I have to say I’m not sure I quite get The Economist’s cover this week. Titled “Staying at the top: Mao and the art of management,” the Economist’s piece positions Chairman Mao as the role model for bad managers, outlining his tactics (ruthless media manipulation, sacrifice of friends and colleagues) for cementing his power. “Where is the role model for the manager who really needs a role model most—the one who by any objective measure of performance cannot, and should not, manage at all? An obvious candidate is Mao.”
Written with a certain British subtlety, it seems they’re attempting a parody of the four-steps-to-success management-success dreck that pile up on my desk every day (I received 5 just yesterday). I’m befuddled how an essay about the bad management of a decades-old communist government leader makes it on the cover.
While they may have meant as a management guru satire (first Sun Tzu, now Mao!), unfortunately, we’ve all seen cases where some of these tactics actually work. I know a good number of leaders who avoid certain reporters and cater to others. And how many VPs do you know who’ve managed to get plenty far by looking busy, or as the Economist puts it, “substituting activity for achievement?”
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