The annoying habits of highly effective people

ONE of the time-honoured tropes of writing on business is the detailed description of the life of a corporate titan. Readers are expected to marvel at the stamina of Tim Cook, for example. Apple’s chief executive rises at 3.45am to deal with emails. Spare a thought for his underlings, whose iPhones buzz at 4am every morning. Some subordinates may have the fortitude to sleep through it all; many will be guilt-tripped into answering the boss. Highly effective people often inflict all their idiosyncrasies upon their hapless juniors.

Perhaps the aim of admiring biographies and articles is to prompt their readers to emulate the work ethic of such leaders. But they will not reach the top of an S&P 500 firm if they do. All this columnist would achieve if he rose at 3.45am every morning is a divorce from Mrs Bartleby.

A particular danger for executives is that their supposedly inspiring examples make them look out of touch. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, recently told a conference...



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