The Reporter
Issue 499, 7 June 2004
Main stories
News in brief
In the news
Small ads


Main stories

Stalin papers reveal 'how not to manage'

Dr James HarrisStalin’s leadership style undermined the USSR by setting unrealistic targets and placing penalties on subordinates telling the truth, according to historian James Harris (right), who has been looking at newly-opened archives of the Soviet leader’s correspondence.

In his leadership of five-year plans Stalin ignored data which cast doubt on the possibility of achieving targets and put disincentives in the way of telling the truth – removal or execution – that massively distorted information flows.

Local officials spun a complex web of deceit, playing down their capacities, exaggerating their needs and undermining any directive that might put them in a position of failure.

He said: “Stalin would be a great example for a ‘how not to manage’ guide. Lessons for today are that where saying something realistic about a target is career limiting, you get an unproductive outcome. We see the result all the time in business and government – where targets are unachievable, it distorts the intended outcome.”

Conventional wisdom is that Stalin used Soviet ideology simply to further his power but Dr Harris believes comparisons of his private views and public propaganda show he believed what he was doing was right.

“Historians had assumed, quite sensibly, that published materials such as speeches, articles and legislation were drafted with a propagandistic purpose,” he said. “The archive was expected to show us the reality behind the public words. It has surprised us all to see that for Stalin discussed issues with his inner circle in the very same terms.”

Most Soviet archives were closed until the USSR collapsed in 1991, but since then, millions of papers have been released. However, only in 2000, were the papers of the ‘Stalin Archive’ opened to the public.

Page owner: | Updated: 7/6/04


In this section
About The Reporter
Current issue
Back issues
Search all reporters
Search current issue
Email the reporter
See also
Press office
Press releases
In the press
News archive
Facts and figures
History of the University
Send a postcard

Campus tour

A-Z staff listings Faculties Administration and services Library (opens in new window) LUU [Leeds University Union] (opens in new window) Campus map Site map The Reporter Campusweb Contact us  
The University of Leeds newsletter University of Leeds