Management Tips From Presidential Politics II: The Newtrepeneur

If Mitt Romney represents the archetypical American Corporate style, then his main opponent – former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich – typifies the US entrepreneurial style of management. The good news is that the entrepreneur has a bias for action and progress. The bad? This kind of manager values action over analysis. He likes progress even if it takes the enterprise in the wrong direction. And he really, really believes what he is saying – particularly when he tells you he is right and everyone one else is wrong.

China managers are well familiar with this persona, as we run into both the American and Chinese versions. The same confidence and conviction that gives them the strength to try something new can also be their undoing. All too often, it is also the downfall of their investors, supporters and those who thought they were partners.

Uber-confident Newtrepreneurs are at their best when things are at their worst, and the success of the organization can actually be an interference. Newt’s narrative is that the world is against us and I am the only one telling you the truth. Popular acceptance is so anathema to this manger that he doesn’t know what a win looks like. Tell him his ideas are accepted and he’ll find an even more extreme position to champion. The Newtrepreneur is never happier than when he can stake out a barely defensible point of view, and then make you accept it. His partners and supporters will watch in dismay as he ignores the path of least resistance and go out of his way to find new challenges that will result in either his glory or everyone else’s tragedy.

What can you look for from the Newtreprenteur?


The good news is that Newt is no namby-pamby waffler. He doesn’t lack for confidence – even bending puny reality to conform to his view of reality. The “with me or against me” litmus test will shake out more than a few of your teams best people – and you’ll spend much of your career wondering if you shouldn’t have been one of them.

Ignoring inconvenient facts.

The Newt will talk about moral leadership while forgetting his own infidelities, indulgence and sources of income. To this type of manger, the facts are never at odds with the Vision. Someone else will clean up the mess and deal with the fallout. Unfortunately, it just might be you.

Vilifying the competition instead of building up his own program.

The Newtrepreneur can’t distinguish between his own greater glory and the progress of the enterprise. Sometimes that means that business takes a back seat to ego. Hell – that’s almost always what it means. When there’s a lucky accident and the success of the venture aligns with his personal glory, it’s a Forbes story. Otherwise, it’s someone else’s problem. That would be yours.

Tactical wins, strategic losses

Mandarin translations end to but the distinction between tactics, but the differences are huge and highly significant. Strategy is about goals, tactics about methods and operations. One is not more important than the other and they are clearly linked – but they are not the same thing. Tactical wins often result in bottom line losses.

The Newtrepreneur wins battles but loses wars. Years later, he’ll pour you a glass of expensive scotch and share with you his personal insights about the glory and tragedy. But that don’t put food on your children’s plates – and neither does this type of manager. NGO fighters can indulge in heroism and glory – managers get the job done. And that is the Newtrepreneur’s weakness. He doesn’t succeed. Every once in a while he conquers – most of the time he just plain fails. And he takes down everyone with him.

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