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Craftsman or jungle fighter, we all decide



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October 15, 2008
Editor's note: We are pleased to continue to feature the experiences, thoughts and opinions of Eric Thuma. Thuma, a retired college professor and former radio talk show host, is a member of the Imlay City School board. He and his wife live in Imlay Township.

Michael Macoby is the author of several books on business and administration. One of the books, 'The Gamesman,' takes a look at several different types of administrative style and I asked him to relate those to presidential style as they approach decision making in the White House. I thought it would be interesting, in light of the presidential election, to define those for you as it might help to understand the style of each of the candidates for president.

I began my interview with Macoby asking for his definitions of the different types of executives, beginning with the craftsman. He said the craftsman is very appealing. Craftsmen are interested in quality and in building something and have traditional values and virtues of respect, a sense of integrity of the product and of their own lives. The craftsman's major problem is that he always gets into the position where in an organization other people want him to work for their purposes and he is constantly finding himself on the defensive.

He is defending himself against 'the jungle fighter.' If you look at the history of the building of large corporations like U.S. Steel it's been the jungle fighters destroying the power of the craftsman. In the end craftsmen are not able to manage large companies. The jungle fighter does have positive and negative poles and is not just good or bad, Macoby said.

I remarked that a good corporation would be a successful merging of each of these types. Macoby wondered if there was a place for the pure jungle fighter any more. They might have a better chance of getting ahead at a major university rather than a large corporation.

I then asked him about the next type which Macoby calls the 'company man.' I suggested that the company man has always been associated with a negative image but he was necessary to every successful organization.

Macoby posited that the positive company man could be called 'the institutional loyalist.' The kind of person who is concerned with the organization and its long range strength. He resists the kind of manipulations of the jungle fighter and the gamesman who are trying to win and sees the importance of human relationships of trust. As an example Macoby said it was the company men in the Internal Revenue Service that protected the IRS against the machinations of CREEP (Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President headed by Attorney General John Mitchell) and refused to go along with the Nixon administration's use of the IRS against their political enemies.

The corporate executive which Macoby identified in his book called the 'gamesman' was probably represented by President John F. Kennedy. What executives admired about Kennedy was the spirit of being number one, of getting the country moving again and in his spirit of innovation. They admired his style, his sense of humor, a sense of fairness and toughness. Competitive yet concerned with fairness and that has been the model for the emerging corporate executive.

The jungle fighter on the other hand is much more driven by demons such as ambition, fear, the terror that he is going to be destroyed if he doesn't destroy his enemies first. What motivated Nixon?

I suggested that past presidents could be put in the jungle fighter category because presidents, for all of their pomp and circumstance, were basically bureaucrats and to understand them it was necessary to define the nature of the creativity of the administrative process.

I then suggested that the founding fathers could easily be considered craftsmen since they crafted the constitutional system itself. Macoby then said that Harry Truman could be regarded as both a craftsman and a company man and was picked for that quality.

I concluded our interview by saying that there were two major points on which one would judge a successful administrator. One would be the types of men and women who advise him and whether or not he displays the wisdom to hire people wiser than he, thereby suppressing his own egotism. What this really requires is the willingness to help less talented people express themselves to the fullest without being threatened by it.

As you consider each of the presidential candidates perhaps you can define where they would fit in Macoby's criteria of leadership be they jungle fighters (perhaps John McCain?) or craftsmen (Barack Obama?)

Email Eric at

tct@pageone-inc.com

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