The Demise of Another Business ‘Genius’ Leaves Many Clues

Dov Charney’s American Apparel built an international brand with unabashedly provocative ads.
Business Report
By John McDermott

Leadership expert Dov Baron weighs in on the perennial business leadership question: Is genius not enough? It’s the topic of his latest column in Entrepreneur Magazine.

Nashville, TN – March 14, 2017 – Best-selling author Dov Baron has applied his trademark analysis skills to probe for insights into another high-profile news story – this time regarding fashion icon American Apparel. And its mercurial founder Dov Charney. His insights into the demise of this once-great brand and its high-flying founder recently appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine.

Read Dov Baron’s article here:

Today, business leaders face an unprecedented level of scrutiny. Baron recounts and analyzes the rise and fall of one that didn’t handle that scrutiny well – Dov Charney. A Canadian who had been labeled as “genius” by a director at American Apparel, and who had also been pegged as a “brilliant leader” in a 2011 Business Insider article. 

But there were apparent contradictions, as Baron explored in some detail.

Read more articles by Dov Baron here:

For example, Charney was eventually forced out of American Apparel in 2014, amid controversies involving a lawsuit against Woody Allen and allegations of sexual harassment, both of which apparently affected the company’s profits and viability. But as Baron also pointed out, leaders aren’t always flawless, and indeed many, if not most, have had serious flaws. As a case in point – Apple founder Steve Jobs, who was also forced out of his own company for personality-related reasons.

Baron takes the high road and digs deep for solutions as well as investigating the problems, stating that “…genius does not grant you permission to treat others as lesser beings…” and goes on to point out that leaders must not only have passion but “purpose, communication and compassion — so called ‘soft skills’ – to complement their hard skills and so-called genius.”

Is genius enough? For Dov Baron, the answer would have to be a very definitive “No.”

As Baron points out, the iconic brand American Apparel is no longer American. Canadian firm Gildan Activewear recently purchased the name and some manufacturing equipment for $88 million, but declined to buy the brand’s stores and manufacturing in the United States. It marks an ignoble ending to what was once a leading fashion staple.

And another level in the fall from grace for its founder Dov Charney.

He concludes by saying, “It’s no longer possible to use ‘genius’ as a pass for being a miserable human being. If you want to be a leader in today’s world, it is vital that you differentiate between harmless eccentricities (like Charney’s preference for Post-It notes on the wall instead of digital content) and character deficits that can, and probably will, eventually be your demise.”

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