Can a Horrible Boss Be a Great Leader?
On June 26, 1940, as Britain was girding for the onslaught of the Luftwaffe after the fall of France, Clementine Churchill wrote her husband, Winston, an admonishing note.
“There is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner,” she warned the prime minister, who was otherwise preoccupied by the prospect of imminent Nazi invasion, a scheming foreign secretary, a restive backbench and the absence of material support from the United States.
“I have noticed a deterioration in your manner, and you are not so kind as you used to be,” she continued. “It is for you to give the orders and if they are bungled — except for the King, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Speaker — you can sack anyone and everyone. Therefore with this terrific power you must combine urbanity, kindness and if possible Olympic calm.”
Clementine concluded by citing a French proverb, “One can reign over hearts only by keeping one’s composure.” Winston got the message and found ways to make amends. As his private secretary, Jock Colville, later recalled, “When he was at No. 10 there was always laughter in the corridors, even in the darkest and most difficult times.”
The Battle of Britain was not decided because Churchill chose to behave better. But given his indispensability at the moment of crisis, it might have been lost if he hadn’t won the confidence and love of those who made the victory possible.
The subject of bad bosses is again in the news thanks to Amy Klobuchar, U.S. senator, Democratic presidential aspirant, and, as a recent story in the Times made clear, the living antithesis of whatever “Minnesota Nice” is supposed to be. She throws binders at underlings. She makes them wash her dishes. She suspects office moles. She attempts to sabotage the job prospects of those who want to resign. She reproaches her staff with her own self-pity.
On a trip to South Carolina, forkless, she makes an aide wash her comb after she’s used it to eat a salad — but apparently not before.
Though the senator has her defenders — 61 former staffers signed a public letter supporting her — the essential truth of the Times’ story is attested by the fact that for years she has had among the highest rates of staff turnover in the Senate. Klobuchar admits to being “tough” and having “high expectations.” But the behavior described by The Times isn’t tough. It’s horrible.
Anyone who’s had a horrible boss knows the difference between tough and horrible — between leaders who set high bars and those who administer petty humiliations.
文／Bret Stephens 譯／陳韋廷
文／Bret Stephens 譯／陳韋廷
而horrible跟terrible之間的區別在於，前者形容的事情可能讓你感到不舒服或厭惡，但不會感到害怕；後者則指令人長久、難以忍受的驚恐之事，而前者程度通常較後者強烈，例如I've seen terrible movies, but this one is so horrible.（我看過很糟的電影，但這部實在太糟了。）
文中片語make amends表示「改正、補償」之意，後面常加上介系詞for來指要改進或彌補的事物，例如He has made amends for ruining our party.（他已為搞砸我們的聚會賠罪了。）
至於Olympic calm一詞則出自荷馬史詩《奧德賽》，用來形容一種絕對平靜的狀態，而Minnesota nice則指的是美國明尼蘇達州人民熱情友善的待人方式，特徵包括待人以禮，將人際衝突降到最低，維持社會的和諧。