Beach reads: Taking from the rich...

Beachgoer reads a book

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: It's high summer, the beach is beckoning and we've asked some of our commentators to give us their nomination for the best business beach book ever. Titles that won't make you sleepy. Just smarter. All while you dig your toes into the sand.

Commentator Nell Minnow kicks off our series. In her day job at the Corporate Library, Nell deals with business ethics. But her pick is a classic tale about a thief.


Nell Minow: Well actually, Robin Hood is a classic tale of a great CEO.

Sir Robin of Locksley was a nobleman who rebelled when evil Prince John tried to take control in what today we might call a hostile takeover. The other nobles went along, but Robin protected the peasants and led a band of outlaws in robbing from the rich to pay King Richard's ransom and restore him to the throne.

Robin Hood exemplified all of the qualities of a great leader. He had a clear vision that he communicated effectively. He understood his goal, and never got distracted. He did not ask others to take risks that he was not willing to take.

Best of all, when Little John tossed Robin off the log into the water, Robin immediately offered him a job, saying "I love a man who can best me!" Every great CEO I've met understood that the secret to success is surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are, not feeling threatened by them.

But why rob? Yes, it is satisfying to steal from the rich, but it is a high-risk, short-term strategy that isn't sustainable. Eventually, the rich are going to figure out that they had better not carry their jewels and gold when they go to the forest.

Once Robin met his goal and returned Richard, he needed an entirely new business plan. But his weakness wasn't a lack of vision. He just happened to be born a few centuries before the invention of the corporate structure.

If he'd had the opportunity to raise capital through a public offering, he'd have founded Sherwood Industries and put those peasants to work turning trees into consumer goods. And the great-great-great-great grandchildren of those peasants would now be the shareholders of a successful manufacturing company.

Ryssdal: Nell Minow is the editor of The Corporate Library.

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