Robert Townsend

Robert
Townsend
1920
1998

American Business Executive, CEO of Avis, Director of American Express, Author of "Up the Organization"

Author Quotes

All decisions need to be made as "low" as possible in the company. The charge of the Light Brigade was ordered by an officer who wasn't there looking at the territory.

It?s interesting that otherwise competent businessmen, capable of budgeting a complex operation, can't figure out that the cost of maintaining two women is twice the cost of one plus certain fringes. An early symptom of the mistress is a sudden surge of creativity in an executive's expense account. I once had a personnel vice-president who had taken up with one of our executive secretaries. If it had been outside the company I wouldn?t have minded unless it interfered with his work. But a personnel man with his arm around an employee is like a treasurer with his hand in the till? These guys are in the moment, so they can convince even themselves about what they?re saying.

True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.

All organizations are at least 50 percent waste -- waste people, waste effort, waste space, and waste time.

It's a poor bureaucrat who can't stall a good idea until even its sponsor is relieved to see it dead and officially buried

Try calling yourself up to see what indignities you have built into your own defenses.

Cars that have been seriously damaged in one state can be wind up in another.

Make every decision as if you owned the whole company.

When you get right down to it, one of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people's excuses for failure.

Compromise is usually bad. It should be a last resort. If two departments or divisions have a problem they can?t solve and it comes up to you, listen to both sides and then, unlike Solomon, pick one or the other. This places solid accountability on the winner to make it work. This places solid accountability on the winner to make it work. Condition your people to avoid compromise.

Managers must have the discipline not to keep pulling up the flowers to see if their roots are healthy.

Why spend all that money and time on the selection of people when the people you?ve got are breaking down from under-use. Get to know your people. What they do well, what they enjoy doing, what their weaknesses and strengths are, and what they want and need to get from their job. And then try to create an organization around your people, not jam your people into those organization-chart rectangles.

Consultants are people who borrow your watch and tell you what time it is, and then walk off with the watch.

Many ideas are good for a limited time -- not forever.

Don't hire a master to paint you a masterpiece and then assign a roomful of schoolboy artists to look over his shoulder and make suggestions.

Many people give lip service, but few delegate authority in important matters. And that means all they delegate is dog-work. A real leader does as much dog-work for his people as he can: he can do it, or see a way to do without it, ten times as fast. And he delegates as many important matters as he can because that creates a climate in which people grow.

Excellence and size are fundamentally incompatible.

Most people in big companies are administered, not led. They are treated as personnel, not people.

Flooded vehicles are sometimes cleaned up by unscrupulous sellers without disclosure of flood damage. In most states, this is illegal, but unfortunately some vehicles will slip through the system.

One of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people's excuses for failure.

If asked when you can deliver something, ask for time to think. Build in a margin of safety. Name a date. Then deliver it earlier than you promised. You'll be very valuable wherever you are.

Rewarding outstanding performance is important. Much more neglected is the equally important need to make sure that the underachievers don?t get rewarded. This is more painful, so it doesn?t get done very often.

If people are coming to work excited...if they're making mistakes freely and fearlessly...if they're having fun...if they're concentrating on doing things, rather than preparing reports and going to meetings...then somewhere you have a leader.

The artist must conceive with warmth yet execute with coolness.

If you don't do it with excellence, don't do it at all! Because if it's not excellent, it won't be profitable or fun, and if you're not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?

Author Picture
First Name
Robert
Last Name
Townsend
Birth Date
1920
Death Date
1998
Bio

American Business Executive, CEO of Avis, Director of American Express, Author of "Up the Organization"