Thursday, June 6, 2024


By Tim Rohr

The following is an excerpt from an essay titled Firing Back - How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters by Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld and Andrew J. Ward. The essay is included in a collection of essays titled RESILIENCE, which is one installment in the EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE series published by Harvard Business Review. My comments will follow.

    (Martha) Stewart is a model for how to regain your heroic status. She did it by carefully orchestrating a multitiered campaign to restore her reputation.  
    The day after she was indicted for obstruction of justice in the federal government's insider-trading investigation of ImClone stock, Stewart took out a full-page advertisement in USA TODAY and the NEW YORK TIMES  and launched a new website, In an open letter to her public, Stewart clearly proclaimed her innocence and her intention to clear her name. She understood intuitively that when a hero stumbles, constitutents have to reconcile two conflicting images of the person - the larger-than-life presence the hero once commanded and the hero's new fallen state. In her letter, Stewart managed to eliminate the confusion by making sure that people knew her side of the story. She openly denied any charges of insider trading and hammered home the unreliability of the three witnesses upon which the government based its case. Stewart very proactively helped others continue to believe in her heroic status. 
    Stewart's open letter was supported by a statement on her website by her attorneys...who challenged the media to investigage why the government waited nearly a year and a half to file the charges. "Is it because she is a woman who has successfully competed in a man's business world by virtue of her talent, hard work, and demanding standards?" they asked.
    With the aid of her attorneys, Stewart ingeniously - and successfully - portrayed herself as a David struggling in a just and valiant quest against the Goliath of government. Her fans, far from abandoning a fallen star, rallied around her. The astounding strength of this sentiment is meaured in the stock price of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Even at the midpoint of Stewart's prison sentence, the stock had not merely rebounded - it was 50% higher than before anybody had heard of ImClone and the ill-fated stock transaction. Upon her release from prison, the share price neared an all-time high, ad revenue at her magazines picked up, and she launched two national network TV shows. The more Stewart got her story out, the more loyal her public became.

My comments

I bought this book about a year ago in an airport. I had recently endured a particularly trying time in my personal life so the title "Resilience" jumped out at me. I read the whole book on one leg of my flight, and a year later, on another trip, I am rereading it.

One of the things I kept hearing from friends and family during the aforesaid "trying time" - wherein I was publicly and falsely accused of some particularly heinous acts - was "don't worry, the truth will come out." 

And I suppose had the lies impacted only myself that I might have just accepted that advice. However, the lies were hurting my youngest children and I didn't have time to wait around for the "truth to come out." So I fought back.

It took awhile to learn how to do that as my fighting had to occur in court, and it was a fight that was severely hampered by negligent counsel, the Covid shutdown of the courts, fast depleting finances, and even what I believed to be malpractice by a particular judge. 

I could have fought back publicly, however, my then-counsel threatened me to keep quiet or "find another lawyer." In hindsight, I would have been better off to "find another lawyer," but that's another story. 

In the end I succeeded - insofar as I was able to achieve objectives related to the welfare of my children. And I did this by getting "my story" (my side of things) out where it mattered: in court. 

Not that the judge (the fifth in my case) made a decision based on my story (or maybe even never read my filings), but that my account of things, i.e. "the truth," had to be engaged by my opponent, and once confronted with that truth in the context of a court filing, my opponent decided not to press on with the lies and settled for terms probably much more favorable to me than if the court had made the decision.

I don't want to go any further with "my story." That's enough for now. The thing I wanted to share is how important it is for you not to give up because of "the system." Of course "the system" is unfair. Life is unfair. When you get knocked down, get back up. The world is watching and someone needs to hear your story. 

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