Friday, November 16, 2012
As this story demonstrates, bosses can be bastards and jerks of the first order yet still be successful. While the story focuses on the tech world, it could have easily ventured into any other organization. If one accepts Robert Caro's research on Lyndon Johnson, Johnson was ruthless, manipulative, a suck-up to power, abusive and a despicable individual but he got great things done both in the Senate and in the Presidency. In other words, the model of sensitive leadership is not and never has been the only way to achieve success. There will always be room for Attila the Hun. This is repulsive to those who believe that all publics deserve respect, but it is the way the world works. PR practitioners have to adjust assumptions when working for a tyrannical boss -- that, or leave the job. Those who stay look to the ultimate success the leader has in getting things done and take comfort. I could not have worked for Steve Jobs, but Jobs was brilliant in execution. Others remained by his side and he lifted them to the top. Abuse was the price of success so they accepted it. So too, the football players who cowered under Vince Lombardi accepted his punishment because he pushed them toward perfection. Caring bosses are the fashion now, but they won't always be. We could easily return to a time of tyrants and check PR principles at the door.