Thinking Managers

Robert Heller of suggests that we can learn great things from other people, especially the eight ‘Masters’ he identifies.

Setting an Example

Managers generally accept that a subject is teachable and that the lessons, once learnt, can bring value to the manager and their organisation. This is the case regardless of the subject, whether finance, marketing, production, strategy, human relations or anything else.

General Electric’s Jack Welch based a good part of his stellar managerial reputation on his active role at the in-house college at Crotonville where GE’s executives were schooled in their craft.

Welch is among the super-managers who have written books detailing their experiences and philosophies. I’ve always believed this to be a valuable approach and that’s why I wrote the book Business Masterminds: Roads to Success (Dorling Kindersley), selecting as my masters a very interesting group of managers and management teachers.

The selected eight have undeniable credentials. Take Warren Buffett, for example, who built the world’s greatest investment fortune from a base in Omaha, Nebraska. He recently handed the bulk of that fortune to the charities run by Bill Gates, the digital revolutionary, despite steering clear of investing in Gates’ Microsoft.

That strategy was determined by one of Buffett’s simple maxims: if you don’t fully understand it, don’t invest in it. That rule isn’t easy to follow if you’re dealing with General Electric and the aforementioned Welch. GE, after all, is so diversified that some analysts think of it more as a bank than the great electrical manufacturer of yesteryear.

In contrast to the above trio, Andy Grove of Intel made his mark through his own technical brilliance. He could not have led the microprocessor surge – and change the world in the process – if he had failed to master engineering and product design.

This quartet of business Masterminds is counterbalanced by four teachers whose business experience is confined to running their own shops. The late Peter Drucker, for example, was often quick to highlight his lack of entrepreneurial ability.

The loudest of the four gurus, Tom Peters, is somewhat of a managerial contrarian, advocating a new style that puts initiative and enterprise at the top of the list of a manager’s priorities.

The remaining two thinkers, Charles Handy and Stephen Covey, do not specifically apply themselves to actual business, preferring to philosophise on management and concern themselves with moral issues.

Because of the fear of error, too many managers waste their time and money by listening to advice they are never going to take. None of the octet of Masters made this mistake. Their knowledge can help any manager turn his weak anxiety into bold confidence.

About the author
Robert Heller is one of the world’s best selling authors on business management.