Mr. Snyder’s evidence seems to show clear correlations between the gay experience and the development of what others have called emotional intelligence, and his arguments for a causal connection are persuasive. In addition, it seems that gay executives would come down decisively in support of Professors Pfeffer and Sutton’s views on management’s “dangerous half-truths.” What remains unaddressed is whether these conclusions hold in all contexts (Mr. Snyder’s thesis seems limited to the Anglophone world and perhaps even to particular kinds of business), how straight managers can teach themselves to develop emotional intelligence and change their organizations, and whether the costs of such changes are worth the benefits.
None of these lessons from experience would have changed the pragmatic approach of Bismarck, who, after all, was a master of the incremental process as he moved toward his goal of creating a strong, united Germany. In the early 1880s, he introduced Europe’s first labor laws and a welfare system, not for any ideological reasons, but to forestall the rising power and appeal of the socialist movement. In 1890, he was dismissed by Emperor Wilhelm II, who exhibited much of the aggression and impatience characteristic of modern managers. The European geopolitical system, like all social constructions, had become unstable and it had to change, but it collapsed 24 years later with such violence and on such a large scale that it would take nearly 80 years to find a new, sustainable model. As philosopher George Santayana famously wrote in The Life of Reason, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve…and when experience is not retained…infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He could have been writing about management.
David K. Hurst (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contributing editor of strategy+business. His writing has also appeared in the Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times, and other leading business publications. Mr. Hurst is the author of Learning from the Links: Mastering Management Using Lessons from Golf (Free Press, 2002).