Salon-style dinners: Jeff Bezos enjoys side projects © Reuters
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Thank you, Andrew Hill.

How to lead

Jean-Claude Biver of TAG Heuer, features in our eighth edition of our weekly series — for readers who are interested in what makes good leadership. Mr Biver talks about how he faced down one crisis after another.

Andrew Hill's challenge

The FT's management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.

Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, but as I write this week, he seems to have far more on his plate than Katharine Graham, the legendary owner of the paper played by Meryl Streep in the film The Post. How do he and other "plural" businesspeople manage their complex schedules?

Perhaps by following Dan Pink’s suggestion, in his book When, that we should synchronise our tasks with the most fertile parts of our working day. Alternatively, perhaps they have picked up on Ray Dalio's odd counsel that the key to doing more than we think we can is to “recognise that everyone has too much to do”. For my challenge this week, let me know one tip for managing multiple responsibilities — it could be an aphorism (like Dalio's) or a mechanism (like the colour-coded filing system one director I know uses). Send it to

Lance Conn offered a straightforward answer to last week's challenge about how to keep an entrepreneurial chief executive tied to the company he or she founded. Based on "the theory that all founders ultimately want is control", he suggests: "Give the founder a call right on the whole business, struck at some huge multiple of current value, exercisable at some distant point in the future" and "a veto right over all board actions other than firing him/her due solely to criminal indictment".

I'm transfixed by the resurgence of Silvio Berlusconi as a force in Italian politics — partly because I arrived in Milan as the FT correspondent just before the 1994 election that catapulted him for the first time into the prime minister's office. I see this as an extraordinary case study in how to revive an ailing personal brand. So in further reading — as well as this analysis by the FT's James Politi — I've enjoyed reading Jason Horowitz in the New York Times. He describes Berlusconi as "the master salesman, as crafty as they come" who, in contrast to the unpredictable Five Star Movement is now "obligingly playing the role of wise and moderate statesman".

(This will be my last newsletter for a few weeks, while I take a brief sabbatical leave. I'll be back in early March.) 

Professor's picks

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

Thomai Serdari, adjunct associate professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, selects:

Balenciaga’s billion-euro plan We learn about how far the luxury fashion house has come from its first iteration under the helm of its founder Cristóbal Balenciaga. Creative director Demna Gvasalia and CEO Cédric Charbit have updated the brand’s DNA with contemporary elements of streetwear that make the brand relevant today. Additionally, the luxury house showcases the type of combined leadership (creative and business) that many other brands should follow as they strive to grow in the oversaturated fashion industry.

Luxury group Kering to spin off Puma stake to shareholders Readers get an insight on the reasons that led Kering’s leadership to this move. While “Puma accounted for almost a third of Kering revenues in the first half of 2017, it accounted for just 9% of profits.” The divestiture will free “Kering to focus on its higher-margin brands, including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.”

Having learned from the FT that Balenciaga’s best-selling item is its giant, triple-soled trainers, the reader cannot help but reason that a great number of luxury consumers prefer to purchase a pair of sneakers that are overpriced and not suited for sports.

Here is an irony that streetwear faces today, it is praised when it is part of a luxury house for its ability to bring in high-margin profits, but shunned on its own merit.

Jonathan Moules's business school news

The analysis of this year’s FT Global MBA ranking continues. One of the notable tipping points are the record number of Asian schools on this year’s list. Seven are in China and Hong Kong, four each are in India and Singapore, if you include Franco-Singaporean Insead, and one is in South Korea.

The emergence of Chinese schools onto the world stage has been the subject of an FT special report. Does the rise, or fall, of a country’s MBA providers tell us anything about the relative strength of an economy? I am not sure.

What the FT list shows is that Singapore is punching above its weight, but it has long been a strong economy in the region. India has emerged as a major economy, and has a well-developed business education market, but its schools, beyond a few stand-out institutions, have struggled to make the FT ranking.

What we are seeing is an increasingly globalised market for MBAs, where a few strong brands take a disproportionate share of the spoils. These schools, like their students, come from almost all corners of the world now, with the notable exception of poorly represented Africa and South America. Business education is a more global industry but it has still to reach everywhere.

Ask the academics

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Edited by Wai Kwen Chan —

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