Keating’s straight men, fixers and maddies

Could you fit our business leaders into the same frame as Keating’s view of Politicians?

“Politicians come in three varieties: straight men, fixers and maddies,” Keating declared in the final part of Keating, The Interviews on ABC television, insisting the ‘maddies’, including Margaret Thatcher, are those who “charge in and get it done”.

But the former Prime Minister said his unorthodox ways were minor compared with Winston Churchill, who read the papers in bed, had his butler draw a bath and returned to bed until midday while he was running World War II.

We meet all types in our line of work and could even name names. Can you?

The ‘straight men’, are the ‘safe pair of hands’ the leaders who maintain a healthy status quo, don’t rebuild what ain’t broken, provide constancy and trusted processes. We think of them as modern day patricians.

The ‘fixers’ take an engineering and scientific approach; they’ll dismantle what is broken and carefully reconstruct the organisation or even a sector, bringing people with them for the ride. They’re the Roman architects of durability, utility and beauty.

The ‘maddies’ are a whole other category. Perhaps they’re the so called ‘one-offs’ of the corporate world. They direct proceedings from their command and control HQ, with insights and visions held uniquely by them alone. Results can be brilliant or bankrupting.

Paul Keating has confessed to being a ‘maddie’ as a political leader, saying the inspiration for many of his biggest projects came from getting as “high as a kite, mad” listening to symphonies on a Saturday morning.

We’re sharing our view of a few names from history and today. If you don’t know them by name, look them up and let us know if you agree. And who you would add?

Patricians: Anthony Horden, Leigh Clifford, Don Argus

Architects: Angela Ahrendts, Madame Clicquot, Andrew Bassett, Sally Walker

One-offs: Steve Jobs, Al Dunlap, Gina Rinehart, Gerry Harvey, Dick Smith, Keith Rous

What’s your Point of View?

Anita Ziemer

Anita is the Executive Director of Slade Group, and a member of the advisory board. In a career spanning roles working in government, not-for-profit, public company and the SME sector, Anita has a broad view of the landscape of Australians at work. Committed to making a difference in her professional and personal life, Anita is a Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas, previous Chair of Melbourne Girls Grammar School, and a Non Executive Director of online men's lifestyle publisher Boss Hunting.

Anita Ziemer
Executive Director
Slade Group
Level 10, 333 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 3 9235 5100

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