Osbourne Inc: Why Ozzy's a great CEO
It's become endlessly popular to make facile comparisons of various non-business-world figures to CEOs. Even today we still see references to George W. Bush having the management style of "a big-picture CEO."
Why bother pointing out that some CEOs are big-picture types and others are micromanagers? Why bother noting that the same variation occurs among any set of leaders, from politicians to baseball managers?
So I give up. I'm joining the pack. I've decided that it's possible, after all, to consider any public figure through the lens of corporate leadership. Today, then, we will consider the management style of Ozzy Osbourne.
What style is that? Well, Ozzy can be said to operate like a big-picture CEO. Example? Consider one of the more memorable installments of The Osbournes, the MTV series about the heavy-metal icon's domestic life.
Ozzy was confronted with trouble: His son, Jack, had allowed into the house a buddy named Jason, who seemed to have no plan of leaving, ever. Ozzy identified this as a problem.
Early in the episode, he spelled out his strategy: He would sit back and do nothing for a few days and see what happened. But if the kid continued to get on his nerves, he'd have to be downsized.
Now, Ozzy has other responsibilities, such as working on elaborate pen-and-ink drawings and contemplating his vision (or just having visions), so he moved on; he didn't obsess about the details. In fact, Jason indicated at one point in the show that Ozzy didn't even seem to remember him. That's no surprise! The CEO of Osbournes Inc. was focused on the big picture, after all.
Anyway, Jason continued to have a negative impact on family operations. So he had to go. That's where Ozzy's wife, Sharon, comes in. She's effectively the chief operating officer, or COO, of the family, taking care of day-to-day details what Bob Pittman used to be at AOL (Entertainment Weekly has suggested that Sharon might be "the most powerful woman in rock").
I didn't actually see Ozzy delegate authority to her on this, but that in and of itself might be evidence of his CEO-like efficiency. In a smoothly operating organization, there's an ingrained system in place that makes such orders unnecessary.
Sharon, a canny and no-nonsense COO, fixed responsibility on Jack. He was given the task of giving his slacker pal the heave-ho. He squirmed a bit about this, but Sharon held firm. And in a rather sniveling performance full of half-truths and apologies ("You don't mind?"), Jack managed to give Jason his walking papers. Problem solved.
The parallels between the Osbournes and an efficient corporation, then, are indisputable. Indeed, Ozzy's performance was exemplary he articulated (albeit in a slurry voice laced with profanity) the goals and let others take care of the particulars without any further interference, or indeed awareness, on his part.
We could all learn a lot from this CEO-like style. We can only hope that he'll share his "lessons" with us, perhaps in a book to go alongside the ones that promote management tips gleaned from Star Trek or the Founding Fathers or Jesus maybe Diary of a Mad Manager: Leadership Secrets of Ozzy Osbourne.
Believe me, someone would buy it. Sounds crazy, but that's how it goes.
Rob Walker is a journalist living in New Orleans. Among other publications, he contributes to The New York Times, GQ, as well as Slate, where this essay first appeared.