Which boss is best in a crisis?

At this point, any optimism or upbeat thinking would be in the category of whistling past the graveyard, one where all the corpses have awakened and are bearing down on passers-by.

Looking at the events of the past few days, the question emerges: What kind of senior manager would you like to see in the corner office in the event of complete, life-destroying liquefaction? We’ve had a chance to see a number of styles on view: Paulson, Bernanke, the Congressmen attempting to satisfy Wall Street and Main Street concurrently, Obama, McCain, Bush… not to mention the host of gray-suited Commissars lining up from a variety of hobbled financial institutions to get a good pull at the bailout teat.

So… which kind of manager do you believe is best suited to confront such challenging seas and steer the corporate state back to some relatively safe port? Let’s choose:

Would you like a boss who gets very excited and angry, screams at people, and indulges in dramatic displays of bad temper? Or would you like a boss who is calm, thoughtful and spends a lot of time listening?

Would you like a boss who, when things grow dark, is full of threats and imprecations, scaring employees with vague prognostications of doom? Or a guy who puts his head down, studies the situation, and tries to see all the angles until he or she is convinced of what’s best for the greatest number of people possible?

Would you like a boss who hops all over the place like a Mexican jumping bean, hiding at times, then emerging with rage at people, cancelling appointments, rescheduling long-standing commitments, always trying to be all places at once? Or someone who seems to reside in the center of a hurricane, a safe place where people can go to give opinion, get counsel, and eventually direct orders? Whose strategic and moral center does not shift with the demands of the moment, even when they are, at least for the moment, insurmountable?

Would you like a boss whose ultimate solution seems to gravitate always toward the dynamic expression of his personal ego? Who picks odd moments to rush in like the cavalry, superceding line operators who have been working hard to attend to the details, who view their own exercise of Self as an important element of success? Or the guy who not only leads, but has respect for the management structure he seeks to guide?

Do you prefer a boss who surrounds himself with sycophants and attendants who defer all power and glory to their master? Or one who prefers to operate as the center of a nexus of smart people, all dedicated not so much to his person but to the strategic goals of the organization?

How about a boss who works each crisis for the greatest possible strategic advantage against the competition? Who employs a ton of PR tricks to manage the situation? Who seems often to make decisions based on how they will position him in the press and the public eye? Is that the kind of boss you like to work for? Some people do. Guys like that have actually run the world for several millennia, in fact.

I’ve worked for all kinds of bosses. And like I said: we’ve had a good look at the current crop in both the public and the private sector. An old senior officer of mine once said, and I think it’s generally true, that you can’t choose your boss. But let’s just say that in certain very important cases, you could. Which kind of boss would you choose?

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