The author of The Gamesman (1977) pronounces gamesmen-leaders obsolete: the new contracting economy and the new...


THE LEADER: A New Face for American Management

The author of The Gamesman (1977) pronounces gamesmen-leaders obsolete: the new contracting economy and the new ""self-oriented character"" of American society require a new leadership model--""with values of caring and integrity [to] create the trust that no one will be penalized for cooperation and that sacrifice as well as rewards will be equitable."" This is the current drift of thinking among work-oriented management experts: James O'Toole articulates it in an academic frame of reference in Making America Work (p. 1068); Maccoby gives it a higher charge (plus some quasi-historical ballast) and cites six living exemplars--ostensibly, in six different roles. The diversity, however, is somewhat illusory: three are directly connected with a joint labor-management Work Improvement Program initiated in 1973 at Harmon Industries' auto-mirror factory in Bolivar, Tennessee (and inspired by the Kurt Schumacher of workplace democracy, Norway's Einar Thorsund). What they have to say, though, is not cut-and-dried. Black foreman Paul Reaves successfully taught his workers a supervisor's functions, then found management cool toward ""continual experiments"" and most of the workers apathetic anyhow--less interested in advancement than in extra time to garden or go fishing. AFL-CIO executive Irving Bluestone, a prime mover, saw the joint program as a way to block one-sided, management attacks on the low-productivity problem--and put across the joint approach also at GM. Plant manager Jim Hughes, at a Harmon Industries subsidiary in Scotland, had to implement the new, concerned approach in sensitive situations--like below-par performance. (""It may in the long run be kinder,"" he ventures, not to avoid dismissal--to let ""a person grieve adequately for what he has lost and move on."") Also on the roster: Volvo president (and Thorsund disciple) Pehr Gyllenhammar--best known for instituting team-assembly of autos, best met here as the proponent of exchanging 40 percent of Volvo for a supply of Norwegian oil (and as the visionary who didn't resign when the deal fell through); Commerce assistant secretary (and Sidney Harmon subordinate) Elsa Porter--who tried, at least, to improve the notoriously poor conditions of civil-service employment; and N.Y. congressman (and ex-Syracuse mayor) Stan Lundine--who made various compatible efforts but whose inclusion here seems mostly a matter of improving the mix. In closing, Maccoby touts US ""freedom, informality,"" etc.--as against Japanese ""self-sacrifice and group loyalty""--as the basis for a new-model leadership; and advises ""education in the humanities"" for the new-model leaders. Some wholesome thoughts, some instructive insights--but nothing with the grab of the gamesman-concept and its embodiment, JFK.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1981

ISBN: 0345308565

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981