Read the Classics on Management

As we moved up the management chain I was always interested in what were the sources of information on how to better manage, and how to be a better manager, that people were reading. I wanted to understand them and to do well too. I suspect that I was not too unique in this respect. As a matter of course I read several of the management books that were popular during various periods. I won’t name them, but I came to refer to them as “Management Techniques De Jour”, much along the same lines as soup de jour at a restaurant.

I started looking for management texts that had endured a little longer than their time on the best seller list. After a while I finally found a few. You may have heard of some of them, and all of them are quite old. However, I have found all of them to deliver valuable insights into some of the various aspects of management and leadership. I’ll share some of them here:

1.       The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. A relatively short book written in 500 B.C. (yes, that is 2500 years ago) by a Chinese general, who was never defeated in close to 100 campaigns. It is an excellent source on the topics of leadership and strategy, two key aspects of successful business management.

2.       The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi. Another relatively short book written in the early 17th century (yes, that is 400 years ago) by a Japanese Samurai who is credited with creating an entirely new method and school of sword fighting (kendo). It provides great insight on the importance of knowing ones craft, skill, timing and spirit.

3.       The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. Written in the 16th century (yes, that is 500 years ago) by an Italian nobleman and politician, it deals (sometimes very uncomfortably) with the aspects of leadership, power and politics.

4.       The Art of Worldly Wisdom, by Baltasar Gracian. Also written in the 17th century, but this time by a Spanish priest. This is a collection of 300 aphorisms on how to approach life and interpersonal relationships.

There are many more out there, but these are some of the best, and most famous. Don’t read them with an eye to how they are written. Read them with an eye toward how they may be applied today, in the business world we must operate in.

If you have any other books that you might like to add to this list, I would be interested to hear them.

3 thoughts on “Read the Classics on Management”

  1. I would add that the Kama Sutra of Business is an interesting read. The first true business strategist was Chanakya, Emperor Ashoka’s adviser.

    There are a few observations and rules that we have overlooked:
    1. you public and private life are one and the same
    2. you are always on stage
    3. success is helping others succeed
    4. credibility, likability, and visibility is the order of the day
    5. you can’t create wealth from vapor – thermodynamics
    6. wealth is created one brick at a time
    7. nothing is yours permanently – so give it away when you are done
    8. money is a storage of human energy
    9. emotional economics has never been addressed properly – predicting a company’s future growth and profitability is black voodoo
    10. if a company does not have a war chest that it builds up during good times and squanders it, will not fare well during a down turn.
    11. the economic conveyor belt is not endless.
    12. there is such a thing called “threshold of affordability” – Canadians can not spend more than $200/month per house hold on communication (cell, cable, internet, land line, long distance).
    13. mature economies adopt new technologies slowly – emerging economies will leapfrog older technology adoptions. There is such a thing called sunk cost and depreciation costs.
    14. the downturn will last 5 more years at $10 trillion wipe out since 2006, global GDP growth of 2.8% at $32 Trillion, calculates to 5 years compounded.
    15. The markets are not transparent – buyer beware – everyone is lying….
    16. The Canadian government is very stupid – raises taxes as the only means of increasing revenue.
    17. Canada is a “soap in box” economy – hardly any sustainable infrastructure built – colony mentality.
    18. A house you live in is not a real investment – prices do fall
    19. The stock exchange is a highly regulated ponzi scheme.
    20. Canada is hiding its toxic debts well….

    the above is just the tip of the iceberg as I expect us to go back to simpler living with very reduced expectations over the next 3 years.

  2. Hey, What happened?

    The very first book should be “The Effective Executive” (1966) by Peter Drucker/

    Pat O’Mahony

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