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James Turley of “Ernst & Young”, Putin and Kaganovich · 19 October 2011

James Turley, chairman of “Ernst & Young”, addressing Vladimir Putin on replacing Dimitri Medvedev as President:

“We support your candidacy for the post of president, but we will miss your leadership here in your capacity as prime minister.”

Nikita Khrushchev wrote that Lazar Kaganovich “used to throw back his chair, bring himself to his full height, and bellow”:

“Comrades! It’s time for us to tell the people the truth. Everyone … keeps talking about Lenin (ie Medvedev??) and Leninism. We’ve got to be honest with ourselves. … What was accomplished under him? Compare it with what has been accomplished under Stalin (Putin??)! The time has come to replace the slogan ‘Long Live Leninism’ with the slogan ‘Long Live Stalinism’”.

Turley presents himself as very civic minded (on the Board of Directors of Boy Scouts of America etc). When I showed Turley’s comments to three young Russian men working at another major accounting firm, they were not impressed. One said: “He probably wants the next big audit, but unfortunately we have to live here. Its our life!”.

The reality is that Putin would probably make a good Boy Scout leader/master – and this is the simple lens through which Turley sees life!

Below is more from my book on “Dictatorial CEOs & their Lieutenants – Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao”.

Servility, flattery and words that echo in his mind are not consciously sought by the dictatorial CEO as something that is good for his health; rather, they are luxuries which have been made available to him, and which he increasingly craves. They are addictive, but eventually also a little boring. They are also cheap. They can be offered by anyone in contact with him, from the most senior of his lieutenants to the most-lowly tea-lady. While it is most pleasant to get them from the former, the advantage of the latter is that they come with less cause for suspicion; the lowly have least cause and opportunity to undermine the dictatorial CEO.

The dictatorial CEO is aware of the dangers. He knows that information is power and makes an effort to find out what is actually going on. Dr Li thought that “Mao did want to be told the truth” about the effects of the Great Leap Forward.

Bourreinne explained that “in the discussions of the Council of State Bonaparte was not at all averse to the free expression of opinion. He, indeed, often encouraged it; for although fully resolved to do only what he pleased, he wished to gain information.”

After a rocky start following the German invasion, Admiral Kuznetsov thought that Stalin’s relations with his field commanders improved and he “listened more to their opinions”. Indeed, Kuznetsov later wrote: “I suspect he even liked people who had their own point of view and weren’t afraid to stand up for it” – although Kuznetsov was well-aware that Stalin considered that ‘point of view’ to be ‘information’ only.

While Dr Li thought that Mao wanted to be told the truth, he also noted that he “could not accept it when it included criticism of him or when it came from conspiring ministers who might be contenders for his power”. Instead, “the truth had to come to him on his own terms” – “the truth had to come from political innocents”.

The dictatorial CEO wants to both feel and look secure in his position; ‘political innocents’ such as office juniors, technicians – and doctors! – are not a threat. In a similar vein, Speer noted that Hitler ‘encouraged his military entourage not to be servile’; and – like Mao with Dr Li – Hitler used his military adjutants as non-threatening conversation partners.

Of course, the problem with ‘political innocents’ is that they can be just that; and the truth as they see it may not actually be the truth. Speer wrote that Hitler “gladly sought advice from persons who saw the situation more optimistically and delusively than he himself”. Thus it was not surprising that with the invasion of Russia opposed by many generals – and by Goering himself – Hitler sought out interlocutors who would agree with him. Speer wrote that “in long talks with his four military adjutants” – of which Below was one – “Hitler tried to arrive at definitive plans. He seemed to especially like these young and unbiased officers, all the more since he was always seeking approval, which they were more likely to give him than the perhaps better informed but sceptical generals”.

The writer Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu wrote that Ataturk “never liked to have ‘yes-men’ around him”, but then gave the example of “an insignificant public servant” who one evening “took a stance against Mustafa Kemal’s views”:

“Mustafa Kemal became altogether angry. He was speaking in a tense and harsh manner. Now and again he would hit the table with his hand. The person he was addressing calmly continued to voice his opinion. We felt sorry for him. We felt that he was putting his future on the line. However, a few months after this scene, this little public servant was promoted to a higher position. And after that he became a (National Assembly) Deputy.

Obviously Ataturk had praised his stubborn character.” However, Ataturk also knew that the ‘little public servant’ was more of a ‘political innocent’ than a ‘conspiring minister’; and that his “stubborn character” was no threat. While all dictatorial CEOs are capable of accepting other points of view within limits, the senior lieutenants know what the ultimate reality is.

As Bourreinne wrote of Napoleon after he became First Consul, “truth now reached him with difficulty, and when it was not agreeable he had no disposition to hear it”. The best way for a senior lieutenant “to pay court” to Napoleon was to tell things “as he wished it to be”.

What Mussolini really wished for was to be a war-CEO. In September 1941 Italian armed forces Chief of the General Staff, Cavallero, supported a plan to attack Tobruk in order to (according to Ciano) “please” Mussolini: “Cavallero is revealing himself a perfect peddler who has found the secret entrance to Mussolini’s heart.”

