Business school: Middle managers as captains

Can you provide an example of sporting leadership that has a lesson for business?

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

Welcome to the FT Business school newsletter, a weekly serving of management wisdom, reading recommendations and business-related challenges. FT subscribers can sign up here to receive the newsletter by email every Monday. If you have any feedback about FT Business school, please email bschool@ft.com.

Andrew Hill’s challenge

The term “captains of industry” is often applied to chief executives and board chairs. But the real captains, linking the chain of command from top to bottom, are middle managers, according to Sam Walker. He’s author of a new book, The Captain Class, which identifies the captain as the element that defines the success of winning sports teams.

As with sport, so with business, as I’ve written in this week’s column. If you don’t look after your best middle managers, you risk losing the trust of the whole organisation.

This newsletter takes a break over the summer, returning on September 4, but for a July and August challenge, I’d like you to provide one example of sporting leadership that has a lesson for business. It could be from professional sports or a telling anecdote from your own amateur experience. Just keep it brief and send it to bschool@ft.com.

Tom English took up last week’s challenge of finding a way to instil work-life balance at reasonable cost. He suggests getting the message “Relax! It’s just a job” across to colleagues. One possible tactic: offer subsidies for pastimes and hobbies beyond the workplace.

I’ve been helping to select books for the longlist of the FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, out on August 14. That put me in mind of one of my favourite longlisted titles of recent years, 2014’s Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar. But the shine has come off the animation studio since it was bought by Disney, writes Christopher Orr in this piece from The Atlantic — a fine analysis of the culture clash problem anticipated by Catmull in his book.

Enjoy the summer! Business school will resume in September.

Professor's picks

Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.

Joseph Holt, professor in business ethics at University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, selects:

Donald Trump’s bad judgment on the Paris Accord Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement has caused much anger. This article raises important issues to discuss for students in ethics and sustainability courses. Is withdrawing from the accord better or worse for economic growth and jobs in the US? What does Trump’s decision do to the standing of the US in the world and to his leadership?

There is rarely any discussion in academia of the nature and importance of wisdom. This article provides an opportunity to discuss what wisdom consists of and debate whether Mr Trump’s decision is wise or not.

Business dismay over Trump plan to quit Paris climate accord Paul Hawken, the environmentalist, and many others have argued that business must take the lead in addressing sustainability concerns. Reassuringly, this article shows leading US businesses filling the climate leadership void left by Donald Trump. It also raises the question of how companies should balance economic, environmental and social considerations given rising societal expectations of business — and the real possibility of climate calamity.

Jonathan Moules’ business school news

Thirty years ago, two women and three men went into business with one ambition: to make the most extraordinary images from the technology available at the time.

They remortgaged their homes and pooled personal savings to buy a Framestore, then a cutting edge piece of digital kit that they used as the company name, and rented a cramped office amid the sex shops of London’s Soho district. Today they are a linchpin of the Hollywood film industry, providing the computer-generated magic to blockbusters such as Gravity and Guardians of the Galaxy.

It is a good story, told by Framestore’s chief executive Sir William Sargent in the new series of my podcast FT Start-Up Stories, which started this week and is available at www.ft.com/start-up-stories.

Storytelling is now recognised by those that teach MBAs as a vital soft skill in business, whether it be to convince investors of your integrity or persuade employees that you are the genuine article and a good person to work for. Stanford Graduate School of Business, for instance, includes storytelling classes within their MBA courses.

Penny Moore, a social psychologist Henley Business School, is analysing interviews with 60 business leaders for a post doctoral research project into the effectiveness of good storytelling.

The sharing of anecdotes needs to be done with the right motivation and requires the storyteller to be honest with his or her audience, Ms Moore told me. “If it is done with cynicism people will see through that,” she said.

You can hear more stories like Sir William’s one about Framestore by going to FT’s podcast page, www.ft.com/start-up-stories.

Ask the academics

Got a question for leading business school experts? Send it to bschool@ft.com and we will publish the best replies in future newsletters.

Test your knowledge

How good is your grasp of the news? Test your reading of last week's top stories with the FirstFT quiz.

Compiled by Patricia Nilsson — bschool@ft.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.