Book | Memo to CEOs: It Is All About You
Michael Maccoby's new book, The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership (Broadway Books), is either a case of really bad timing or a prescient manifesto packed with counterintuitive insight. At a time when the backlash against larger-than-life celebrity CEOs is in full swing, Maccoby's argument is that we need these charismatic visionaries more than ever. It's time for a new theory of leadership, he says. But unlike such business gurus as Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, or Daniel Goleman, Maccoby has no interest in nice-nice leaders celebrated for their dogged dedication to the basics. These plodding performers may be essential when it comes to leading big companies in mature industries. But when it comes to innovating on a large scale, it takes the qualities of "productive narcissists," who aren't so much arrogant jerks as individuals defined by two qualities: They never listen — to the voices of reason, authority, or peers, and they have a precise vision of how things should be. Great work, as Maccoby sees it, isn't about great men performing great deeds. It's about people overcoming the pitfalls of their own personality and thriving on their own strengths. - Polly LaBarre
Web | The Three Days of April
Fools' Day www.museumofhoaxes.com
Okay, it would have been transparent if, in our April issue, we'd sent you to a site called www.malepregnancy.com for hard proof of a child-bearing male. But if you're planning an April Fools' Day gag, be sure to browse through the galleries of the Museum of Hoaxes, a Hall of Fame for history's greatest pranks. We promise, this site is no joke.
Tax Day www.itsdeductible.com
It's tax time! That means you're probably wondering how much of a deduction to take for that lime-green La-Z-Boy you gave to Goodwill last summer. Let ItsDeductible.com help. The site offers a comprehensive software package listing fair-market prices for your charitable donations. The software sells on the site for $29.95 — a bargain if your donations knock $500 off your tax bill.
Green Day www.earthday.net
Earth Day is April 22, and if you want to see how well (or, if you're a typical American, how poorly) you're treating the environment, go to the Earth Day Network. There's a quiz you can take to gauge the rapacity of your lifestyle as well as information about such programs as a corporate challenge to conserve water.
Gear | Slicker
If Mother Nature can dish it out, California outfitter Patagonia can accessorize it. The Stretch KruShell is Patagonia's latest incarnation of its ultralight, water-resistant, April-busting wear. With more extras than a Swiss Army knife — water-repellant zipper! hood-volume adjuster! removable crotch strap! (yeah, no joke) and less bulk (14.5 ounces) — the Stretch KruShell isn't your average raincoat. Windproof and breathable, it's made for "all alpine conditions." Translation: "No umbrella needed." Check it out on the Web (www.patagonia.com). And while you can't put a price on comfort, staying dry in this gear (which comes in three colors) will cost you $169. - Lucas Conley
Randall Rothenberg | Ad of the Month
General Electric's "Downtime"
What do you call a new chief executive who abandons his company's beloved, generation-old advertising tag line? In the case of Jeff Immelt, "market-savvy visionary." In January, GE's CEO replaced "GE — We bring good things to life," the slogan that was introduced in 1979, with "Imagination at work." Changed, too, was the emotionally bracing tone of the old campaign: The new commercials (done, like the old ones, by BBDO Worldwide) take a gently ironic peek into the future. "Downtime" depicts factory robots downsized into rummy-playing irrelevance. Criticism of the effort has been widespread. "It's almost like seeing an old friend go away," John Lister, the chairman of corporate-identity consultant Lister Butler, told NPR. But Immelt understands that a profound shift in public opinion requires an image redirection. Under CEO Jack Welch, GE was increasingly known as a financial and management brand. With the stock market's collapse, investors are looking for the kind of growth that results from rapidly commercializable R&D. Since that's in GE's DNA — remember the lightbulb? — it makes sense to bring imagination at work to life. Contact Randall Rothenberg by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A version of this article appeared in the April 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.