Speak like a leader

Warren Buffett is one among the the most successful and widely respected investors of all time. His business acumen is well-known and is highly inspiring. Mr Buffett is also famous for sharing humorous insights and wise advices without complex jargons. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is a master at using folksy tales and memorable quotes about investing and entrepreneurship are both interesting and refreshing. But a recent comment has got him into some hot water.

In interview on CNBC, Warren Mr Buffett made a strange analogy on Kraft Heinz’ takeover bid for Unilever. He used a weird metaphor to explain the failed deal and how things unfolded. Unilever formally rejected Kraft Heinz’s $143 billion takeover bid earlier this month. If inked, it would have been one of the largest deals in the corporate world. Kraft Heinz didn’t return with a high offer, but decided to withdraw the proposal.

According to the transcript from CNBC, here is what the Oracle of Omaha said:

“Well, if a diplomat says yes, he means maybe. If he says maybe, he means no. And if he says no, he’s no diplomat. And if a lady says no, she means maybe. And if she says maybe, she means yes. And if she says yes, she’s no lady. So he probably got a maybe and didn’t know whether it was coming from a diplomat or a lady, essentially. I mean, that’s what frequently people get.”


The bon-mot is clearly chauvinistic and inappropriate. The objectionable statement and comparison has sparked outrage across the world. “Warren Buffett’s analogy for Kraft’s failed Unilever takeover is cringe-worthy”, tweeted Fortune.com.


As per a recent article on www.independent.co.uk, Warren Buffett has made many wildly sexual troupes in the past as well. In a 2007 letter to investors he compared unsuccessful business deals to women’s physical appearance – “A line from Bobby Bare’s country song explains what too often happens with acquisitions: ‘I’ve never gone to bed with an ugly woman, but I’ve sure woke up with a few.’”

The likeness that Mr Buffett used in a 2002 letter is no different. Here is how the “Wizard of Omaha” explained a “director’s responsibility to oust likable but under-performing managers” – “Directors must react as did the chorus-girl bride of an 85-year-old multimillionaire when he asked whether she would love him if he lost his money. “Of course,” the young beauty replied, “I would miss you, but I would still love you.”

What he wrote on a “CEOs who manipulate earnings by taking restructuring charges” too had a crude, crasser comment – “Their behavior brings to mind Voltaire’s comment on sexual experimentation: “Once a philosopher, twice a pervert.

Looks like he has a long history of using sexual metaphors to explain business concepts and investments strategies. But the objectionable statement comes at a time when the number sexual harassment cases are on the rise.

Revered people of his stature should watch their words while making public statements. The should avoid actions and utterances that are demeaning, disturbing, and controversial. But regrettably, many people in top leadership positions are yet to take ‘control’ of their tongues. Such wordplays and double-entendres are definitely annoying and derogatory. Some slips happen unknowingly, and can be forgotten and forgiven after a genuine apology. But repetitive usage of sexual innuendos is not mere faux pas.

Investment advices from the Berkshire Hathaway CEO are timeless. What’s wrong is the way he sprinkles some X-rated humor into them. It’s no secret that many get attracted to sordid metaphors that persuade them to listen even to the driest topics. But off-color humor on women cannot be taken lightheartedly. Well-regarded leaders like Mr Buffett should stop using such coarse witticisms that degrade women.

It’s always fascinating to listen to extraordinarily successful business leaders. to. But they should not cross the razor-thin line between humor and vulgarity and talk about women in deplorable manner in the guise of light banters or jokes. It’s unacceptable.


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