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Wednesday, 12 February 2014


I am working on a book about management style and behaviour based on my own bosses over four decades. "Career-View Mirror: 40 Bosses In Forty Years" is a work in progress and each day over the next couple of weeks, I am publishing here rough-cut chapters to test the idea.

The plan is to publish the material in a book, either via mainstream or self-publishing routes and then to take the material and share it in talks, presentations and workshops with business students and current managers.

I've done Boss 1 - Ambitious, Boss 2 - Bruiser, Boss 3 -Bullish, Boss 4 - Consistent....and today Boss 5 - Driver.


Many managers, in my experience, have a stockpile of platitudes, one-line quotations, smart comebacks to criticisms, word-perfect anecdotes and enough ready-made jibes in their armoury to maintain a confident air of control.  Boss 5 was like that but not in an offensive way.  He was an intelligent man, well-read and as quick a thinker as anyone I know.  He had an answer to everything, or rather enough verbiage to make it sound as if he had the answer to everything.  His grasp of general knowledge and current affairs was evident anytime we were all in a social situation.  He dominated the conversation because, frankly, he had the most interesting and entertaining things to say.  Unlike other bosses who could talk for England, surprisingly he was not a bore.  He understood how to interact and deal with people at all levels, never condescending to the lower ranks nor toadying too much as a lickspittle to the upper echelons.  Here’s how I remember him:
Let go of your ego
There’s no substitute for hard work
Coming second isn’t so bad sometimes, as long as we’ve tried hard
Talent must be nurtured, never wasted
Do not fear the next generation
Good bosses surround themselves with people smarter than themselves
Think of your skills as tools in a toolbox – select according to the challenge
Learn the tricks of the trade and use experience wisely
Be prepared to go the full distance, whatever obstacles are in the way
Don’t take success for granted.
Don’t be seduced by delusions of grandeur – it’ll bite you

He had confidence in abundance and working for and with him was a joy.  His professional demeanour and skill at articulation made him a driver.  One day, we all attended a presentation he was delivering to two board directors.  He was explaining the critical path and schedule for a project to upgrade some IT equipment.  One of the directors, from body language and temperament, was against the idea for budgetary reasons.  The other director was much more supportive.  Boss 5 mustered all his skills, remained professional, polite and calm during some frustrating discussions and painstakingly emphasised and re-emphasised the importance of upgrading hardware and software systems for the balance sheet, operational efficiency and customer service. In the audience, we were uncomfortable for him but he even used us to convince the negative director.  In the spirit of nurturing talent and using skills like tools in a toolbox, some of us had been primed before the meeting to offer opinions, suggestions and evidence to back the project.  The overwhelmingly positive spin we all contributed to the discussion helped turn the important final decisions in our favour.  The negative director did not agree to everything, perhaps to save face, but he gave the thumbs up to the key elements of the project.  Boss 5 won many debates by being well-prepared and determined to negotiate obstacles, driven to go the distance when he knew he was right. He drove himself, he drove us and he drove the wider business to great success.

My summary:


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