I can’t decide if the CEO of Chase should be applauded for being so down to earth, or ridiculed for having such an “impressive” vocabulary…]

I’d like to make two quick points:

1) the rules of poker are the same everywhere.  The only thing that changes are the stakes.  Ask yourself if your office is just a low-stakes version of JP Morgan?

2) as a leader, if you were out of the office for days or even weeks, what would change?  Would your “stand-up” meetings continue?  Or are those just for your benefit?  Would your team start to make decisions that were “sloppy” and “stupid?”   If so, maybe it’s time you revisit your empowerment and delegation strategy.

After all, no one is immune to Lyme Disease…

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