Richard Moran wants you to know that you're a sinner.
Moran, a business consultant, venture capitalist, author and Sonoma County winemaker, says he finds that relatively few people quickly accept the "sinner" label. And most seem just as unsure at first of another of his key propositions: "You're a CEO."
"Now we may not be the CEO of General Motors," Moran said one recent morning while seated in the kitchen of his 1870s white Victorian farmhouse in Knights Valley.
"But we might be the CEO of our church group or our family or at the most basic, basic, basic level, you're the CEO of our own career. ... So I'm trying to get people to take control of their own destiny a little bit."
"Sins and CEOs" is Moran's latest book, a slim survey on the bad behaviors of some of the top executives he has observed in 25 years of consulting. Previously, he has written a series of what he calls "business bullet" books, including "Never Confuse a Memo with Reality."
With this latest offering, Moran aims to show both workers and bosses the downside of behaving badly.
"It's not just for CEOs, but they're so much in the news that people are interested in what they do," he explained. "And unfortunately, they've got a pretty bad reputation right now for being greedy, for misbehaving and committing sins. So that's why I talked about what I've observed from all these years of being in consulting."
In this era of Occupy Wall Street and the Buffett Rule, CEOs "are definitely the 1 percent," he said. "And I think they've become the target, and you know, some of them deserve it, for being greedy, not looking out after their employees and things. My experience with CEOs, though, is that they're just normal people who are really successful because they're either smarter, ambitious or lucky."
The 61-year-old Moran is himself a CEO in San Francisco for the consulting and search firm Accretive Solutions. He previously was an executive at software companies and has consulted for Apple, News Corp., AT&T, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and American Airlines.
Moran and his wife, Carol, split their time between the Bay Area and their three-story mansion in the hills between Healdsburg and Calistoga, where they grow cabernet sauvignon and other red varietal grapes for their Moran Manor winery.
Despite the term "sinner," Moran said what he's getting at isn't religious. "It's more common sense than karma," he said.
But the failings of CEOs demonstrate what happens when we ignore the possible consequences of bad behavior.
"The one thing we all learned in high school is whatever you do, you get caught," he said. "So how is it that a leader can exercise poor judgment and think he or she is not going to get caught?"
That includes the CEO who solicited an undercover police officer for prostitution and the nonprofit exec who thought he was leaving a voice mail for his mistress/co-worker on the intercompany messaging system but instead recorded a greeting on his own phone line. Within the hour, all the employees were calling his extension to hear his recording say: "I promise I will leave my wife soon. We have the conference coming up, and we can spend a few days together in Hawaii in advance of that. Would you bring that pink thing I like so much?"