In 1956 Fortune editor William H. Whyte Jr. described the emergence of a new type of superexecutive in The Organization Man. Whyte’s “organization man” lived for the corporation and willingly conducted his life by its rules. A generation later, author Michael Maccoby claims that the organization man is rapidly being replaced by yet another breed of high-powered executive. In his best-selling The Gamesman (Simon and Schuster, $8.95), Maccoby, director of the Harvard Project on Technology, Work and Character, draws his conclusions from interviews with 250 businessmen and women representing 12 major U.S. companies. He describes the bold new gamesman, as well as the other executive types he must work and compete with: the jungle fighter, the craftsman and the company man. Maccoby, 44, married and the father of four children, is a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. He discussed the emergence of the gamesman with Christopher P. Andersen of PEOPLE.
Who is the gamesman?
He is a collection of seeming paradoxes: competitive, yet cooperative. Concerned with teamwork, and yet not particularly interested in people. He loves spontaneity and risk, but he wants to control everything. He is both liberal and conservative—the team player who would be a superstar. He has pursued his fantasies. His main goal is not wealth, but the fun and the challenge of being a winner. His biggest fear is being labeled a loser.
Where does this new corporate gamesman come from?
His roots are firmly planted in the American frontier spirit. The gamesman would be perfectly at home with Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting, treating life like a game of crises. Usually the first-born son and a Protestant, the prototypical games-man of today was in the Navy, has an engineering degree and is the father of three children.
What percentage of corporate managers are gamesmen?
In a large, elite company like General Motors, Exxon or IBM, the breakdown would be about 15 percent gamesmen, 15 percent jungle fighters, 30 percent craftsmen and 40 percent company men.
What characterizes the jungle fighter?
Historically, the jungle fighter has been an entrepreneur and an empire builder—Andrew Carnegie, for example, or Revlon founder Charles Revson. The jungle fighter sees the world as totally competitive, a jungle where you destroy or are destroyed. He believes there is only room at the top for one, and he is determined to be it. While the company men, craftsmen and gamesmen hate to fire anyone, the jungle fighter takes real pride in being feared. He enjoys it. But he is too suspicious and sadistic to cooperate with strong-willed peers—and that is often his downfall.
Are jungle fighters all the same?
No. There are foxes and lions. The foxes operate by seduction, manipulation and betrayal. The lions are wily but, like Charles de Gaulle and Henry Ford Sr., they dominate with their superior ideas, courage and strength. Ironically, the macho jungle fighter frequently comes from a family where the father was an unaggressive failure and the mother a domineering tigress who pushed her child to succeed.
What about the craftsmen?
Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison were the quintessential craftsmen. These are the builders, printers, inventors, farmers, blacksmiths, the developers of modern technology used and exploited by all the other types. Unlike the jungle fighter or the gamesman, the craftsman does not compete against other people as much as he does against nature, materials and especially his own standards of quality. He wants to do well and make money, but he is motivated more by problem-solving and he enjoys life. Usually a small-town boy who is respectful of his own parents, the craftsman is family-oriented. He makes it a point to spend time at home with his wife and children. A terribly proud man—the craftsman’s motto would be “Don’t tread on me”—he often feels put upon by the other corporate types. I don’t think craftsmen get to the top anymore.
Do company men?
Occasionally. But they are being replaced at the very top by the gamesmen. Actually, the company man is someone whose sense of identity is basically how he sees himself as part of an organization. The company man is usually from a large family, and the company is his new family. He feels he can do little by himself. At his best, he can be an institutional loyalist and a bastion of integrity. At his worst, he is a frightened, masochistic person who is always trying to cover his behind. Company men are laughed at as Babbitts, but you’ll often find them occupying the No. 2 spot in an organization. They are superb functionaries, but at the same time they are not regarded as a threat to the boss. The company man usually lacks the risk-taking ability, the toughness, detachment, confidence, self-control and energy to reach the very top.
Will the gamesman squeeze out the craftsman, company man and jungle fighter?
No. All these types built this country. We’re always busy trying to find the good guys and the bad guys when no good guys or bad guys exist. All are essential to the functioning of the system.
Don’t all four types exist outside the business world?
Definitely. In show business, academia and government there are a disproportionate number of jungle fighters and gamesmen. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were complex jungle fighters. Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford were company men. John Kennedy was a great gamesman, and so is Henry Kissinger.
Is Jimmy Carter a gamesman?
Yes, he has all the qualities. Carter will have to resist the gamesman’s natural urge to throw out everything and start all over. This is the zero-based-budgeting mentality that we have already heard him espouse. Things do not work this way. If you go in saying you intend to change everything, you create such terror that the bureaucrats hunker down until the tornado passes. People are not just pawns in a chess game, and they will resist this kind of upheaval.
What are the gamesman’s strengths and weaknesses?
He is a perpetual adolescent and brings to the company a certain enthusiasm and playfulness that are quite attractive. His biggest weakness is also that of the adolescent: he lives a sort of semifantasy life, for example, imagining in boring meetings that he is at a briefing before a dangerous bombing mission. Kissinger saw himself as a lone cowboy of the Old West. At their worst, gamesmen are compulsive, manipulative workaholics. Without the game—without a new challenge—they become bored and quite depressed. To liven things up, they may engage in lots of flirting, though just how far they can go is circumscribed somewhat by their organization’s attitude toward this sort of play. Actually, in some firms a gamesman is practically expected to fool around. The unwritten rule of one major company is that it’s all right, so long as you “don’t dip your pen in the company inkwell.”
Is there a corporate gameswoman?
Since barely one percent of the top corporate managers in the United States are women, there are very few gameswomen. It’s still very much a macho thing. Most highly successful businesswomen tend to be company women—they don’t have the castrated feeling common among company men—and there are also a few women jungle fighters.
Is the gamesman socially responsible?
Not at all. He will pollute the environment, sell anything the FDA will allow, and even though he thinks the government spends too much on weapons, he’ll make them.
Is this a negative trend, then?
America is now a full-blown meritocracy, where we are judged as human beings by our success in school, in college and on the job. A 1974 survey showed that young college graduates have turned away from social reform and toward careerism. They want to get ahead, and this means a certain detachment—from our own feelings as well as those of others. This detachment, this lack of humanity, has reached its zenith in the gamesman.
Can this be changed?
The creative gamesman can recognize what he is, and do something about it. He can also be, as some are, compassionate and idealistic. He can stimulate in his employees and peers a sense of security, equity, participation and growth in a way that will engender loyalty. I see this hopefully as a sort of managerial mutant, a new corporate type who will develop his heart as well as his head.