More than a moghul — Moscow


Alexander Lebedev, former politician and owner of the UK’s ‘Independent’ and Russian opposition title ‘Novaya Gazeta’, is not your average oligarch. Here, he tells us why his management style is definitely hands-off.

National Reserve Bank, Newspapers, Novaya Gazeta

Alexander Lebedev is looking pensive as he settles into a chair in his Moscow office. “I’ve been thinking about the theme of our interview and I’ve come to some conclusions,” he says in flawless English. Oh, good. And what are they? Lebedev frowns. “I don’t have a management style and I’m not a good manager.” Hardly the opening Monocle had expected – or hoped for – but very little is predictable in the figure of Alexander Lebedev: ex-politician, businessman, newspaper magnate and one-time KGB spy.

His reception room is bland enough: chintzy curt…

  1. What time do you like to be at your desk?
    Pretty late. Say around 11. Because I really think a good sleep is necessary to keep in shape. And I need to do some sports, some reflection, meditation and thinking.

  2. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership, an MBA school or on the job?
    An MBA is a good supplement, of course. A good measure of education is always handy. But otherwise it’s a combination of your character, your upbringing and the skills you learn from personal experience. That is, by committing mistakes.

  3. Describe your management style.
    Very hands-off. Very non-interfering. Concentrate on finding the right people. Pick the right person and let him do what he wants, rather than picking the wrong person and telling him, “Do that, do that and do that.” Because it never works. I know, I’ve made that mistake. I’m too soft.

  4. Are tough decisions best taken by one person?
    Well, I take all tough decisions by myself. First I listen, I listen, I reflect. But finally I take the decision alone. Luck and intuition play quite a big role.

  5. Do you want to be liked or respected?
    Probably respected. I do a lot of things which are a matter of defending a principle. People might not like that but they often respect it.

  6. What does your support team look like?
    I need a couple of secretaries to keep contact with the outside world. I don’t have personal advisers. I do have a group of 10 or 12 people whom I put together when I really want to do some brainstorming.

  7. What technology do you carry on a trip?
    iPhone and iPad. I don’t use BlackBerrys. But sometimes I like to get away for a couple of weeks with no contact at all. Too much information can get you confused.

  8. Do you read management books?
    No, I’m pretty ignorant on that. I’m not very impressed by this American science. I’ve read a book on Warren Buffett by a Russian author. It seems his style couldn’t really be applied in this country.

  9. Run in the morning? Wine with lunch? Socialise with your team after work?
    I do an hour and a half of yoga every morning. Sometimes I meditate or swim or use an elliptical trainer in the gym. No wine with lunch; it makes you sleepy. I’ve been socialising less, of late.

  10. What would your key management advice be?
    I think you need stamina most of all. You have to be able to bang your head against the wall 999 times before you get something right on the 1,000th try.


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