LOMBARDI: Lessons for Justin Trudeau in WeWork’s collapse

A charismatic leader with a cult-like following. Lofty rhetoric — often laced with sanctimony aimed at those who don’t believe in the mission — but execution that rarely matches. And a major stumble at a critical, very public moment.

This scenario accurately describes the fall of start-up giant WeWork’s former CEO Adam Neumann, but could just as easily apply to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

When it comes to lofty rhetoric, Trudeau is responsible for a bevy of pronouncements that have made his supporters swoon and his detractors cringe, such as his declaration during the previous federal election campaign that once in office, he would grow the economy “from the heart outwards.” Similarly, WeWork’s Neumann boldly promised that his company, a real estate juggernaut that provides shared office space, was in fact on a mission to “elevate the world’s consciousness.”

Both men’s behaviour may have lasting impact on their respective industries. Business analysts have been quick to pronounce that WeWork’s spectacular faceplant could spell the beginning of the end for dizzying valuations of money-losing startups, and the onset of a more cautious era of venture capital.

Similarly, Trudeau’s own blackface scandal has significantly tarnished a personal brand built on modelling ‘correct’ behaviour in the realm of identity politics. His fall from grace has given many supporters cause to ponder the old maxim that no person who lives in a glass house should be so keen to throw stones.