That leading question again

Over the past few years the Big Thing in business thinking has undoubtedly been leadership. Everybody wants to know its secrets. How you can create it, develop it, buy it, learn it. Answers come in the cascade of business books on the subject. If you tap the magic L-word into Amazon, there are 18,890 volumes to choose from.

by Matthew Gwyther, mt editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Thumping onto the MT books editor's groaning desk we've had Shackleton's Way: Leadership lessons from the great Antarctic explorer - that one pushed the classic British line on getting your men out of a tight spot intact.

Then came Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson Way - How to turn your team into winners. From across the pond were couriered the thoughts of Colin Powell, General Patton, Jack Welch, Larry Ellison, Rudy Giuliani and even Tony Soprano - 'I kill therefore I am'. Further contenders included Jesus, CEO, followed a couple of weeks later by The Leadership of Jesus. There was no chapter on watching out for the Judas at the boardroom table, no tips on walking on water in front of your workforce, or indeed on rising again.

The central message of MT's contribution this month to the debate - written by professors Rob Goffee of LBS and Gareth Jones of Insead - is that you won't get anywhere as a leader if you try to imitate others - Jesus, Soprano or even Welch. As we quote from Hamlet on the cover of the magazine: 'This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.'

As we've raised the tone by bringing Shakespeare onto our pages, I propose that the reader who sends me the best management lesson from Shakespeare's complete works receive a bottle of champagne. Entries to by 11 February.

I doubt if Arun Sarin, Vodafone's boss and the subject of this month's MT Interview, has much time for brushing up his Shakespeare at the moment.

There seem to be an unholy number of characters out there eager to see his downfall, a bit like the conspirators after Julius Caesar. Indeed, Sarin does look pretty imperial in our portraits. And do have a look at Stephen Bayley's piece about why America seems unable to create luxury brands despite its citizens' love of buying them. It's an intriguing question.

I can't think of many aspirational Europeans who get excited about acquiring a Cadillac or a Ralph Lauren suit.

But let's not get too snooty on this topic, because Americans do understand the more valuable mass market pretty well. As the great Diana Vreeland, doyenne of US Vogue and Harpers, once opined: 'Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola.'

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