The Living Thing / Notebooks :

“Business Leadership”

The default pseudo-content for undirected MBA research

tl;dr CEOs are large bulldozers, and we should probably think of them as such, rather than expecting them to have thoughts, nuance, or insight, and definitely before taking advice from them on wider issues.

The World Is Flat etc.

Do you business leaders in the real world go around mouthing these empty buzz phrases? Is it that upon which the world really turns? Or is that a phenomenon of the rockpools at the border between the choppy oceans of academia and the land of commerce, where strange and transitory buzzword ecosystems autopoiesis bloom and die?

I wanted to rant more about this, but before I got around to formulating my thoughts, Venkatesh Rao refined, improved and stated for me the thoughts on this topic that I will hereafter adopt as my own:

When I read or listen to exemplars of other categories of leaders, I am often impressed by the subtlety, nuance, agility, and complexity of their thinking.

This is not true of most things CEOs say or write.

Public displays of CEO thinking are impressive primarily for their sheer banality, far above and beyond the needs of non-offensiveness, political correctness and perception management. You can tell it’s coming from deep down. It’s not an act. I’ve seen it on display in candid, private settings as well, where there’s no particular reason to keep things simple. CEO world views really are that simple. That does not mean they are simplistic or entirely a consequence of survivorship bias and attribution errors.

[…] The CEO algorithm is fairly simple in the intelligence it demands. […]

There is a reason why Alan Turing framed his eponymous famous test in terms of a computer mimicking a “mediocre intelligence, like the President of AT&T.” More intelligence than is necessary for running the straight-line trim trajectory algorithm (which many CEOs, unfortunately, do have) is a liability that turns the leadership environment into a distraction-rich one that derails sparkling genius minds more readily than it does merely mediocre ones.

He does bang on at length about it, in a possibly ill-advised parody of the form he is critiquing.

This is fine, because I want an statement of the thesis and I want it to be comprensible to the people to whom it pertains.