Magazine article Management Today

Books: Campbell's Recipe for Success

Magazine article Management Today

Books: Campbell's Recipe for Success

Article excerpt

Tony Blair's former spin doctor probes a wide range of high achievers on their secrets, but, despite his enthusiasm, beyond politics the insights are few, says John McLaren.

Winners - and how they succeed
Alastair Campbell
Hutchinson, pounds 16.00

There is a well-ploughed furrow in suggesting what practitioners in one walk of life can learn from those in others. So conductors can tell us how to work together, soldiers can teach us how to be selfless and tough things out, and sport stars can show how to set and achieve goals.

Alastair Campbell sets out to identify the traits shared by 'winners' from fields including politics, sport, business, journalism and finance (the creative arts are presumably a winner-free zone). To this end, he has interviewed the famous in droves. There won't be many dropped jaws over his findings. Winners are bold and ambitious, they focus, are resilient, avoid complacency, learn from their mistakes, aim for constant improvement, shape good teams and hate losing.

His own mantra is OST - objective, strategy, tactics. An example he gives of this is Bill Clinton after being caught in flagrante Lewinsky Objective: survival; strategy: business as usual; tactics: ensuring that the American people know that you're doing business as usual. It worked pretty well. But trying to apply this to other fields can get the author in a tangle, as when Jose Mourinho tells him that, in football, tactics are the long-term plan, and strategy is made up on the hoof.

There is a very clear hierarchy in the quality of the contributions. Unsurprisingly, he's at his best when drawing on his political experience. There's an interesting chapter on how Modi got elected in India. Campbell has no hesitation in declaring Angela Merkel the smartest 'winner' among European politicians. He scores Putin highly on O and S and, apparently, even on tactics when he relates how the Russian deepens and slows his voice when speaking to Merkel (to remind her subliminally of Stasi thugs) and (aware of her childhood phobia) brings a fierce dog to their meetings. I'm sure she shudders at the time, but if she then goes home thinking 'Get Shorty' and ratchets up the sanctions, this may be less than brilliant Ts. There is a nice cameo about Edi Rama (the Albanian prime minister, not a Hare Krishna chant). He is evidently the only world leader (sic) in office now who represented his country at sport. The author politely refrains from pointing out that, in the Soviet era, if you lived in a country of only three million and were nearly two metres tall, you probably got drafted into the national basketball team whether you liked it or not. …

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