They included the usual suspects — motivation comes from vision, not fear; technology should free employees, not enslave them; work should be fun. You’ve heard a lot of this before.
But James also wove through several of these “management secrets,” as he termed the gems he gathered from “some of the most successful CEOs in the world,” the notion of community.
Your employees, your departments and the other teams with which they interact needn’t be your best buddies, mind you — but they don’t have to be your Lex Luthor, either.
“Average” bosses — the jerks you don’t want to emulate — view their workers as cogs and they demonize competition, he suggested. “Extraordinary” supervisors, however, think of their people as “a collection of individual hopes and dreams.”
I wondered what Ayn Rand would think about these nuggets of wisdom, as I looked through Donald L. Luskin and Andrew Greta’s “I Am John Galt” (John Wiley & Sons). The book’s subtitle gives us hint: “Today’s Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It.”
The book compares various business and economic visionaries with Rand’s fictional characters. Microsoft’s Bill Gates, for example, is juxtaposed with Henry Reardon, the protagonist of “Atlas Shrugged” (“the businessman who created revolutionary technologies and was criminalized for his success,” the authors note).
Readers of this column might recall my earlier summary of Rand’s worldview: Strength is good, sympathy for others is bad.
That her novels and other writings have been so influential in business and political circles has been cause for despair on the left and the right. Luskin and Greta note Rand detested, to varying degrees, William F. Buckley Jr. (“the founding father of modern conservatism,” as they rightly call him), Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
Where Objectivists, as Rand’s chalice bearers call themselves, and James’s list of beliefs differ the most is with the one that, for my money, is the most radical: “Average bosses … fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define … their employees as victims.” (Rand’s protagonists view themselves as “superior,” remember.)
The extraordinary managers, however, believe work should be “inherently enjoyable,” and so they match employees with positions “that can and will make them truly happy.”
“Happy,” I think, is a good deal to ask from a job, but you get the idea.
But it’s Rand’s endorsement of Richard Nixon, of all people, that highlights one narrow tuft of grass on which — maybe — she and James’s “extraordinary bosses” can find common ground:
Rand was “an individualist who insisted on seeing people as individuals,” the authors write. James’s interview subjects urge managers to “treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person” in the company because “excellence can come from anywhere.”
While organizations indeed are a collection of people, those people surely feel better — and are more productive — when viewed as individuals rather than as part of a collection.
Put another way, everyone is the hero of his or her own novel.
Don’t we each want to be treated that way?