I understand that some people might be upset that Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, has decided to personally endorse Barack Obama for President.
I have heard echoes that this taints the Google brand, that McCain-supporting Google employees (yes, both of them) are upset and that Mr. Schmidt just might be using this endorsement to foster his company's, or even his own, ambitions in the event of an Obama victory (Gosh, no. Really?).
Here is the news. Every CEO is political. Being CEO is, in its very essence, something of a political position. With a small 'p' and sometimes with a larger 'p'. Most of the time, employees will have a pretty clear idea of which political winds their CEO might be helping to blow.
But criticism of Mr. Schmidt opens up wider issues.
Do we really think of brands as Republican or Democrat? No more than we think of JetBlue or Marriott Hotels as Mormon brands. Think about it- Tide: Republican or Democrat? (Stain removal suggests Democrat, no?). What about Honda? (Those eight-seater people carriers surely suggest Democrat, don't they?)
And should we really believe that a CEO's political proclivity determines how he or she goes about their daily work?
I wonder if some of the whining at Mr. Schmidt carries with it a suggestion that a CEO's politics determine what kind of company leader he or she might be. Republican-leaning CEOs are frightfully mean authoritarians, while deeply Democrat CEOs are cuddly, feely, people-friendly, all-listening altruists. Didn't you know?
It strikes me that the one thing, perhaps the only thing, all CEOs have in common is a remarkable fondness for amassing money. Their political bent doesn't generally dictate how they view their employees or their brands.
I've seen avowedly Republican CEOs who were immensely sensitive and talented managers and Democratic CEOs who were venal, insensitive numbskulls. And vice-versa. I once encountered a CEO who voted as often as possible for Ralph Nader. She was a very fine CEO.
The truth is surely quite simple: Some CEOs are good, some are not so good. And the performance of their brands reflects their personal performance, not their personal politics.
The fact that Meg Whitman is a Republican doesn't affect in the slightest what people think about eBay.
Neither will Eric Schmidt's admission of Democratic tendency (goodness, he contributed $229,216 to Democrat candidates and a vast $6500 to Republicans, so surprise!) drive millions of Republicans to Yahoo or Ask (wait, they might be run by Democrats too..).
Personally, I am far more concerned about what Mr. Schmidt's company is doing with all the intimate information we are allowing it to collect than about whether he rides a donkey or an elephant.
Disclosure: I once voted for the Monster Raving Loony Party. Does that make me a...oh, well, perhaps.