Brave smart

Wednesday 4th March 2020

The passing of GE’s Jack Welch comprises obits by greater brains than mine – but I was struck by one of many clever moves by the CEOs’ CEO. I never warmed to his policy of sacking a swathe of the under performers in his company every year, but I did like his policy of employing lieutenants who were smarter than him.

Ronald Reagan was famous for similar delegation. He gave the difficult details to other parts of his coterie. That demonstrated self-confidence and was also encouraging to the other ranks. Some said he was stupid. Sounds a sensible policy to me. Who wants to sweat the small things?

A few years ago, I was ‘managing’ a group of wannabe tv business journalists as we set up a new broadcaster. I say ‘managing’ because hacks are pretty useless at any kind of human developmental activities. We’re better at expenses, but that’s another story.

Inexperienced, they were, but they were also smart. Some smarter than me – so I loosed those brains on their own chosen routes – my only ‘management’ effort was to make what they came up with media-shaped and media-friendly.

I also threw another little thing into the mix.I told them that often there wouldn’t be time to explain the whys of what they needed to do – I simply told them to do it, and also said that if there were any complaints, I’d handle them. That seemed to work.

The past master – and I mention him absolutely without any comparison to my tiny efforts – is Horatio Nelson.

Before Trafalgar the Vice Admiral summoned his captains and told them, simply,to attack. No point in more detail. He knew that in the smoke of battle, signalling by flags would be a waste of time – as the French and the Spanish found to their cost.

He also knew that these Navy young guns had a strain of privateer in them – they were square rigged entrepreneurs. And as they all progressed in line, at little more than walking pace, and took the shot from the creaking crescent of the French and Spanish fleet, they chose their own targets, knowing that the Admiral would have approved.

Managment – brave, smart.


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