According to Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, Lavrenti Beria would say to Stalin: “Oh yes, you are so right, absolutely true, how true.” He was, she recalled, “always emphasising that he was devoted to my father and it got through to Stalin that whatever he said, this man supported him”.

Even the very capable and loyal Zhou Enlai felt the need to go that little bit further. According to Dr Li, he was “Mao’s slave, absolutely, obsequiously obedient”.

If, as Bourreinne noted, a lieutenant can repeat what the dictatorial CEO has “himself been thinking” what “he wished it to be” – the lieutenant is on a winner. The trick, of course, is to know what the boss is ‘thinking’!

The cunning Goering – who surprised the Swedish businessman, Dahlerus, with his “strictly formal and obsequious behaviour” toward Hitler during a meeting – had his own direct and simple method. According to Speer, he would not immediately arrive at many a military situation conference. Instead: “General Bodenschatz, his liaison officer to Hitler, left the situation conference in order to brief Goering … so we suspected on certain disputed questions. Fifteen minutes later, Goering would enter the situation conference. Of his own accord he would emphatically advocate exactly the viewpoint that Hitler wished to put across against the opposition of his generals. Hitler would then look around at his entourage: ‘You see, the Reich Marshal holds exactly the same opinion as I do.’”

French Ambassador Francois-Poncet thought Ribbentrop’s methodology was similar to that of Goering: “It consisted in listening religiously to his master’s endless monologues and in committing to memory the ideas developed by Hitler. More important, Ribbentrop noted the intentions to be divined behind those ideas. Then, after Hitler had forgotten ever discussing them with Ribbentrop, the courtier passed them off as his own … Struck by this concordance, Hitler attributed to his collaborator a sureness of judgement and a trenchant foresight singularly in agreement with his own deepest thoughts.” A member of his staff later confirmed this approach, and noted: “If Ribbentrop found that Hitler had taken a stand different from what he had expected, he would immediately change his attitude.”

Goebbels neatly summed up the genre when referring to Keitel: “One might describe him as a ‘sentence-finisher’. He simply watches the Fuhrer’s lips and as soon as he sees where a sentence is heading, he is keen to finish it for him.”

The lieutenants note, as Dr Li did soon after his 1954 appointment as Mao’s doctor, “a strong correlation between the flattery Mao received and the speed with which the flatterers were promoted”. They also note that this correlation becomes closer with time. By 1961, Dr Li noticed “Mao’s growing willingness to promote his sycophantic followers regardless of their abilities or skills”.

The addictive nature of flattery is such that the dictatorial CEO often cannot resist directly encouraging it. Lin Biao, reflecting on the Great Leap Forward, which he thought “pure idealism”, commented that “whoever did not speak falsely fell from power”. He was thus ever ready to flatter Mao, and in 1966 began a speech by saying “Chairman Mao is a genius. … One single sentence surpasses ten thousand of ours”. A few years later he told the 1969 Ninth Party Congress that “at any give time, in all important questions, Chairman Mao always charts the course. In our work we do no more than follow in his wake.” Mao loved it. Some years before, after a similar speech, he had commented that “Lin Biao’s words are always so clear and direct. They are simply superb. Why can’t the other party leaders be so perceptive?”

“Mao basked in the flattery”, wrote Dr Li, “even when he suspected that it was not sincere, knowing that over time he would be able to distinguish the genuine political loyalists from the sycophants”.

Indeed, the dictatorial CEO who is also ‘the Man’ and does not make the big mistake of Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini – that is, extravagant extra-organisational take-over adventures – is generally secure enough to take this risk and survive.

Khrushchev wrote that Politburo member Lazar Kaganovich “was nothing but a lackey” to Stalin — and that Stalin pretended not to love it; although, he clearly did!

“Kaganovich used to throw back his chair, bring himself to his full height, and bellow: ‘Comrades! It’s time for us to tell the people the truth. Everyone in the Party keeps talking about Lenin and Leninism. We’ve got to be honest with ourselves. … What was accomplished under him? Compare it with what has been accomplished under Stalin! The time has come to replace the slogan “Long Live Leninism” with the slogan “Long Live Stalinism”.’ While he would rant on like this, we would all keep absolutely silent and lower our eyes. Stalin was always the first and only one to dispute Kaganovich. ‘What are you talking about?’ he would say, ‘How dare you say that?!’ But you could tell from the tone in Stalin’s voice that he was hoping someone would contradict him. … This ‘dispute’ between Kaganovich and Stalin became more and more frequent, right up until Stalin’s death. No one ever interfered.”

All this yes-saying and flattery can occasionally get too much for the dictatorial CEO. It is not very informative; and, in the end, even boring. Zhukov was present on an occasion just before the war when Stalin snapped at some lieutenants:

“What’s the point of talking to you? Whatever I say, you reply, ‘Yes Comrade Stalin; of course, Comrade Stalin; you have taken a wise decision, Comrade Stalin.’”

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