The ruble stops here

April 10, 2014, 2:41 PM UTC

Several decades ago this magazine took a long look at a world-class Chief Executive and delivered one of the quintessential philosophical pieces of the 1980s. It was called “What Managers Can Learn From Manager Reagan.” I believe we concluded that delegation was a good thing. In the same spirit, it might be instructive for those of us who are interested in mastery of the business arts to take a gander at Comrade — excuse me, Mr. — Putin.

Lesson 1: He knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to reach out and grab it. At this writing, he seems content with Crimea. Whether that will still be true by the time this is published — or a week after you read it — is another matter entirely. Can anyone stop his thirst for acquisition? His competitors and adversaries don’t really seem to have the guts and grit to do so. He could go as far in scooping up what he feels is strategic as Mr. Gates did a few years ago and Mr. Zuckerberg seems to be doing now.

Lesson 2: He has a strong brand. One of the most distinctive in the world, I think you’ll agree. Certainly as strong as Warren Buffett’s as the Smartest Guy in the Game and right up there with Larry Ellison’s 800-Pound Gorilla too. The only competitor he might have at this point in terms of international brand recognition is Monsieur Hollande of France, for more comical if equally instructive reasons.

Lesson 3: He controls his board of directors. How many times in the past few years have you seen a CEO voted out by his own board? It happens a lot. But it’s not going to happen to Mr. Putin. Whatever he wants, that board of his in the Kremlin is going to back him 100%. One … hundred … percent. And if an errant commissar happens to peel away from the parade? You can bet he’ll be replaced by a different tuba player after he has, perhaps, an unfortunate interaction with a bad bowl of mushroom soup.

Lesson 4: He isn’t afraid to make enemies. Do you think that at the end of the day, after he’s kicked off his Guccis and settled in with his first flagon of Stoli, Mr. P. sits around twisting his lip between his fingers with anxiety about whether people like him? I don’t.

Lesson 5: He is willing to break eggs to make an omelet, like any successful ultra-senior officer these days. The rationale for every contemporary merger seems to include a boast about the number of people and other disposable items that will be jettisoned to achieve operating efficiencies.

Lesson 6: He knows how to have a good time. On this, Mr. Putin is the champion among moguls and potentates worldwide. What fun he had at the Olympics! His visit to Team USA was a blast. The smile never left his face. And the media? Why, there wasn’t a more popular totalitarian leader in business or the public sector for almost a month.

Lesson 7: Speaking of that, he is good with the press. And when he’s not, the press is sorry.

Lesson 8: He looks good on a horse. Not as good as the Gipper, who looked like the Marlboro Man in the saddle, but still. Can you imagine President Obama up there? Or one of those guys who run China? Or Rob Ford? No way.

Lesson 9: Nothing embarrasses him. He can take his shirt off and still be working on the next invasion. Can your CEO say the same? You guys on Wall Street, put your hands down! How about the rest of you?

Lesson 10: And … he’s scary. Hey, when a guy can frighten the dirndl off Angela Merkel of Germany, you know that’s some serious chops at work.

Obviously this is a subject that warrants further study. Unfortunately, in this venue we don’t have the room. Let’s hope we have the time. It may already be too late, you know.

Stanley Bing’s new book, The Curriculum, an affordable alternative for those who wish to avoid the pain and expense of business school, will be published by HarperCollins in April. Check out his website at

This story is from the April 28, 2014 issue of Fortune.