When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
Economy

When Your Boss Sounds Like Churchill — Or Worse, Elon Musk

If a CEO starts quoting Churchill or some Silicon Valley titan to give pomp to their office speeches, they’re only highlighting their utter lack of originality and leadership.

That Musk approach
That Musk approach
Nicolas Santolaria

-Essay-

PARIS — "Success," Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying, "consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Despite its many burdens, being a CEO does have its perks — the most enjoyable of which may be the license to throw bombastic truisms around, with the pomposity of a North Korean dictator. Generally, a lack of vision is proportional to the boss's tendency to conjure up great men, in an effort to shine a light on what they mean and do.

If your new boss, upon taking office, starts his or her speech by quoting French poet René Char's famous "Push your luck, cling to your happiness and go toward your risk. After a while, they will get used to it" — beware. Such a throwaway aphorism may actually be a good indicator that you're stuck with a wishy-washy chief, chained to the most extreme conformism.

It also goes to suggest that this new captain of your industry may think he is quite something. After all, isn't calling upon great writers a way of pretending you're standing among them — at least a little?

Pontificating to their employees like Napoleon galvanizing his troops at the foot of the pyramids.

While inspirational quotes may be useful, to a certain extent — by allowing managerial discourse to burst out of its strict hierarchical shell and impenetrable jargon — they're all too often taken out of context. Trying too hard to add wisdom to one's words only winds up emphasizing their absolute vacuity. So much so that resorting to Confucius or Seneca in order to show, say, the potential of conquering more markets in the ball-bearing sector, may in the end prove more comical than convincing.

Churchill, rallying the troops in 1945 — Photo: UK government

Another downside of using truisms is that they can lead to multiple interpretations, or worse: They can be used to share bad news surreptitiously. That failure-and-success quote attributed to Churchill could easily be dusted off by some random human resources manager trying to sneak into the conversation that people are about to get the boot.

There's another sign that the entrepreneurial mythology is now chasing its own tail: Steve Jobs' or Elon Musk's words are finding their way into speeches by CEOs of smaller and less innovative companies, who then start pontificating to their employees like Napoleon galvanizing his troops at the foot of the pyramids. Better still: It looks like any entrepreneur can now fancy himself or herself as the author of their very own managerial haikus — bad ones at that — earworms meant to hammer their thoughts into your mind.

In such a vertical vision of things, self-quoting could be seen as the perfect software to drive the company's values and spirit into the employee's ever-so-slightly-dense hardware. But you are under no obligation to concur with me. As Oscar Wilde once quipped, "Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong."

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Society

Now They're Diagnosing Burnout's Never-Quit Cousin: Burn-On

Feeling overworked but not yet burned out? Often the problem is “burn-on,” an under-researched phenomenon whose sufferers desperately struggle to keep up and meet their own expectations — with dangerous consequences for their health.

Now They're Diagnosing Burnout's Never-Quit Cousin: Burn-On

Burn-out is the result of sustained periods of stress at work

Beate Strobel

At first glance, Mr L seems to be a successful man with a well-rounded life: middle management, happily married, father of two. If you ask him how he is, he responds with a smile and a “Fine thanks”. But everything is not fine. When he was admitted to the psychosomatic clinic Kloster Diessen, Mr L described his emotional life as hollow and empty.

Although outwardly he is still putting on a good face, he has been privately struggling for some time. Everything that used to bring him joy and fun has become simply another chore. He can hardly remember what it feels like to enjoy his life.

For psychotherapist Professor Bert te Wildt, who heads the psychosomatic clinic in Ammersee in Bavaria, Germany, the symptoms of Patient L. make him a prime example of a new and so far under-researched syndrome, that he calls “burn-on”. Working with psychologist Timo Schiele, he has published his findings about the phenomenon in a book, Burn-On.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest

InterNations