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Stark school of business

Stark school of business
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First Published: Thu, May 13 2010. 08 50 PM IST
Updated: Thu, May 13 2010. 08 50 PM IST
Don’t you just love it when people find inspirations in the most unlikely of places? For instance, one moment Newton is sitting under a tree minding his own business. The next moment he is ambushed by fruit. Voila! Theory of gravity.
Or, what about Archimedes?
Who knew, when he settled into a luxurious bath, that Archimedes would suddenly realize the concept of buoyancy? Not Archimedes himself, at any rate, who was so overcome by emotion that he ran through the streets stark naked shouting “Eureka! Eureka!” (Literal Greek translation: “Don’t judge me in this current state! It is winter!”)
Last week I had one such moment of epiphany. Rather, I had a series of mini-epiphanies. And it happened while I was watching Iron Man 2.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the film yet, kindly stop reading. If you have already seen it, or don’t care to at all for some bizarre reason, read on.
So there I was sitting in the dark cinema hall watching Robert Downey Jr emitting lasers from his wrists, when I suddenly realized that I should be taking notes for Cubiclenama.
I suddenly realized that Iron Man 2 was not just an eye-popping blockbuster movie, but also a treasure trove of insight for managers. If you could look beneath the veneer of Hollywood mayhem, you will notice that the movie communicates with office goers at a deeply profound level.
After going through copious notes and cross-referencing with dozens of books on leadership, I am proud to present the following for your professional advancement:
Five lessons for successful leaders from the film Iron Man 2
1. Good leaders dress like rockstars
You might be the most profit-generating, stock-price-elevating manager on the company’s rolls. But if you don’t dress like a star, no one is going to take you seriously. Look at the contrast between Tony Stark and his nemesis Justin Hammer.
Stark is all sharp suits, sunglasses and Jaeger Le Coultre watches.
Hammer, on the other hand, is a dowdy boring man in thick-rimmed glasses. His outfit doesn’t say “diabolical villain” as much as “chartered accountant”. (There are some minor differences.)
Recently got promoted? Get a new wardrobe. Grow a cool beard.
Remember: Couture is control.
2. Punish insubordination with instant painful death
In the film, Stark’s close friend and sidekick Jim Rhodes dares to wear an Iron Man suit and intervene, while Stark is getting plastered at a party.
An enraged Stark engages in combat. In the process, he almost destroys his luxury 32 BHK home with attached secret underground den.
Why does he bother? Not because Rhodes was wrong, but because real leaders must crush insubordination at any cost. Preferably with explosives.
The moral is simple: Our Prime Minister must watch Iron Man 2 now.
3. Don’t over-think succession plans
Identifying, evaluating and appointing a successor are a perennial bugaboo for top leaders. Many top leaders simply refuse to leave. Others take too long to find a worthy replacement.
Tony Stark has no such issues. After a mere moment of contemplation, he appoints Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, his personal assistant, to become the new CEO of Stark Industries.
The movie does not go into the details of whether the board of directors approved, or how much Paltrow’s salary was revised by. Still, Stark’s decisiveness deserves to be appreciated.
Personally, I am implementing this lesson immediately. I am looking to hire a Gwyneth Paltrow-like assistant.
4. When it’s time to go, just go
Many ex-CEOs cling on to the board or grab honorary positions. They end up just becoming hindrances.
Such people must learn a lesson from the way Stark gracefully relinquished powers. He immediately left his office and went home. Where he indulged in relaxing hobbies such as domestic particle accelerator design and manufacturing.
This is a clear lesson for all top management. When your time comes to leave, do so quickly, quietly and gracefully.
5. Hire right people for right jobs
How many times must your HR people email you before you finally submit your proof of investments? Raise your hands if you have an email filter set to automatically delete all emails starting with “Warm greetings from the IT Helpdesk!”
The problem is this. Too many jobs are populated with unremarkable people. Who does Stark have working in his legal department?
Advocate S. Ramachandran LLB (London, Mylapore)? No.
He has Scarlett Johanson. There is no way you are ignoring emails from her. Instant efficiency improvement.
Have you seen the movie? Did you absorb any management lessons? Send your thoughts, and applications for personal assistant to the address below.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, May 13 2010. 08 50 PM IST