NICE GUYS finish last. That pithy motto was coined by Leo Durocher, a baseball manager noted for exulting at injuring his opponents and for cheating his players at cards. In 1969 his Chicago Cubs had a big lead in the closing weeks of the season, but he so alienated his squad (and the umpires) that the team failed to make it to the World Series. In his case, nasty guys finished behind.
This is one of the tales told by David Bodanis, a writer best known for his science books, who has turned his attention to the issue of how leaders should exercise their authority. The core message in his book, “The Art of Fairness”, can be found in the subtitle: “The power of decency in a world turned mean”.
The Empire State Building was constructed in just 13 months, and that included the dismantling of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel that sat on the site. Paul Starrett, the builder, treated his workers rather well by the standards of the time, paying much attention to safety and paying employees on days when it was too windy to work. Daily wages were more than double the usual rate and hot meals were provided on site.
The concept is known as “efficiency wages”. Companies that compensate workers well and treat them fairly can attract better, more motivated staff. Unlike most construction projects, the Empire State Building had low…