It's tough at the top but corporate author finds humour too

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 April, 2005, 12:00am

Stanley Bing knows how to find humour even amid the treachery common in global corporate culture.

A senior executive in a multinational corporation as well as a best-selling author, he also writes a regular column in Fortune magazine - one of the latest of which compares chief executive officers with babies.

'There are striking similarities,' Bing said from his office in New York. 'They believe they're the centre of the universe, they speak nonsense, they aren't criticised much and all the limits of adulthood are lifted from them. They regress to the point that they're infantile.'

Bing's latest book, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the Real Art of War (HarperBusiness) is a clever and sometimes barbed treatise on succeeding in the workplace by doing what he believes the truly successful and powerful do: waging all-out war. And instead of embracing the techniques espoused by ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu - whose principles for achieving success on the battlefield are often quoted, mantra-like, by everyone from CEOs to sports figures - Bing says Sun Tzu's tactics are out-of-place in today's business world.

'I found Sun Tzu's philosophy not to be sufficient for managing in the real world,' he said. 'He's very cryptic and enigmatic ... in terms of the classic marketing of not replicating what's in the marketplace, I decided that Sun Tzu was a sissy.'

Bing is convinced there is another book to be written on 'the problem of authority'.

'I've been faced with the issue of bosses - how to manage them, how to control them, how to get the most from them. How to solve those problems is central to everyone's career.'

And, as anyone who has had a boss can probably attest, Bing says he has noted 'a relationship between pathology and power'.

'People who are crazy tend to do very well. Why is that? Each of my books has moved my perception along beyond mere understanding to managing the situation, to some kind of tactical and strategic approach towards managing authority.'

He says his book is really directed towards just about anyone who has to work for a living.

'The book is for people who work in gas stations, places like theatre companies - I used to work in one, and the directors were crazy. If you work in a university or school, other teachers are crazy.

There's something about the requirement to work for a living where we are thrust together with other people we might not select. That creates a social situation where people who do the best and survive are those who are the most aggressive and the least thoughtful of other people's feelings.'

His take-no-prisoners approach to business is steeped in his own experiences.

'The times we live in are very war-like and very aggressive,' he said. 'The tripe and pablum fed to normal workers is to adhere to some scrupulous human standard, which is not a standard adhered to by senior management.'

Not that everyone he has ever encountered in the corporate world is an evil swine. 'Even crazy people can be generous and thoughtful,' he said. 'When it suits them to be decent and good and kind, they will be.'

Being driven to success, he says, requires a certain mindset - and that goes for office workers whether they be in Japan, New York, London or Hong Kong.

'Aggressiveness and mindfulness of self-interest, and sheer exercise of will and power, are often the characteristics of successful people. Yes, we should all be nicer to each other. But until that happens, people in the working world should view themselves as warriors, and walk the warrior walk.'