Monday, April 03, 2006

Fear Factor

The Stanford business school says, 'no more Mr. Nice Guy':

...Roderick Kramer, professor of organizational behavior, has lobbed a rhetorical grenade into the ranks of academic theorists who lionize emotionally intelligent managers. Kramer's recent article in Harvard Business Review, titled "The Great Intimidators," advances the heretical notion that fear and coercion, when applied strategically, can be better motivators than positive reinforcement.

"In all our recent enchantment with social intelligence and soft power, we've overlooked the kinds of skills leaders need to bring about transformation in cases of tremendous resistance or inertia," Kramer writes. "It's precisely in such situations, I'd like to propose, that the political intelligence of the intimidating leader is called for."

Kramer offers several examples of effective intimidators: Motorola Inc. Chief Executive Ed Zander, a Data General alumnus, pulled his company out of a steep decline by firing dozens of vice presidents and espousing the philosophy "whack yourself before somebody whacks you." Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein used high-pressure tactics -- jabbing a finger in the face of associates -- en route to establishing Miramax as a recognized brand name. Martha Stewart, demanding, impatient, and brusque with subordinates, prodded them to keep up with her and build a homemaking empire.

Intimidators can be found in any field but gravitate to government, technology, and entertainment, Kramer suggested in an interview, citing such leaders as Lyndon Johnson, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Carly Fiorina and Rupert Murdoch. "Those worlds have a winner-take-all structure, and the jockeying for spots at the top is intense," he said. "Leaders willing to engage in intimidating behavior often have advantages over those that don't."

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