How to Become a Great Boss

Emma De Vita casts her eyes over Jeffrey Fox's guide to being a first-class manager

If you're after some gung-ho, go get 'em motivational triteness, then American Jeffrey J Fox is your man.

Once you've waded past the eight pages of acknowledgements, you reach the Great Boss Simple Success Formula. The 10 steps start with the tautologous "only hire top-notch, excellent people", and then continue with "tell the people what needs to be done". And don't forget to listen to them and train them. This is radical stuff.

Fox's emphasis is on achieving excellence. "Mediocrity," he writes, "is an insidious disease that saps the vitality, innovation and energy of any organisation." So far, so wise. He continues: "Mediocrity, if allowed, infects even the best people." And: "Once mediocrity is pervasive, it is as hard to rid from the organisation as it is to rid lice from a camel." Which, it should be assumed, is even more difficult than ridding your children of nits.

The cure for mediocrity, according to Fox, doesn't involve just scrubbing it away, but "usually requires a wholesale transplant of management". The best thing you can do is prevent it from taking hold in the first place - the "great boss is ever vigilant". Better get the magnifying glass out.

- Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today.

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