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December 15, 2009

Why I'll never be a CEO. If only I didn't care about my fellows.

Jim McPartland


Douglas McGregor at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the 1960s developed a philosophy on different managerial styles that I learned about in college.

I’ve never forgotten them.

I have yet to apply it well, however.

He said there were two schools of styles- Theory X and Theory Y.

The Y theory is me. Treat people well, they’ll respond accordingly. With respect.  As adults. They come to work and, with proper guidance, need little supervision. Give them a kudo or two and you’ll get many talents[1] in return. Take an interest in knowing who they are. Their kids’ names and the like.

Theory X are lizard bosses. Micromanagers. Could give a fuck if your kid’s sick. “Be here or be gone”. Jack Welch. Wal-Mart Executives. Big GWB 43 supporters. I hate[2] them with a passion but am continuously forced to work with/for them.

When I say continuously, that’s in the last 10 year or so. The main guy I worked for in my earlier days was more Y. And I thrived under his guidance[3].

Since then, though, I’ve done nothing but work for Xers.

I believe you can be a Y and run a successful business.

Herb Kelleher of Southwest is a great example. He once lit a cigarette at GE during a teleconference while with Jack Welch, who coughed and thought about calling security.

Richard Branson of Virgin is another.

Bill Gates, too.

So they do exist.

But they’re few and far between.

Most CEO’s these days- and the cronies that follow them- are cut throat bastards that could give a fuck about anything than their stock options and the profits that drive their business.

 And the month long vacations they’re taking (without you) with their families in Barbados soon.

“Worry about where you’re getting your food from, I’m too busy hob knobbing with ‘Life Styles of the Rich and Famous’ to give you the time of the day. Or a raise” is their mantra.


It dawned on me around 1999 I was not going to get into their world. I’m still not sure I ever wanted to be there, although the thought of bare breasted women on a sandy beach serving me drinks was somewhat appealing.


Still, I tried never to cater to the interview question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” without giving the honest answer.


“I’d like to be a philanthropist like John Beresford Tipton from the 50’s show The Millionaire”.


As I’d be escorted out of the office of the HR person with the "don't call us, we'll call you" look on their face, I’d feel a sense of pride.


So I’m finding myself in the same pickle.

Because I work with and for people, I’m always on the outside looking in.

I only take solace in the fact that I sleep better at night because I believe in the human spirit.

And am scared shitless if I’m wrong.


May I be so bold to ask-?


Which style is more effective?


Please be objective.


I know you’d prefer me because Jason’s running a 102.


But I keep getting burned because I want to hand you a Fever Strip and come to your house and watch Jas because you do a job that’s more important than mine and I only wish I could do it.

With proper training.


[1] Mathew 25: 14-30

[2] I always taught my kids to not use the word ‘hate’ but I can’t think of a better one here.

[3] Bill Boyle, where are you when I need you?