Wednesday, October 12, 2005


In recent years, the various schools of management have resorted to texts and personalities in history to illustrate their strategies. Sitting Bull is the prominent example in this tome from cover to cover. I believe a person can learn from anything. I think I am probably right on this score.

FROM the outset it must be noted that this book with its attractive theme
is not new.
In recent years, publishers have released others like Leadership Secrets
of Attila the Hun, Sun Tzu and the Art of Management, and A Book of Five
All this is supplementary reading for the Young Upward Mobile
Professional who wants to see better days.
It seems to be the trend to look back to the past for answers to modern
management problems. Hence this book.
Its central reference is Chief Sitting Bull, leader of the Sioux nation
and also its spiritual leader.
Authors Emmett Murphy and Michael Snell cite several interesting case
studies of present-day entrepreneurs and executives who personify the
Sioux chiefs leadership qualities.
Their attempts to forge a parallel comparison to modern American
leadership are, at best, fascinating but not wholly convincing.
It is one thing to note Sitting Bull's ability to utilise and maximise
Crazy Horse's prowess in the battlefield and another to compare it, for
example, to Sam Moore Walton and his Wal-Mart. The lines linking past and
present are somehow blurred as they stretch into the 20th Century.
Nonetheless it is an interesting read. But when business strategies fall
into categories encompassing Assembly and Integration of Forces;
Projection and Application; and Adjustment and Reflection, even the genius
of Sitting Bull is lost in the trail of dust stirred up by the thundering
hooves of horses mounted by thousands of Indian braves.
So, does this book succeed in conveying its message? In two words - not
really. One suspects that Sitting Bull receives more credit from Murphy
and Snell than he actually deserves.
Granted, few Sioux chiefs could match Sitting Bulls prominence in the
American Wild West of the 19th Century, but the "management" techniques of
Sitting Bull are hardly unique.
There is a relentless comparison of character between Chief Sitting Bull
and General George Armstrong Custer of the US Seventh Cavalry which runs
the constant danger of being an irritant in the entire book.
This book has successfully debunked Hollywood's version of the dashing,
debonair Custer. Historians have painted a very different picture of the
flamboyant "yellow hair".
That epic battle at Little Bighorn where Custer and his men went down in
ignominous defeat has been given a detailed analysis as far as Custer's
incompetence as a military leader was concerned.
The message of Murphy and Snell is clear - Hail to the Chief (Sitting
Bull). Learn from his ways and abide by his wise counsel.

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