Ha-Joon Chang uses the term ‘Private Sector Bureaucrat’ to describe executives like Mark Weldon. Who is obviously a smart guy. He did graduate work at Columbia, worked for McKinsey, was successful at the NZX. But he’s not an inventor or an engineer or industrialist or innovator; he hasn’t created his own company. He runs organisations other people have built, delivering products or services other people thought up – just like senior civil servants do in the public sector. And that isn’t to denigrate civil servants or executives in public companies; running big, complex organisations in either the public or private sector is hard!
!But there’s this weird culture around executives in the private sector. It’s not enough for them to think of themselves as very senior bureaucrats. Bureaucrats suck! So they’re thought leaders! Wealth creators! Visionaries! And, sure, a tiny number of them are; guys like Rod Drury and can accurately be described in those terms. But mostly they’re Weldons. Smart people who can manage organisations but have never had a visionary thought in their lives, which is why his plan for TV3 consisted of sacking all the expensive news staff and focusing on celebrity gossip and reality TV. Any random person you picked off the street could have come up with the exact same idea, and if they’d executed it with less destructive hubris than Weldon it could have worked. The executive as visionary wealth creator is a mentality that leads to guys like Weldon running around their companies firing everyone and destroying shareholder value because in their eyes, they are the value.