If Remedial Reading is required, some of the most clear-eyed writing on business has been from Britain: an FT columnist, and a Marxist blogger. I thought I would compile some of the pieces I most liked.John Kay on what a CEO does:
You need a chief executive, or a monarch, because choices between good alternatives need to be made and given legitimacy. This legitimacy can be acquired just as well from traditional authority as from meritocratic selection. Difficulties arise if chief executives - and monarchs - convince themselves that with their status comes unique insight and superior wisdomJohn Kay on the Great Man approach to business:
“It was not Napoleon,” Tolstoy claims, “who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders were executed and during the battle he did not know what was going on .....(He) fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle, as he inclined to the most reasonable opinions, made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the field of battle, but with great tact and military experience carried out his role of appearing to command calmly and with dignity.”John Kay on transformational leadership:
Rows of suits are less photogenic than Carly Fiorina but they are what really makes modern business workChris Dillow on why the basics matter:
Which, I guess, shows just how low management has fallen. Rather than apply basic organizational principles, BA managers prefer to live in a purely imaginary world of visions.Chris Dillow on exactly when leadership adds value.
Afterthought: Deciding on the boundaries of an organization is the very model of "big-think" management decision, but the first post from Chris Dillow suggests that managers seems unable to handle even that, and prefer to wriggle deeper into a world of dreams and visions.Further: None of the above is to say that Management is useless. That would be ridiculous. What these say is merely the obvious: that no organization of any size succeeds merely because of its leader. That no individual or group of individuals can know all that is happening which could be relevant to the future of that organization. That good leadership is about recognizing the relevant constraints and putting in place mechanisms which respect them. That results like the Coase theorem are both constraints and guides to action. That none of these can guarantee success or even survival.