The latest in our series of unlikely business gurus, by Derek Harbinson
Helping the medicine go down: Mary Poppins
Dick van Dyke’s mockney accent aside, discussions of the Disney film of Mary Poppins usually invoke whizz popping, the flying of kites and other adventures generated by a brisk nanny with a brolly and a warm heart. But look deeper and the film reveals itself to be an indictment of the financial world, with Poppins’ role central to fixing the system and rehabilitating the reputation of a banker.
Harsh but fair would be the best way to describe Mary Poppins’ management style: she’s an authoritarian and a stickler for discipline while at the same time showing the employees (or in this case the children) a world where anything is possible if they believe enough. This perfectionist, cult-of-personality style of management is supremely effective if you can really pull it off (just ask Steve Jobs or Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron). And Poppins does it with aplomb. Her eccentricities mark her out as one to watch (and would get lots of PR), while her hard-headedness makes her trustworthy in a crisis.
A run on the bank where Mr Banks works causes Poppins to take a swift executive decision — and scarper with the kids. The banking crisis is finally solved with a simple word from Poppins to Mr Banks’ boss. Well, a quite complicated and very long word, actually — supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. These days, we tend to say “quantitative easing”, but the magic is supposed to be pretty much the same.
Jimi Hendrix, Gandalf... learn more business tips from our series of unlikely gurus.
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