Unhelpful Predecessors and “Most Influential” Lists

Last week I posted about Jack Welch earning the title "least helpful predecessor" in his public remarks about Immelt. Today, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, former CitiGroup CEO Sanford Weill says about the current CEO Vikram Pandit:

At a time like this, you really want people marching shoulder-to-shoulder with you. The leader needs to relate to the people. They need to know who they’re following.

Which implies, of course, that the people are not marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Pandit. What good does this do? Why do former CEOs feel the need to give advice to the current CEO via the press? Egos, I say, egos. They want the spotlight.

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Yesterday’s WSJ named Gary Hamel the "most influential business thinker alive," ahead of Bill Gates and others, based on this methodology. Umm, is there any businessperson who thinks Gary Hamel is more influential than Bill Gates? Has anyone even heard of Gary Hamel? Almost all such lists / rankings devolve into silliness because it’s impossible to really measure these things. (By the way, their methodology was based on Richard Posner’s methodology in his book Public Intellectuals — it’s a great book for understanding the role and organization of public intellectuals, but even Posner’s "most influential" list of thinkers was a stretch.)

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Odds and ends: I’m on an 11 AM panel on Friday (May 9) at UCLA Anderson School Entrepreneur Conference and will also be speaking at ETH-Zurich (the best technical school in Switzerland) on May 19 at 7:15 PM in Zurich. Come one, come all!

3 Responses to Unhelpful Predecessors and “Most Influential” Lists

  1. Takifugu says:

    In the list that WSJ published it is actually Gates that doesn’t seem to fit the profile of the top 5.
    And yes, some of us heard of him – I just finished reading Hamel’s book “The future of management” a few weeks ago.
    Chances are that the business people that read HBR would be more familiar with Gary Hamel’s articles than with, say, “Business @ the Speed of Thought”. I, for one, had no idea this was the title of the latest book authored by Bill Gates.

  2. Cal says:

    speaking at ETH-Zurich (the best technical school in Switzerland)

    I know some professors at EPFL that would debate that superlative…

  3. Shefaly says:

    Agree about the predecessors – they do need to keep schtum else they look like a case of sour grapes. Shame!

    Agree about Gary Hamel. Unfortunately questioning him is kind of out of question. In a B-Week conference in 2001 in London, I tried but the rest of the room stared me out. Now I am older and less reticent about asking tough questions several times. So yes, I had heard of him as have many others. No, I do not think he is more influential than Gates. Those, who question things as they read, know better…

    Agree re ETH – but do you think MIT might argue with your description? :-)

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