Andrew Hill

Most chief executives think of themselves as rational. Certainly, in the world of closely scrutinised listed companies, it would be unwise for corporate leaders to project any other image.

But, as Manfred Kets de Vries of Insead business school puts it in a new working paper, written with colleague Alicia Cheak, “our everyday lives consist of webs of constantly shifting and irrational forces that underlie seemingly ‘rational’ behaviours and choices – and life in organisations is no exception”. To lead successfully, he suggests, requires a “psychodynamic approach” that seeks to understand the hidden factors motivating teams. Read more

As this month’s centenary of the outbreak of the first world war drew nearer, historians jousted over what the world would have looked like if the bullet Gavrilo Princip aimed at Archduke Franz Ferdinand had missed, or if Britain had not leapt to Belgium’s defence.

Ben McLannahan

The denial from Chugai Pharmaceutical could hardly have been more emphatic.

No, Japan’s number three drugmaker by market capitalisation had nothing to do with news reports that Roche, its 59.89 per cent shareholder, was weighing a buyout of minorities, it announced on Saturday. Then it went on: “Chugai is in no way in the process of reviewing any plan to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Roche, nor discussing with Roche about such a transaction.” Read more

Emma Jacobs

Max Schireson says no one ever asked him how he balanced work and parenthood

Last week, Max Schireson announced his decision to step down from his post as chief executive of MongoDB, an open source database developer. The reason? To spend more time with his family. It was no euphemism. He really meant it. Read more

Fred Goodwin, disgraced former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, was notorious for what were nicknamed “morning beatings”, where he focused rage and ridicule on his lieutenants. According to Shredded , Ian Fraser’s new book, the senior team would play Hangman while waiting for the meetings to start, “to see who might be ‘strung up’ next”. Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers was known for his short temper and intimidating style. The wrath of Robert Maxwell, the late media tycoon, was epic.

Bernie Ecclestone, the 83-year-old supremo of Formula One, this week brought his empire-threatening bribery trial to an end by agreeing to pay $100m to the German court that was hearing the case. That is right: he paid off the state of Bavaria to escape a bribery charge.

Emma Jacobs

Justin Timberlake, pop star and actor, is not typically seen as shedding light on societal divisions. Yet the character he played in a film, In Time, a few years ago, was on to something. Set in a dystopian future, where time is currency, the US has been split into “time zones” based on personal wealth. Timberlake’s character, Will Salas, handsome yet poor, tries to bring down the system.
A new study by the University of California, Berkeley, has found that although time is objectively identical for everyone, time perception is subjective. The authors’ key message is that the more powerful you are, the more time you feel you have. In fact, the authors write, “powerful individuals believe they have control over outcomes that they could not possibly control, such as the outcome of a die roll”.

 Read more

In the 1970s you could buy a hippy-ish poster of a bird flying towards a lurid sunset, with the maxim: “If you love something, set it free: if it comes back to you, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.” I assumed the slogan had expired along with a taste for joss sticks and tie-dye T-shirts. I am amazed to find it has instead become a formal human resources policy.

John Gapper

My first reaction to the $73bn bid from 21st Century Fox for Time Warner, which this week settled in for a prolonged fight as Time Warner blocked Fox from mounting a rapid assault on its board of directors, was to ask: what problem is Rupert Murdoch trying to solve?

Shortly after Philip Clarke made his surprising – and, it turns out, prescient –admission at a conference in March that his days as Tesco chief executive were probably numbered, the boss of another blue-chip British company asked me, worriedly: “Does it sometimes take two CEOs to turn a company round?”

Andrew Hill

There is no longer much call for poetry at Microsoft’s devices division, the bulk of which consists of Nokia’s old handset business.

Stephen Elop, former Nokia chief executive, now heads the Microsoft unit and on Thursday had the task of announcing 12,500 job cuts (out of 18,000 in total). The axe will fall on many former Nokians who remember the flights of fancy in Mr Elop’s 2011 “burning platform” memo, in which he urged them to make a leap into the unknown to help turn the company around: Read more

The longest line at the Farnborough International Airshow this week was for a model aircraft. In the absence of the F-35 Lightning, the colossally expensive and accident-prone stealth fighter that was scheduled to be the show’s highlight before an engine failed on a test aircraft, Lockheed Martin brought a replica.

John Gapper

Rupert Murdoch is not exactly putting his money where his mouth is with 21st Century Fox’s unsolicited $80bn offer for Time Warner. By offering non-voting Fox shares as part of the cash-and-stock bid he has made clear that he will not risk his voting grip on his family-controlled company. Read more

Andrew Hill

Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state, famously said there was “a special place in hell” for women who don’t help other women. But new research suggests that women leaders – and managers from ethnic minorities – will also be damned if they go out of their way to advance people who look like them.

A paper to be presented at next month’s Academy of Management annual meeting says women and non-white leaders who value diversity – and show it through their actions – are “systematically penalised with lower performance ratings” by their bosses. By contrast, valuing diversity earns white men higher ratings for both warmth and performance. The net effect, however, is that the “glass ceiling” is reinforced. Read more

When the lucrative business of advising on mergers and acquisitions was in the doldrums, consultants spread the idea that crisis management was “the new M&A”. They wielded news stories such as BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Rolls-Royce’s disintegrating Qantas engine, and Toyota’s jammed accelerator pedals to frighten clients into contracts aimed at helping them cope with such disasters.