Why the Toughest Bosses Have the Most Devoted Employees
One military general shares his perspective
In a perfect world, the best people would work for the greatest leaders and enjoy optimal conditions. But if your definition of "greatest" involves genius and wild ambition, then the working conditions may be horrible. Some of the most brilliant, creative entrepreneurs have subjected employees to humiliation and driven them to exhaustion for the sake of their world-changing visions. Often, employees have been OK with that.
In his new book Leaders: Myth and Reality, General Stanley McChrystal poses this provocative question: "If leadership is so dependent on people, why are we so energized by leaders who prioritize their mission over their people?" McChrystal, who led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and was top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, approaches this topic through case studies of Walt Disney and Coco Chanel, two trailblazing founders who created heavenly products while putting employees through hell.
Disney refused to share credit, was often ornery and unsociable, and was aggressive with criticism while withholding of praise. Chanel made nasty remarks about workers' appearance, forced models to stand for hours, and required everyone to operate on Coco time. (The book addresses other tensions of leadership through 13 case studies ranging from Robespierre to Margaret Thatcher.)
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