Masters of Management: How the Business Gurus and their Ideas Have Changed the World – for Better and for Worse by Adrian Wooldridge

Masters of Management: How the Business Gurus and their Ideas Have Changed the World – for Better and for Worse by Adrian Wooldridge

Masters of Management


Just from the title alone, you can tell that Masters of Management is a bit softer in tone than the book it revised and updated – a classic, The Witch Doctors by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, released in 1996. Micklethwait, now editor-in-chief at The Economist, bowed out of this updated version, but Wooldridge carries the torch forward to cover the rise of the internet, globalisation, the explosion in entrepreneurship, and the ever-expanding field of management and leadership literature.

It is also the first comprehensive documentation of how the management field has transformed civil society and government – for better and for worse – in the past few decades. For instance, attempting to reward public servants whose initial motivation is working for the public good with incentive-based pay has proved to be somewhat disastrous in its results, while devolving power from central governments to local public servants has been a boon for efficiency.

Although its title emphasises the positive over the negative, Masters of Management does not pull its punches, and its critiques of management theory and its “gurus” are as fair and sober as you’ll find anywhere. When Wooldridge does go negative, he does so through surrogates by quoting prominent thinkers on the less savoury characters in the field. For example:

The late Peter Drucker liked to quip that people use the word “guru” only because they cannot spell “charlatan.”

“Never have so many laboured for so long to say so little,” was [Warren] Bennis’s waspish verdict on the leadership literature.

This book is an even-handed look at management theories and literature. It is a guide to everything management theory has produced – the good and the bad, the whirlwind of theories, jargon, and gurus that propagate the literature – and it comes out of that mineshaft holding a glittering handful of gold nuggets that will make your decisions about where to look for guidance much wiser and more refined.

Masters of Management belongs on the shelf of every manager in the country.

Previous books of the month