Editorial: Prising open the boss's shell

In the 16th century, no self-respecting big cheese on the English scene went without having their portrait painted by Holbein.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

He was the cameraman of Tudor history.

Having already appeared twice in Private Eye's Pseud's Corner during my career, I don't wish to repeat the experience. However, the photographer Harry Borden has performed a Holbein-like role for MT over the past 15 years as he has gone about capturing the essence of the UK's business leaders for our pages. No British magazine takes the same care to record these individuals that we do, and his work is the perfect accompaniment to MT's unique 3,500-word interviews.

I've 'done the words' for a number of them, watching Borden at work: Sir John Harvey-Jones, James Murdoch, General Sir Mike Jackson, Sir Alex Ferguson. The writer acts as packhorse, schlepping Harry's lights and batteries round after him. These dark-suited, usually late middle-aged individuals are often highly reluctant sitters and not easy to open up. But Borden never fails to prise apart their shell and bring home the pearl: a tribute to his winning manner - despite dressing like a student - and impeccable eye. When he hasn't been available for a job, the pictures are usually taken by his one-time assistant Julian Dodd, now MT's in-house photographer.

Their work got a thoroughly deserved display last month at the Whitechapel Gallery, east London. Sadly, that was for one night only, but readers can get a taste of the event from our feature 'Twenty years of business bosses'.

Portrait photographers require emotional intelligence: they listen and watch. EI (aka EQ) has become big business in the HR world over the past decade and has made the likes of writer Daniel Goleman shedloads of money. But does it have a darker side? Those who are manipulative and selfish are highly adept at EQ, and such individuals can damage businesses. Rebecca Alexander's piece may help you to spot them.

Employment tribunals are a small business's worst nightmare - a drain on time, energy and cash; and for large businesses they can prove a public relations horror show. Witness the embarrassment suffered by John Lewis recently when a 40-year-old male 'partner' took a case to court alleging he had had his bottom slapped by a 68-year-old female colleague who, he claimed, said: 'I do that to all the boys.' The woman was said by friends to be 'mortified and horrified' by the allegation, and I believe her. Tribunals, like divorce courts, are ghastly places and a last resort in resolving differences. One can only hope that new government measures will reduce their number and lessen their sting.

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