October 2010 marked the first annual customer User Conference I attended hosted by my employer at that time, iStrategy Solutions [since acquired by Blackboard]. It was a pleasure to meet so many smart, enthusiastic data warehousing customers I had been collaborating with for case studies, webinars and in-person testimonials.
Since I traveled to BWI at the end of September and returned in early October, I had a chance to read AirTran’s September and October issues of its Go magazine. I found it interesting that the business author profiled in each issue so thoroughly and diametrically opposed the other.
How is this for disagreement, not to mention two very different personal brands, as summarized by Go magazine:
George Cloutier: I am Your Work God! You want your employees to do what you say, not what they think.
Anthony F. Smith: Avoid the myth of single-person leadership. “Leadership is really a shared phenomenon…(Each ESPN executive) needed to surround themselves with other effective people who could fill in areas where they were not as skilled.”
GC: “[Management experts say] ‘Work with everyone and be everyone’s best buddy.’ This is the opposite [of what you should do].”
AFS: Hire passionate employees. “Even if you manufacture cardboard boxes, [employees] should be fanatical about something, whether it be the job, the opportunities,…or that they have a great boss.”
GC: “Small businesses don’t have the time and resources to be particularly tolerant of mistakes and problems.”
AFS: Take risks and reward the effort. “If you say, ‘I want people to take risks,’ and then fire the guy if the outcome fails, it becomes clear how your organization really feels about risk.”
I will go out on a limb and predict most readers will side with Anthony F. Smith on this “point/counterpoint” between the September and October Go issues. Branding himself as “the ultimate contrarian,” George Cloutier no doubt is used to people disagreeing with him. It is easy to deride George Cloutier’s very sharp managerial recommendations; what is much harder, though, is to think of a company that has achieved long term, enduring success as a going concern following similar advice. To be sure, there are exceptions, notably turnaround situations with an eye to sell all or part of the “fixed” business, or “forced marches” in which everyone suffers for now with the glittering promise of a liquidity event, like an IPO (remember those back in the dot-com heydey?). And considering this from a different angle: Would I really want to lead like this? I think I would rather strive to lead as a mensch.
I look forward to any comments from anyone, including anyone who has read either or both books…