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The Near-Sighted CEO

In yesterday’s Financial Times, columnist John Gapper makes the case that top organizational leaders don’t need to be innovative — that can be left to their underlings.

Contrasting David Ogilvy and Martin Sorrell — both of whom built (and are building) advertising empires — Gapper downplays charismatic leadership and contends that creatives don’t need to work for someone who is also, well, creative. “Nobody with a spark of originality wants to work for a dunderhead,” Gapper says. “If it were universally true, however, it would be a counsel of despair for most companies.”

There aren’t enough geniuses to go ’round, Gapper laments. Few want to manage other people, he suggests. And… companies can do just fine with managers who are skilled at corralling the creatives and heading them in the right direction. Top dogs need be generalists and operationalists. That’s all. Does that ring true to you? I’m not sure it’s so clear cut.

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