Generally I try to keep my posts upbeat, hopefully informative, at least somewhat interesting. When I came across the above titled article on Business Insider this morning it prompted memory of an old short story that used to bring about a bit of a wry grin. It was back in the mid/late 80’s. I was working at Paramount Pictures, a then subsidiary of Gulf+Western. Business Week ran an article “The 10 Toughest Bosses in America” although after reading that article some years ago I’m not sure “toughest” was exactly what the author meant. It appears to me that perhaps someone over at BW may have had an axe to grind – I could be wrong – but what are the odds, with all the businesses in America that 1 company might have 2 on the list of 10?
I don’t think it’s so important who the 2 G+W execs were but importantly Barry Diller, Paramount’s then Chairman, was not one of them. Mr. Diller remains the sharpest business person I’ve personally encountered. Two of the qualities that are most memorable, 1) Presence – a remarkably ability to enter a meeting, assess where we were at and tweak our strategy (sometimes completely revamp our strategy – release of “Terms of Endearment“, we knew we had a winner that went on to win Best Picture a good example of the latter) seemingly in a heartbeat and 2) Leadership – even in the case of aforementioned T of E release that we were completely convinced we’d nailed the release/marketing strategy just moments before, 10 -15 minutes later, after he left the meeting where he had literally completely changed our strategy, everyone in room – and there were some very senior executives in attendance including a future Chairman of Paramount and a future Chairman of Disney (I was still in my 20’s and easily the “lowest roller” in the room) – EVERYONE was even more fired up, more clear then we had been literally moments prior. That is a great skill. Smartest person I ever met in business – bar none. Imagine a presence like Darth Vader without being omnious or threatening.