The rise and inevitable fall of the visionary business leader

Tomorrow's Business

The dashing entrepreneur approaches a PR firm, full of beans. “I’ve got a thousand brilliant ideas. Make me a star,” he asks them. “Position me as a thought leader,” they demand.

How often does the PR firm do as it is bid and take its fee?

How often does it advise moderation, tell the wannabe that stars crash to earth, and suggest that if they really are that clever, they’ll get more attention than they know what to do with soon enough?

I’m guessing they usually do the first, even if profile slots and glowing news stories are a lot harder to get than the business person realises.

Cocky children demanding attention often get put in their place. Cocky business folk, never until it is too late.

At least three famous businessmen have this year fallen from a great height – Sir Martin Sorrell, Neil Woodford and Luke Johnson. (Sir Philip Green’s implosion also continues).

These four folk are not the same, but they have certain things in common. Apparently unshakeable self-belief, for one thing.

The press wouldn’t have been quite so fascinated by any of their downfalls had they not made such a noise about themselves in the first place.

Luke Johnson is set to return to his column in The Sunday Times, after a break while he dealt with the collapse of Patisserie Valerie.

He was tricked, he now says, an admission that sits uneasily with the notion that he’s a guru in the first place.

It will be interesting to see if the tone of his column changes, or if he still feels that his advice on running businesses is a must-read.

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