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What your boss could learn from megalomaniacs, villains and innovators

Andrew Beattie
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Management is part science and part art. When you are in charge, it requires a lot of energy and attention to be able to juggle people and resources in order to meet targets on specific initiatives and help the overall growth of a company. In this article, we'll look at some management tips from some famous leaders who got things done.

Napoleon: Share the recognition
Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military genius and off and on again emperor, was a master when it came to managing his army. Although Napoleon was an expert arranging troops on a battlefield, his greatest achievement may have been his system of recognition and reward.

Napoleon pioneered modern pageantry - awarding soldiers with honours, badges, colours and so on for valiant acts and continuing obedience. He also praised his army liberally and gave them much of the credit for victory. This praise was both general and specific, with certain members being called out above all others.

In a modern business, pageantry still has its place. A manager doesn't need to give out medals or stick a golden eagle on a pole like the Romans did, but it is important to recognise the efforts that help a project or business become successful.

[Related feature: Toxic bosses: Five ways to identify a boss from hell]

Genghis Khan: Use technology
The Mongol horde – from the beginning of their invasion of China to the control of all of Eurasia – was essentially two different armies. The first had excellent horsemanship and bows ahead of their time, allowing them to overwhelm enemies in open combat. The second was a military melting pot with Chinese siege craft, Persian engineering and the best combat techniques from all the peoples they conquered.

The Mongols were quick to integrate, adapt and adopt the new technologies they encountered. This opportunistic adoption of new technology and techniques is equally important in the corporate world. Since the computer, technology has become a vital part of every manager's job. Being open to it and looking for ways to use it more efficiently will save time for you and your employees. Genghis Khan also taught us that a pyramid of heads is an excellent negotiating tool, but that's best kept out of the office.

Bill Gates: Being respected matters

Bill Gates is unlikely to win a poll of the most charismatic chief executives. However, he does stand a good chance of being ranked as one of the most respected.

Gates has been called ruthless, domineering and many other things, but no one ever called him lazy. Stories about the respect for Gates' skills as a programmer and the long days and nights he put in to make Microsoft great became part of Silicon Valley lore. According to the legends, Bill Gates personally reviewed every line of finalised code at the end of the working day when his employees went home.

The high standards he held himself to meant a congratulations from Gates was considered a holy grail. In fact, even a reprimand held appeal as it meant you were being noticed. This aura of respect helped bring the top talent in the door. They knew the environment would be challenging, demanding and rewarding – Microsoft stock turned many of Gates' terrified underlings into very wealthy men and women.

In short, people want to be challenged as much – if not more – as they want to be rewarded and both the challenge and the reward are more fulfilling when it comes from someone they respect.

[Related link: The richest men alive - see where Bill Gates ranks]

Steve Jobs: Get them to believe
And, of course, there is Steve Jobs. Jobs was an expert salesman and was as good at getting his employees to buy in to Apple as he was at getting customers to buy the products.

Jobs purportedly recruited John Sculley from Pepsi to Apple by asking him: "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

Although this backfired when Sculley ousted Jobs – temporarily – from the company, he never stopped selling his ideas to employees. When Jobs returned to Apple, he was able to assemble some of the brightest minds in Silicon Valley and convince them to work day and night to deliver a string of hit products.

[Related feature: How Steve Jobs changed the business world]

The bottom line
Managing people essentially comes down to making sure they have the tools needed to do the job and the motivation and time to do it well. Motivation can come from many sources, but it is easy to catch when the person leading your team believes in what he or she is doing and can make those goals meaningful to you as well.

If you share the recognition, use time-saving tools and set a high standard, and your team still doesn't buy in, then there is always the pyramid of heads to fall back on.

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