So you wanna be the boss, the don, the guy who calls the shots at your company?

Fuggedaboutit. You gotta be tough, decisive, passionate, brutally honest and loyal to your family. And, for now at least, you have to resist that overwhelming urge to "whack" underperforming staff.

These are some of the lessons to be learned from Tony Soprano, the hard-nosed lead of the hit TV drama The Sopranos, writes Anthony Schneider in his new book on management. The book, entitled Tony Soprano on Management: Leadership Lessons Inspired by America's Favorite Mobster, will be released in Canada by Penguin on Valentine's Day. It will sell for $21.

Part comic ode to Cosa Nostra ethics, part earnest management guide, the book finds much to admire about Tony Soprano's ruthlessly direct style of running things -- except for the killing your underlings part, of course.

Fans will be kept amused by the healthy smattering of Tony Soprano anecdotes and quotes, while would-be managers can refer to the worksheets, case studies and gun-topped slogans in each chapter.

Tony, as any fan knows, doesn't waste his time making decisions. No endless meetings and consensus building. Bada boom, it's done. He's honest about his opinions and listens to his team, but in the end, he's the boss. He sticks to a top-down hierarchy, but isn't afraid to delegate and builds his organization on people, not systems.

And when someone screws up and the you-know-what hits the fan, he isn't afraid to "bust some balls." Sure, you may end up at the bottom of a river wearing cement shoes -- but at least with Tony, you know where you stand.

In an age of corporate scandals, economic uncertainty and accelerating technological change, writes Schneider, Tony Soprano's "new" old-school tactics can serve as a model for managers and executives who want to simplify their operations and regain control.

Schneider, speaking by phone from New York, said he turned to Tony while struggling to manage his young firm, an Internet strategy firm called Web Zeit. Unsatisfied by the remedies offered by traditional management books, he decided to try out some of the techniques used on his favourite show, The Sopranos.

The strategy paid off when he had to mediate a dispute between one of his project managers and an engineer. Instead of a bloated feel-good meeting to mend fences, Schneider had one-on-one "sitdowns" where he laid down the law and brokered a quick solution.

"Leaders. That's who we need. Old style, tough, honest, transparent leaders who really care about the people who work for them and really care about managing," said Schneider, a marketing consultant and leadership coach.


The Vancouver Sun 2004