The Best and Worst Managers

The January 10, 2005, issue of BusinessWeek reports on the best and worst managers of the year. When I read the short reports on these managers, some essential differences showed through.


The best and worst managers both focused on change.

  • The best managers changed the business, focusing on new products and innovations in operations. Pepsi added 200 product variations. AMD created the first dual-core computer chip. Home Depot sustained a "ruthless drive for efficiency." Xerox instituted lean Six Sigma to improve efficiency.
  • The worst managers changed the numbers, cooked the books, and engaged in questionable accounting practices. Fannie Mae's "misuse of obscure accounting...misstated earnings for 3.5 years" which lead to a restatement of earnings that could wipe out 40% of their earnings from 2001 to 2004.


The best and worst managers both focused on customers..

  • The best managers catered to customers. Pepsi's new products were "aimed at wooing ethnic tastes and satisfying health-conscious consumers." Ebay's Margaret C. Whitman focused on her 125 million registered buyers and sellers. Pixar's The Incredibles shows that Steven Jobs "still knows how to cater to consumers."
  • The worst managers focused on the customer's wallet. Merck "continued to promote Vioxx aggressively" even through critics warned that it might be dangerous.


  • The best managers focused on cooperation. Linus Torvalds, developer of Linux, coordinates the work of a few dozen volunteer assistants and thousands of programmers worldwide to enhance Linux, which now holds 21% of the server market. Sprint used "unconventional partnerships with cable companies and telcos to add millions of consumers to Sprint's network." SAP tied their software to other companies products.
  • The worst managers showed no signs of true willingness to cooperate. Donald Rumsfeld - Iraq. Disney lost Pixar. The National Hockey League angered players and fans because of a lockout.

Giving Back

  • The best managers focused on giving something back. Hector Ruiz of AMD has set a goal to "outfit 50% of the world with sub-$200 PCs by 2015 to bridge the digital divide." Linus Torvalds created the Linux operating system as a student and gave it away for free.
  • The worst managers seem to be too focused on getting to give back.

Here's My Point

The best managers focus on customers, employees and others. They focus on changing the business to best serve those customers, employees and others (including shareholders). They know that if they take care of the business and its customers, that profits and rewards will accumulate.

The worst managers focus on themselves and the bottom line without regard for the impact on other people.

Which one would you rather be?

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008-2024 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, 888-468-1537, ."