Five cautionary tales of business leadership in 2023

Five cautionary tales of business leadership in 2023

Missteps by business leaders highlight the importance of adaptability and communication in a rapidly changing corporate landscape

The year 2023 has witnessed a series of corporate missteps that have left many business leaders scrambling to navigate an uncharted post-pandemic workplace. As the economy fluctuates and employee priorities shift, CEOs and executives have been faced with unprecedented challenges that require them to make high-stakes decisions without a playbook. While there have been success stories, there have also been cautionary tales that serve as reminders of the importance of adaptability and effective communication in modern management.

Inflexible policies at Grindr

Grindr, a popular dating app, faced backlash when its CEO, George Arison, introduced inflexible return-to-office policies. The sudden ultimatum required employees to either come into the office twice a week or take severance. This decision overlooked the significant impact it would have on remote workers who would need to relocate or lose their jobs. The lack of consultation and rushed implementation led to a media backlash and a loss of talent for the company.

Customer alienation at Reddit

Reddit, a social media platform, faced criticism when it announced it would start charging for access to its application programming interface (API). This decision, aimed at generating funds, alienated dedicated users and led to protests and blackouts within the Reddit community. The lack of communication about the long-term benefits of the decision further exacerbated the backlash.

Underestimating worker solidarity at GM

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, initially underestimated the demands and power of the United Auto Workers (UAW) during a six-week strike. Her failure to appreciate the loyalty and sense of community among auto workers resulted in significant revenue loss for the company. Barra’s misjudgment highlights the importance of understanding and listening to employees in a unionized environment.

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Dramatic cost-cutting at Warner Bros Discovery

David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros Discovery, implemented drastic cost-cutting measures after overseeing the merger of Warner Bros and Discovery. These measures included canceling films that had already been made and eliminating popular channels like Turner Classic Movies. Zaslav’s approach, while aimed at turning a profit, failed to consider the unique dynamics of the entertainment industry and resulted in low public sentiment and industry-wide strikes.

A hostile takeover at X

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, now known as X, has been marked by questionable business decisions. Musk rebranded the platform, laid off a significant portion of the staff, and faced a loss in advertising revenue after endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory. His unconventional leadership style clashed with the established culture of Twitter and led to declining user numbers and advertising revenues.


The corporate missteps of 2023 serve as valuable lessons for business leaders as they navigate an evolving corporate landscape. The importance of adaptability, effective communication, and understanding the needs and demands of employees and customers cannot be overstated. As the role of a leader becomes more complex, executives must be prepared to listen, collaborate, and make decisions that align with the values and expectations of their stakeholders. By learning from these cautionary tales, leaders can navigate the challenges of the future with greater success.