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1. I have never compared myself to my managers…although I have made some big financial decisions on my own and decided on new investments, I have never involved myself in managerial decisions.

Giovanni Agnelli (1921-2003) Italian business executive and president of Fiat. Quoted in Interview on Modern Capitalism (Arrigo Levi; 1983)


2. The finest plans are always ruined by the littleness of those who ought to carry them out, for the Emperor can actually do nothing.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German playwright and poet. Mother Courage (1939)


3. If you are having as much fun running a big corporation as you did running a piece of it, then you are probably interfering too much with the people who really make it happen.

James Burke (b.1925) U.S. C.E.O. of Johnson & Johnson. Fortune (June 6, 1988)


4. I’ve always thought that I had a great gift for being a beachcomber…if I could find someone who could do the work better than I could I would hire that man and take it easy myself.

  1. Paul Getty (1892-1976) U.S. entrepreneur, oil industry executive, and financier. Quoted in Getty on Getty (Somerset de Chair; 1989), ch. 1


5. When I arrange to put up a building, I don’t try to become an expert judge of stones or other building materials.

Amadeo Giannini (1870-1949) U.S. banker and founder of Bank of America. “The Story of an Unusual Career,” Forbes (November 1923)


6. Time span of discretion.

Elliot Jacques (b.1917) Canadian psychologist and sociologist. Referring to the level of authority given to managers. A General Theory of Bureaucracy (1976)


7. You could not maintain any illusion of direct control over a general or provincial governor…You appointed him, you watched his chariot and baggage train disappear over the hill in a cloud of dust, and that was that.

Anthony Jay (b.1931) British author and business consultant. Arguing that a key reason the Roman Empire grew so large and lasted so long was the delegation necessitated by poor communications, Management Machiavelli (1970)


8. Big things and little things are my job. Middle level management can be delegated.

Konosuke Matsushita (1894-1989) Japanese electronics executive, entrepreneur, and inventor. Quest for Prosperity (1988)


9. Written instructions are seldom adequate and personal involvement is essential.

David Packard (1912-96) U.S. entrepreneur and cofounder of Hewlett-Packard. The HP Way (1995)


10. You establish some objectives for them, provide some incentive, and try not to direct the detailed way in which they do their work.

David Packard (1912-96) U.S. entrepreneur and cofounder of Hewlett-Packard. The HP Way (1995)


11. I’ve got an ego and all that, but I know I need help. So I go and hire the very best people.

  1. Ross Perot (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and politician. Inc. (January 1989)


12. My experience is that people who are really, really bright find it very difficult to delegate because they literally could do the job better themselves.

  1. Ross Perot (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and politician. Inc. (January 1989)


13. Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.

Ronald Reagan (b.1911) U.S. former president and actor. Quoted in Fortune (September 1986)


14. Not the least among the qualities in a great king is a capacity to permit his ministers to serve him.

Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) French politician. Testament Politique (1641)


15. There is no indispensable man.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) U.S. president. Campaign speech, New York City (November 3, 1932)


16. He liked nobody to be in any way superior to him…he chose his ministers, not for their knowledge, but for their want of it.

Duc De Saint-Simon (1675-1755) French writer and soldier. 1721? Referring to Louis XIV Memoires (1694-1723), vol. 3


17. People complain that I cause too much havoc and don’t intervene enough in times of crisis, but the day I intervene is the day I condemn the entire system.

Ricardo Semler (b.1959) Brazilian business executive and president of Semco. “The Mavericks,” Fortune (June 1995)


18. Never learn to do anything. If you don’t learn, you’ll always find someone else to do it for you.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. writer. Attrib.


19. I never hesitated to promote someone I didn’t like.

Thomas J. Watson, JR. (1914-93) U.S. C.E.O. of IBM. Fortune (August 1987)