How do you deal with having a leader who runs a public corporation? 

Scenario: So you have a superstar CEO who is hyper-intelligent, dynamic, disruptive, and indeed uber-famous, and that person can bend the wind to his will, or so he thinks. Unfortunately, he also thinks rules and regulations like the SEC, disclosure, and financial statements are only for mere mortals, of which he is not one. He routinely makes questionable statements that drive his share price up and down. He also threatens employees with termination on the spot for those who don’t meet his rigorous work standards, even though the company has a written due process policy that H.R. has implemented.

As a compliance professional, how can you create a structure and work with a CEO who has an over-the-top personality and protect the company and work with that going forward? How do you utilize your Board of Directors? And other than perhaps giving your resignation or not taking the job to start with, where might you start? 

Key takeaways in the episode:

✔️ Why some great founders of disruptive companies struggle to transition into becoming mature corporate leaders. We run through several scenarios of a cult of personality with CEOs that started long before the technology boom and how leaders sometimes have destructive impulses that hurt their corporation?

✔️ Visionaries need practical people who know the rules, controls, and laws to run a company successfully. Kortney Nordrum, Regulatory Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, states that a company will crumble without both. As compliance professionals, it is our job to rein it when all creative people don’t necessarily understand the rules they have to live by.

✔️ The Board of Directors’ job is to protect the company. If the CEO is a liability or presents insurmountable risks, that will ultimately fall on the board’s shoulders. Leverage your independent directors because, at the end of the day, the Board is the boss of the CEO.

 ✔️ Assess who is under the spell of the CEO? Is it internal, or is it external? If people are so bought into the person that they agree to whatever he says, it’s an internal culture issue. Ensure that some people are keeping perspective and monitoring controls are being enforced.

✔️ Why startups should institute internal controls early. As soon as you start employing people and go through hiring and payroll processes, that’s when you have to start caring about compliance and ensuring you have internal control structures to support what you’re building.

✔️ Culture trumps everything. Whether you’re working for a very charismatic disruptor CEO or a conservative CEO, the company’s culture should be one of compliance. If it’s not, then as a compliance professional, it’s your job to try to establish that.

✔️Even if you work for a disruptive leader, a high-flying, uber technologically savvy person, if they still respect you and your work, that’s key in leadership. In business, there are many negotiables, but it is imperative not to lose sight of being a decent human being and respecting others — that’s the one non-negotiable.


Welcome to SURVIVE AND THRIVE, the newest addition to the Compliance Podcast Network. This is a podcast where we unpack compliance, crisis disasters and walk you through all the red flags which appear, and give you some lessons learned going forward. This show is hosted by Compliance Evangelist Thomas Fox and Kortney Nordrum, Regulatory Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Deluxe Corporation.

Do you have a podcast (or do you want to)? Join the only network dedicated to compliance, risk management, and business ethics, the Compliance Podcast Network. For more information, contact Tom Fox at