An antic appreciation of leadership's darker sides, where pragmatism takes precedence over excellence. Speaking through Attila, one of history's least likely role models, Roberts provides a series of gnomic briefings on what it takes to gain and retain command. Paradoxically perhaps, the author owes more to chance than to employment of his protagonist's toughminded canons. Originally self-published, the offbeat text attracted favorable attention from H. Ross Perot, whose interest was duly noted in Albert Lee's Call Me Roger (1988), a critical biography of GM's chairman. In the event, Roberts delivers his down-to-earth pronunciamentos in conjunction with a running account of Attila's career as King of the Huns and Scourge of God. This loopy narrative conceit affords Roberts ample opportunity to rip and snort his way across the organizational landscape, offering tart, ad-rem commentary on the essentially martial art of exercising authority. In some cases, he treats conventional wisdom as revelatory, e.g., emphasizing the importance of decisiveness, desire, discipline, and intelligence (as in detailed knowledge of adversaries' strengths or weaknesses). More often than not, however, Attila the Mentor is on target with such dicta as: "Grant small rewards for light tasks. Reserve heaps of booty for dangerous, gallant, substantial effort and worthy accomplishment." Also effective are mock-heroic observations on character, delegation, goals, running calculated risks, and, last but not least, succession. On balance, then, a diverting bit of comic relief from deadly earnest guides that confuse superintendency with pace-setting.
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