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Simple lessons on management don’t seem to be enough anymore. A new crew of business scribes have dressed up their advice by invoking historical figures such as Jesus, Buddha, and Machiavelli. Another group of writers, like Yankees manager Joe Torre, are offering lessons based on their very uncorporate experiences. Welcome to the age of “What Would _____ Do?” Everyone, it seems, is looking for a fresh trick to enter the business how-to market, an industry that Simba Information, a book industry research firm, values at some $817 million. Now marketing consultant and leadership coach Anthony Schneider enters the field with Tony Soprano on Management: Leadership Lessons Inspired by America’s Favorite Mobster. Hoping to cash in on the buzz surrounding the fifth season of the HBO series The Sopranos, Schneider delivers his business and leadership insights using case studies from the peculiar career of fictional mob boss Tony Soprano. At first glance, Soprano seems a bizarre choice as a model exec. He runs a far-flung criminal enterprise that does everything from hitting up local businesses for protection money to convincing old people to buy fraudulent stocks � not to mention running the Bada Bing! strip club. Plus, he can “whack” problem employees instead of handing them bad performance reviews. As Soprano puts it: “I am the motherfuckin’ fuckin’ one who calls the shots.” But Schneider maintains that Soprano is a capo who has to deal with the same problems confronting any other corporate manager: hiring smart people, predicting trends, motivating the troops, resolving workplace conflicts. Given such a premise, it’s not surprising that Soprano on Management is a fun read. Many business how-tos come spiked with New Age blather and silly diagrams breathlessly illustrating glorious new paradigms. Thankfully, for the most part Schneider avoids such nonsense. Instead, he uses vignettes from the series to make his points. When analyzing Soprano’s personnel decisions, Schneider notes that like most effective CEOs, Soprano works with a close, handpicked executive team. True, his team includes “misfits, murderers, and sociopaths” like Paulie and Christopher, who in this season’s premiere impulsively kill a waiter who complained about a paltry tip. But they have been chosen by Tony because their abilities complement one another. As the author writes, “[Soprano's] teams tend to have the right mix of work personality types. Tony is the strategist. [Lieutenants] Paulie, Christopher, and Sil are collaborators, getting jobs done, moving swiftly from one project to another. Furio and Ralph are implementers, happy to break kneecaps and go home.” When it comes to another important management skill � motivation � Schneider shows how Soprano carefully doles out perks to keep his team performing. Paulie and Christopher join Tony on a first-class business trip to Italy, while the soldiers get booty like designer clothes and shoes for their wives and mistresses. (The trip also serves as a personnel-scouting mission; Tony comes home with a ruthless new enforcer, Furio.) Soprano also knows how to delegate. In one episode he tells Christopher that a local cop who double-crossed their mob also killed Christopher’s father. This may or may not be true, but it has the desired effect: Christopher solves Tony’s problem by offing the cop. There are some built-in limitations to Schneider’s book, however. First of all, it’s nearly useless if you aren’t very familiar with the show. The author frequently talks about not only Tony Soprano, but his estranged wife, Carmela; his reckless nephew, Christopher; Tony’s out-of-touch Uncle Junior; and the turncoat Big Pussy (a former lieutenant who now swims with the fishes). Readers need more than a passing acquaintance with all of the cast’s personality quirks just to understand Schneider’s lessons. Plus, Soprano isn’t looking all that great these days. He’s putting down open rebellions at home (his wife threw him out, and they’re battling over every stick of furniture) and at work (both crew members and rival families are angling for a bigger slice of the action). Schneider’s lessons are drawn from a sunnier time, when Soprano’s empire was still expanding into new areas such as Internet stock fraud and a resurgent real estate market in Newark. Then again, it’s possible that criminal enterprises have recessions, too. And, like the rest of us, capos just have to be patient and wait them out. Hmm Paonita is executive editor of Corporate Counsel.

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