Monday, June 17, 2013

Paul Getty - Failure of Wealth

Beauty shot Photo of the book The Great Getty over a anodized metallic table
The Great Getty
A social misfit with deep emotional insecurities and a massive Narcissus Complex, J. Paul Getty was otherwise an average rich guy. Well, maybe an average richest guy. This is the impression I kept from the famous tycoon after reading The Great Getty by Robert Lenzner. One would think that Mr. Lenzner titled the book with every intention to being sarcastic.
Recognized by Fortune magazine and the Guinness Book of Records as the richest man in America, Getty had an equally expansive sexual appetite. Going from lady to lady proved his inability to relate to those close to him. Evidently, this problem drove many of his so called loved ones to suicide, drug additions and many other emotional ailments.
He was famous for being a miser. Once, Getty installed a pay phone in his Tudor mansion near London to stop dignitaries who visited him from using the phone for international calls.
When the builder charged with constructing his beloved Getty Art Museum in LA decided to expense an electric pencil sharpener, Getty reprimanded him. Getty liked to review every single expense.
More relevant to the subject of this blog, Getty proved to be so full of himself and insecure that he failed miserably at creating great leaders behind him. Constant put downs, which are normal from this type of control seeking personality, created deep insecurities among those closest to him; including his sons. As a micro-manager, he did not professionally develop a single employee despite a massive network of corporations with lots of potential talent to chose from. Even the Saudis had to put up with high level managers unable to make decisions affecting oil extraction activities in the Middle East. It was common to have to wait for Getty to make decisions from the other side of the world. Even the US Department of State heard complaints from its Embassy about the problem; a problem I had covered before on a separate post. I had described my lack of appreciation for those lacking the emotional fortitude needed to seek great people to delegate big problems to.
Photo head shot of magnate J. Paul Getty
J Paul Getty
Mr. Getty liked conflicts between those around him. This is an intolerable yet common practice of those with his type of personality profile. They believe on the concept of divide and conquer. After a fight between factions ends, both sides will be too exhausted to give any resistance to complete domination by Getty, the poppet master. In my opinion, this behavior is abusive and disgusting. Fights create no value for the company. On the other hand, the resources being deployed serve only the purpose of keeping others out of the boss' chair. This is a quick way to eliminate capable people from the ranks. No matter how patient they are, smart leaders will see through the garbage and move on to a more meritocratic institution.
A better alternative would be to push to find people much better than the boss. Only then would bench strength be greatest. When Mr. Getty died, he must have known that he failed at building a person to perpetuate his corporate legacy. Instead, he bought his way into history by gifting most of his money to the arts through the Getty Foundation responsible for the Getty Museum.
Don't take me wrong; I love art and definitely see the benefit to society from donating to any art institution. But I think that this can still be accomplished while creating a strong corporate culture that develops great people. No free pass for Mr. Getty here.
Screenshot image of Star Wars' OB1 using his Jedi powers to overpower the soldier's weak minds
Star Wars Episode IV
Blaming his parents for a detached upbringing is no reason for his actions either. I believe in the concept of brain plasticity. Our brains, and as a result our personalities, can be remodeled until reaching a better and more desirable state. I personally experienced this process before reading about the concept for the first time.
Sadly, Mr. Getty's clearly high intelligence did not serve him here. This is something I find common among people with dilutions of control. They simply refuse to admit that they are not the directors of the movie taking place around them. When confronted with a fact about their fallible nature, they react by trying to do a Jedi mind trick on the person divulging reality. They say something like "these aren't the droids that you are looking for", while swiping their hand across. I know that the Start Wars analogy may fall outside of your pop-culture area of knowledge. Yet, it is still very appropriate.
If the book's author hoped to inspire me to follow in the footsteps of his Great Getty, I am afraid that I will disappoint him. While I admire the wealth Getty amazed, I am terribly disappointed of all the human suffering that he created. Money or no money, it seems that Mr. Getty was a terrible person and a horrific manager.

Book Title: The Great Getty
Book Subtitle: The Life and Loves of J. Paul Getty - Richest Man in the World
Author:  Robert Lenzner
Publisher: Crown Publishers, Inc
ISBN: 978-0517562222

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