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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.