Posts Tagged ‘Soros’

We spend a lot of our adult lives engaged with projects that singly we call work and that cumulatively we call career. Most of us, I guess, do this as a part of an organisation and at some more or less clear level within a hierarchy. Hierarchies require leaders and most of us would, I think, like to be able to look up to our bosses. Usually we find that we can’t.

My own experience is that the majority of those people in the organisations I have worked for have not made much of an impression. Those in my experience have sometimes been pleasant people who have just made little impact on anything at all (including on me). Some I found have gone some way to leaving behind a bigger mess than the one they had so many grand intentions on changing for the better when they were put in charge, and have shown regard only for themselves or their “legacy”. I don’t know why this is so. Perhaps you reach a certain level of title or responsibility you simply remain there, being moved forever along by the impetus of rejection from your old organisation, which though happy to see the back of you would damage its own reputation were it to reveal all your shortcomings.

Exceptions to this pattern of poor senior management exist, of course. I’ve even met a few. I think Bruce Kent at CND was an exceptional person, and he inspired confidence in those around him. I wanted to make the second of my four significant people the man who was Dean of the Budapest-based business school (IMC) where I worked for in the 1990s, Peter Bartha.

The School had been going through a series of crises. Not only was it never sure that there would be sponsorship and funding for the following year’s work (although, when it came to it, there always was), the original set of exchange and co-operation agreements with the Canadian and US business schools which had got the Hungarian institution going were coming to their natural end. The original Dean returned to her original post in Calgary and there then was a succession of odd-ball, temporary Deans, each one more inconsequential and inappropriate than the last.

Peter was born in Hungary but left when he was 18, in the 1950s. He ended up in Toronto, where he had a career in journalism and then a career in business/management and (latterly) in academia. When he applied for the Deanship, the faculty and senior staff at IMC were given some time to interview him and the other shortlisted candidates. Where the others were vague and mining us for information, Peter was informed, and where they were anxious to sell themselves, Peter was listening. In fact, he interviewed us, but in a way that left you feeling you had something valuable to say.

Peter showed me my potential. He had high expectations of you, but they were always . He could write well, and he could speak well (without notes), and he was as at ease guiding IMC’s Founder, George Soros, toward his own vision of how to grow the school as he was making the students feel that he knew them all by name (I believe he did). He could focus on a topic with incredible intensity, and he would find the fault in your argument with unnerving speed, and he had a genuine interest in your world. In short, he made you want to be doing not just a good job, but your best. It was Peter who encouraged me to enrol on the Henley MBA and to accept the inevitable knocks and challenges along the way with grace. For that alone, I am grateful.

He wasn’t always the easiest person to be around, or to be working for. He had an ego, and sometimes a quick temper, but he also had the good grace to admit candidly when he had been in the wrong (not that often).  He combined energy with a strategic eye for the world around him, and always knew when to apply the human touch.

So few of those people at the top of organisations I have worked for have been inspirational characters, so I allow Peter’s voice to be the one that reminds me quietly from time to time whenever the occasion call for it.


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