When Corporate Kings Go Public — Beware, Meg And Carly!

A fake copy of the Financial Times is pictured...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Are you familiar with Lucy Kellaway? She’s a much-respected British journo at the Financial Times, whose column on management is a must-read.

She recently tore a wildly successful British businessman a new one, devoting an entire column (ouch!) to his inane pomposity in publishing a book of his “rules”:

Ray Dalio is deluded, insensitive, emotionally illiterate, simplistic, breathtakingly smug, weird and plain wrong.

Harsh words, but I know the founder of one of the world’s most successful hedge funds will welcome them. The Bridgewater chief has just made a list of his top 300 rules for life and number 31 is to write down the weaknesses of others. Number 11 is never to say anything about a person you would not say to them directly, while number 22 is to “get over” fretting about whether comments are positive or negative. All that matters in Dalioland is whether they are accurate or inaccurate.

These rules are contained in the most curious management document I have ever come across. Simply entitled “Principles”, it is being handed out to staff at Bridgewater to help them be as successful as their boss. It is also being passed gleefully from pillar to post on the internet.

I love her taking the piss out of this guy, who probably earns more in the time it took me to post this than I’ll make in my lifetime. Tant pis.

Jack Welch is one of many ex-CEOs who write best-selling books, persuaded  — like this guy — their bons mots are going to transform our miserable lives. If you read business books, and I do, occasionally — as hungry as anyone for smart, helpful advice — you know how many of them are deeply, annoyingly, self-righteously dull, stupid and eagerly swallowed up by people who use “impact” as a verb or say things like “This robust suite of products is mission-critical”.

Just because you’ve “created shareholder value” and made big fat profits for your company doesn’t mean your in-house brilliance will translate to the rest of the world, who are not actually breathlessly awaiting your next PowerPoint. (A lesson Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, both corporate legends now entering the bare-knuckled fray of politics, are learning as well.)

It can come as a terrible shock when those who are not your underlings find your “wisdom” risible.

Which business book did you find a total waste of cash?

Any one you did like?

2 thoughts on “When Corporate Kings Go Public — Beware, Meg And Carly!

  1. davegeenens

    It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting a truly public life, regardless of their previous profession or the path they walked. We are all just too fallible. What I can’t stand is someone who acts as if they are infallible. We all know better!

    Anyway, business books I did like, and I have read many . . .
    Love and Profit, James Autry (about the art of caring leadership)
    The Five Tempatations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni (a fable about how to be a successful CEO)
    The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey (about how trust spawns competitive advantage)

    Bad business books?
    The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump, (very self-righteous)
    Execution, don’t remember author, (simplistic view of how important executing a strategy is, duh)

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    Dave, thanks…I wish politics wasn’t such a vicious game because more people might be interested in running for office; I suspect it’s why many women (not to mention the ridiculous cost of campaigning) stay far from the fray.

    Thanks for these suggestions. I liked Swim With the Sharks by Harvey McKay and the old Seven Habits by Steven Covey. I also liked Never Eat Lunch Alone (I think that’s the title) by Keith Ferazzi. When you work on your own, as I and many writers do, it’s too easy to focus only on the short-term and not on strategy or larger goals. I find good biz books helpful for this.

    I find this issue of trust interesting. I’ve been writing for the NYT since 1990 and the one thing you have to establish with every single new-to-you editor there is whether they can trust you and your work. Once the answer is yes, you’re good. But they are wary and suspicious of most new-to-them freelancers, as I think is wise.

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