When the Boss Sets Your Desk on Fire, You’re Fired

November 19, 2009 by Thad McIlroy

The Schumpeter column in the current issue of The Economist examines the question of whether CEOs serve their firms better when they are high-profile egoists like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, or low-profile “anonymous managers,” such as Sam Palmisano at IBM. It mentions Haruku Nishimatsu, the boss of Japan Airlines, “who travels to work on the bus and pays himself less than his pilots. The column however concludes that “the best ambassadors for business are the outsized figures who have changed the world and who feel no need to apologize for themselves or their calling.” (See also my blog entry “Steve Jobs: CEO of the Decade.”)

I think that there’s much to be argued on both sides of the notion, but why I’m really blogging this column is because of the following anecdote:

John Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register and one of the greatest businessmen of the gilded age, once notified an employee that he was being sacked by setting fire to his desk.

Now there’s an outsized figure!

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