Working for The Onion Is Like Going to War; CEO Raised on Battlefield Wisdom


In this weekend’s Corner Office interview, New York Times readers are treated to some management advice from Steve Hannah, chief executive of The Onion, the finest source of news parody since 1988.

There are two takeaways from the Q&A:

1) This guy is profoundly unfunny. As he admits, “People say, ‘This guy is going to be a laugh a minute.’ Sadly, it’s a very disappointing evening for them. I am the hired help. At The Onion, the creatives are absolutely the center of gravity.”

2) He’s also obsessed with the armed forces, war, and battlefield leadership.

Maybe it’s a theme of the talk, but it’s also bizarre.

On his biggest leadership influence:

“My dad was a World War II and D-Day veteran. He was just a tough guy, and everything I ever learned about leadership from my dad was, you know, manage tough, manage angry. Life is tough, an endless struggle. You’re entitled to nothing.”

On his early mistakes as a leader:

“I had lunch with a friend who said, ‘Do you get up every morning and think that life is a battle, that you’re going to war every day?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, basically.'”

On his biggest influence, Lt. Gen. Harold Moore:

“He had a favorite phrase: ‘I’ll always be the first person on the battlefield, my boots will be the first boots on it, and I’ll be the last person off. I’ll never leave a body.'”

What else?

Hal would always say to me: ‘Listen to the people below you because they are on the front lines.'”

It’s hard not to think this man is in the wrong line of work. But, uh, fire away?
If Plan B Fails, Go Through the Alphabet [New York Times]