In the October 30, 2006 issue of FORTUNE, Geoffrey Colvin cited Boeing CEO James McNerney as one of the 13 peak performers in the cover story on “Secrets of Greatness“. Somewhere in the interview, McNerney responded to the question of whether great performers in any field tended to receive a lot of early encouragement from their parents by saying that he’s unafraid to expect a fair amount from people.
He also added that, “It probably made me, as my wife tells me, a little overfocused, a little insensitive, a little too goal-oriented, but that’s part of the package.” [emphasis mine]
Sorry, James, but that’s not part of the package. The myopic definition of greatness that McNerney, or for that matter FORTUNE, seemed to implicitly advocate is what reduced life to an endless chase of goals and objectives that had diametrically opposite effects on people for whom such greatness should really matter.
Executives like McNerney may be great performers in business, but they are not so great as human beings.