Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 at 9:31pm
Today's BlackBerry-wielding, expense-account impresario may think he's invented the concept of retiring at work. But such executricks have been around as long as people have labored at tasks they'd rather not perform. Following are some of the greats in the pantheon of tricksters.
Tiberius Caesar, Ruler of Rome
Ran the Roman Empire mostly from his seaside villa far from the Forum, cavorting with concubines and other less orthodox partners and killing his fair share of friends and enemies, as was the custom of the time.
Think the Hamptons in August, only that's possibly more vicious.
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt
Used the considerable tools at her disposal to lead the most powerful men of her time around by their most vulnerable place, including Julius Caesar and, most unfortunately (for him), Marc Antony, whose reliance on her military counsel (among other things), led to his destruction.
Presented with the possibility of a dignified retirement in Rome as a defeated Queen, she chose a very public suicide by falling on her asp, and kept her standing and honor as a heavy hitter in her own right. The current batch of Wall Street CEOs, now disgraced in the sub-prime mess, could certainly learn from her example.
Benjamin Franklin, A Father of Our Country
Did pretty much what he wanted to do every day for his entire life, while building a career as the ultimate Renaissance Man of the Revolution: politician, inventor, writer, diplomat.
Particularly distinguished himself as an executrickster during his tenure as Ambassador to France, where he managed to live like a rock star and charm just about everybody out of their pantaloons.
Victoria, Queen of England
The Martha Stewart of her time with a chunk of Condi Rice thrown in. She defined the morals, tastes and styles of an entire generation or three, while living in the lap of the greatest luxury attainable at the time.
True, there were no cell phones or BlackBerrys, but lacking that, there was very little this powerful potentate could not enjoy at the snap of her chubby fingers, if enjoyment was something she could have enjoyed.
Ulysses S. Grant, General and President
Carefully cultivated an image as a heavy-drinking dullard when he was in fact a subtle, inventive executive with a keen eye for fatuity and hypocrisy in all its forms. Excellent writer and thinker, somewhat overmatched by the job of the presidency, but who wasn't? Or isn't to this day?
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Perhaps the image of this towering and controversial figure as a brandy-guzzling tippler is overstated.
Perhaps he did not, as reported, down a bottle of his favorite spirit before noon. Perhaps it was only half a bottle. Whatever it was he was doing, it worked for him. And that's what it's all about.
Dean Martin, Actor and singer
Earns his status not because of his somewhat overstated taste for alcohol, but because during his career as a supposed wastrel, layabout and do-nothing, actually managed to assemble a fine archive of excellent recordings and even a number of movies in which his performances stand up far better than those of his more celebrated partners.
Then, of course, there's the drinking, womanizing and partying, which he squeezed in between all the work. A legend of the breed.
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States
They called it Delegation. But we know what it really was: the style of perhaps the greatest practitioner of Executricks who ever ran the world, an individual who was, in effect, a powerful low pressure system at the center of a continual whirlwind of other people's activity.
Arnold Palmer, Golfer
Made a lot of money, had a lot of fun, played a lot of golf, made it look easy. Is easily distinguishable from others in the sport by his seeming lack of neurotic intensity and pompous crud.
William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
Partied all the time until those page-diddling Republican congressmen got to him. Still managed to get quite a bit of work done on the job, but is also a fair example of what happens when a trickster's tricks trip him up.
Still a sentimental favorite of retired employees worldwide.
Madonna, Rock Star and Marketing Concept
Built a huge business based on the constant redefinition of herself, while doing exactly what she would have been doing if you asked her what she wanted to be doing.
Runner up: Bruce Springsteen, who is the boss without having to wear a suit.
Stanley O'Neal, ex-Merrill Lynch CEO
Once compared playing golfing by himself to running one of the biggest investment banks in the world. Living proof that if one doesn't actually put the pedal down at some point one is likely to get into trouble.
In honoring Mr. O'Neal in this venue, he is meant to represent an entire generation of Executricksters who have deposited us into our current economic morass by sitting on theirs.
Yoda, Jedi Knight, Resident of Dagobah
Perhaps the most effective Delegator in the pre-history of the universe, Yoda mostly sits at home in his comfortable little swamp, content to send Luke Skywalker out to save the galaxy, effectively demonstrating the executive perception of the proper relationship between management and labor.