Last month, I posted an entry touching on some business lessons learned from Encyclopedia Brown. Readers responded strongly enough that I’ll probably continue that train of thought in the weeks to come.
But last night, while reading William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, I was struck by how much business knowledge is hidden inside the pages of that 1943 novel, as well. Perhaps this book should be considered for future pieces like Summer Reading for Smart Leaders.
Here are some of the gems:
William Saroyan on Welcoming New Hires
“Homer Macauley, my name is William Grogan. I am called Willie, however, although I am 67 years old. I am an old-time telegrapher, one of the last in the world. I am also night wire-chief of this office. I am also hungry. Let us feast together on these pies … From now on, you and I are friends.
“I shall, on occasion, ask you to run an errand for me, to join me in song, or to sit and talk to me. … Every night in this office I shall count on you to see that I shall be able to perform my duties.”
Saroyan on Automation
“They’ve been wanting to retire me for years. They’ve been wanting to put in the machines they’re inventing all over the place — Multiplexes and Teletypes. Machines instead of human beings! … I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have this job. I guess I’d die in a week. I’ve worked all my life and I’m not going to stop now. … Trying to put me out of my job! Why, I was the fastest telegrapher in the world. Faster than Wolinsky, even, sending and receiving both — and no mistakes. Willie Grogan. Telegraph operators all over the world know that name. They know Willie Grogan was the best of them all!”
Saroyan on Leadership
The crowd in front of the store cheered, but not effectively, as they were unorganized and had no leader.
Saroyan on Recognition
When they were seated the screen was filling with words, not pictures. These words named the picture and the people who had helped to make the picture. There were vast numbers of words, an enormous amount of crediit give to enormous numbers of people. Accompanying these credits was a majestically inappropriate theme of music which had been especially composed for the occasion.
What non-business books have you drawn leadership ideas and insights?