Management is meant to be rational and reasonable.  Though, anyone who has been in an organization and been capable of fogging a mirror knows that this is not true.

Organizations are full of people.  Where there are people, there is ego, competition, conflict, crisis, politics…and that is on a good day.

The problem of reasonable management became clear when I was working for an aerospace company.  Its basic problem was quite simple: it was going bust quick.  In a full act of desperations, the CEO ordered a 20% reduction in headcount and working capital across each of our two divisions.

Immediately, all the excuses started rolling in:

  • We have already cut our costs, so we cannot cut any more.
  • We already have best-in-class costs versus competition, so we cannot cut any more.
  • We are growing at 20% a year — we cannot cut and grow at the same time.

Any reasonable manager would have listened and adjusted the targets. And all the reasonable managers would now be unemployed, having worked for a very reasonable, but bankrupt business.

The CEO realized this, and clarified his early demand of us leaders “Get me the 20% or you will be part of the 20%”.

The 20% was delivered and the company survived.

Most great leaders are not reasonable, or even very nice, people. If Alexander the Great had been reasonable, he would have realized that he ruled a tin pot state on the edge of civilization. Being unreasonable, he conquered the entire civilized world by the age of 30. To this day, we remember Alexander the Great. No-one remembers his cousin, Alexander the Reasonable.

In the managerial world it pays to be selectively unreasonable. Managers who are always unreasonable about everything are just a pain in the ass and quickly lose friends and allies.

But unless a manager is occasionally prepared to push the team hard, the team will never achieve all that it is capable of doing.

What do you think? Should a boss be unreasonable on occasion or does this just give them license to demand too much?

I will take any thoughts….(Except from you Stavi – You should be working!) Email me at

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