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Friday, 7 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 and today - Boss 3.......Bullish


If Boss 3 had an overriding mantra it could be encapsulated in the phrase “everything is urgent”.  He maintained that every direct report in his team had to commit to the notion that everything we did, every decision made, every action taken was part of a relentless quest for perfection on a never-ending journey.  He wanted things done without prevarication and time wasting.  He told us time and time again that if we took our collective foot off the accelerator, we would be failing and failure was not on his agenda.  One episode that illustrated his impatience with too much discussion happened as he was outlining a particular plan of action to get the business ready for stocktaking.  When he got to the part telling – not asking – us that we would be working long hours and that we would have to put our personal lives on hold, one of my colleagues produced an employee handbook and quoted a paragraph about hours worked, rest break entitlement, days off and so on.  Boss 3 walked over, snatched the handbook from my startled colleague and threw it across the room.  “I am the only handbook you need to know,” he barked, followed by a few seconds of a laser stare that put us all in our places, subordinate to his authority.  Later, the startled colleague joked in the pub that soon our boss would be aping third world dictators, designing his own uniform and erecting a statue of himself in the car park.  

The following list summarises how he saw himself and how I saw him operate:
Everything is urgent
Don't ever underestimate the job that needs to be done
The best boss has to be better and smarter than any individual in the team
Work the team hard to expose both the strong and the weak links
Expect perfection every time – don’t compromise
Always be as prepared as you can possibly be
Success can happen overnight if attitudes and commitment are right
Sometimes etiquette has no place in business
Winning is everything
Never panic because panickers waste valuable time.
Every penny counts.

I classify Boss 3 as bullish in both a positive and a negative way.  He was definitely bull-headed in how he excercised his managerial authority.  He had a fixed method of operating, broadly along the lines of “I’ll tell you what to do and you do it without hesitation and without question.”  He was a risk taker in that he worked to his own rules and, as the handbook story suggests, dismissed any other rules, even official company policy, to achieve his goals.  The positive side of his bullishness was that he achieved good results and his record of success probably went a long way to protecting him from too much head office scrutiny.  The negative side was his team’s general loathing of his reluctance to listen to ideas, to allow individual creative contributions to business improvement and to give us opportunities to develop skills, learning from our own mistakes and sharing the delights of success. He was neither pleasant as a boss or human being.

My summary:


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