From The TimesDecember 20, 2007 Forget Gordon and Fabio - just follow the brigadier Sandra Parsons I dont suppose its come as much of a surprise to anyone that an inquiry into the performance of the Treasury has concluded that, in his last years there, Gordon Brown led from the top in splendid isolation, as The Times put it crisply earlier this week. The reviews, conducted by civil servants, public sector chiefs and external advisers, said that the Treasury failed to encourage teamwork, motivate staff or communicate with other departments, and suffered from poor leadership, a failure to inspire and a lack of humility. Its a damning list. Those in the know say that Brown is an autocratic manager who abhors criticism and is loath to accept another point of view, but in this he is not alone. Indeed, it seems that most people are pretty bad at management. Out of 1,500 managers who responded to a survey by the Chartered Management Institute recently, the vast majority said they experienced management as either bureaucratic, reactive or authoritarian, with only a minority experiencing it as innovative or trusting. One of the hardest requirements of good management is good communication. Many of us struggle to criticise someone to their face in a manner that is constructive rather than rude, but it is always reassuring to learn that even the grandest and cleverest are rubbish at it, too. Theres been an entertaining spat this week between the Government and the Bank of England. Basically the Governor of the Bank of England thinks that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have lost their nerve because of the credit crunch and Northern Rock. Instead of asking them over for a cup of tea and a friendly chat (The whole things a complete dogs dinner but dont you think wed better introduce a few reforms to stop the rot now?), Mervyn King has instead passed on his opinion via senior City sources to a newspaper. So while communication may not be Gordon Browns strong suit I think we can say its not Mervyn Kings, either. We learnt at the weekend that Baroness Shephard of Northwold, a former Tory Cabinet Minister, told King two years ago that she was deeply concerned about Northern Rock and couldnt understand how it was able to offer such cheap loans. Kings response, apparently, was to tell her that she didnt understand banking and that there was nothing to worry about. Lady Shephard, who had been so concerned that she had pursued King after a meeting he had attended at the House of Lords, retorted that as a director of a building society herself she still wanted to know where Northern Rocks money was coming from. What we have here is a classic case of command-control management, complicated further by the obvious but pertinent fact that King is a man and Lady Shephard, a woman. Women are often cited in surveys as being better managers than men. This is because they tend to be consensual, open to hearing others opinions, and good communicators. They can often deliver criticism more palatably and are generally more emotionally intelligent. (Not always. Some of them can be more aggressive, arrogant and insecure than any man.) But, faced with a patronising putdown, most women will, like Lady Shephard, fight only so much before giving up. They perceive that they are never going to be taken seriously, and so they move on. A man in a similar situation gives up only for the moment, returning to make his point another day. He perceives the setback merely as a temporary mistake by his superior. Whatever the reason, this sort of command-control management is, according to the Chartered Management Institute, on the rise and this is bad for business, because it results in a cynical, disillusioned workforce which is unwilling to innovate. With this in mind I have been fascinated to read of new England head coach Fabio Capellos much-vaunted authoritarian management style. His dictatorial technique comes as no surprise when you learn about his upbringing. Capellos mother told last week of how her husband, now dead, would take their young son and throw him into the sea from the top of high rocks: I used to turn away. I couldnt bear to watch. Fabio wasnt even 10 years old, she said, her horror still eloquent more than 50 years on. Meanwhile, the former Mayor of their home town recalled of Capello senior: He was determined Fabio learn. It was: You must, you must, you must. It will be interesting to see how our footballers react. Personally I prefer the example set by the Army, which at first glance appears to be the ultimate in top-down, command-control management nightmares. And yet . . . It is not for nothing, one feels, that army officers are taught not only how to obey but how to lead and how to inspire. The best officers know that some rules are made to be broken, that soldiers will go the extra mile for you only if you have earned their respect, and that, while its possible you will win a battle through force alone, you will never win the war unless you have also won hearts and minds. And so, in a week rife with examples of questionable management in the worlds of finance, politics and sport, let us turn for inspiration to the British Army and Brigadier Andrew Mackay, who, it was revealed on Monday, personally took part in the recapture of a Taleban-controlled town in Afghanistan. Instead of issuing orders from his office miles from the front line, he flew by helicopter and then walked almost a mile across no mans land to reach the town of Musa Qala. He then spent ten days directing operations from a hole in the ground 700 yards from the fighting. His bed was a rollout mat. The night before the attack began, he addressed his men, to the effect that the best people were those who were good at plan B, as plan A never survives in the Army. On this occasion however plan A (involving a pincer movement and a feint) did survive, as indeed did the brigadier and his men. A question for Gordon, Mervyn, and the FA: what is your plan B? And a proposition for Brigadier Mackay: once youve finished with Afghanistan, how about coming back to sort a few things out here? Christmas cheer People are lamenting what they take to be newfangled Christmas behaviour, such as that a majority of Britons now tend to start Christmas day with a glass of champagne, have a starter of smoked salmon and mop up some of the alcohol mid-morning with a slice of stollen or panettone. But what amazes me is how little our Christmas traditions have changed. We still have Christmas trees with fairy lights, we still fill stockings, and most of us will sit down to roast turkey with all the trimmings, having first pulled a cracker, donned a paper hat and read out a silly joke. That we are adding to this with champagne, fine wine, and the best Christmas delicacies is testament to the fact that nowadays were almost all middle class. Just as we now expect good coffee and good wine anywhere in Britain, so too are we embracing the good life in our own homes. And for that we should be very, very thankful. I may be are you? Talking of being middle class, how sad to read that Diana, Princess of Wales, wanted to marry Hasnat Khan, her surgeon lover, and lead a middle-class life. As her friend Lucia Flecha de Lima, to whom she had confided this wish, had to explain to her, this was a forlorn hope as she was not a middle-class princess. This is not to say though that middle-class princesses do not exist. Natasha Kaplinsky and Fiona Phillips come to mind. I may even be one myself. Any more suggestions? A fairytale wish Re Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. Thank God the BBC censored the words faggot and slut, only to rescind their decision: all part of a cunning plan, I hope, to ensure that it gets to No 1 and that for once, a really, truly, fabulous song dominates the airwaves this Christmas.