Ref: IMD-7-1981

Case study

Reference: IMD-7-1981

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Better Place: An entrepreneur's drive goes off track

Shlomo Ben-Hur

By Professor Shlomo Ben-HurShlomo Ben-Hur and Brian Blum

This case illustrates how a leader’s lack of self-awareness can derail his or her career and sabotage the performance of a company. It features Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, a charismatic, visionary leader who promises a solution to the world’s reliance on oil. His charisma and convincing rhetoric are initially very effective at attracting investor and policy maker support for his idea of a network of electric cars with rechargeable, swappable batteries.

The case describes Agassi’s journey from visionary founder to capital raising as one of the most successful startups in history. Agassi’s charismatic personality is observed as he pitches his vision in a TED Talk video. The case explores Agassi’s drivers and strengths by describing his background, including his family life, cultural context, and career history as an entrepreneur and senior executive at Cisco Systems.

The case then outlines the unravelling of Agassi’s business and how he becomes increasingly disconnected from his stakeholders’ interests and the changing context. Agassi’s meteoric rise in popularity among media, investors and potential consumers is subsequently derailed by signs of narcissistic behaviour, poor financial management and strategy execution and unbalanced stakeholder engagement. Agassi’s bravado and defensive behaviours contribute to the loss of interest and commitment by partners, colleagues and investors and the eventual bankruptcy of the company. Agassi’s blind spots in his relationships, neglect of specific sets of stakeholders, tendency towards over-conviction in the business model, and inability to adopt an agile mind set contribute to his career downfall.

Learning Objective

This case illustrates how business leaders’ careers can be derailed by personal characteristics that may have initially attracted support. As the needs of the business change, the leader’s low self-awareness and inability to learn and adjust to a changing context contribute to their downfall. It provides an opportunity for students to analyse what behaviours and characteristics could contribute to the derailing of their own careers. Through self-reflection, students can develop a clearer sense of self awareness and lay the groundwork to proactively prevent their own career blind spots.
SettingsGlobal, Israel
Better Place
TypeField Research
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Reference: IMD-7-1981

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Case study

Reference: IMD-7-1981

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