Two Dozen Basic Management Principles (Pt. 1)



The farmer opened the door with a suspicious look on his face. He looked at the group up and down. “Okay ,” he said, “you can come in but don’t touch anything. And don’t sit on my furniture.”  He opened the door wider and then said, “It will cost you five shillings apiece.”


Lopez’ heart sank. The other boys all pulled out their money without a moment’s hesitation. Lopez reached into his pocket and felt that wonderful coin – the first coin he had possessed in months. He had such plans for it. Lopez started to tell the man, “Forget it,” and leave, but he did not want to walk the five miles back to his tent all by himself. And he really wanted to find out what made this thing called the Olympics so special that these boys would hand over their hard-earned money so quickly.


Locals filled the farmer’s living room. Every piece of furniture had someone on it. Lopez looked around the living room. The Olympics was not what he had expected. Apparently it consisted of a box with wires running out the back of it. The wires were connected to a car battery. This is the Olympics? What is so special about this?


The farmer walked over and flipped a switch on the front of the box. Black, white, and gray images flickered to life. The box was not the Olympics. It was something that was on the screen.


The boys all cheered. Lopez cheered with them. Unfortunately, soccer players did not run out onto the screen – the only sport Lopez really understood. Instead, the athletes stayed outside the big field in the middle, on a little road with white lines drawn on it. They took their places behind a white line. A man held up a gun. It fired. The guys on the screen took off running. Thousands upon thousands of people filled the stands around the track. As the men ran, the people screamed and carried on. When the winner crossed the finish line, the crowd cheered even louder.


Watching people run on television was a revelation for Lopez. Never before had he thought of running as a sport. Running was his therapy, his release, his escape from the world around him. Yet, in the Olympics, running was a sport. And judging by the number of people in the stands, it was a popular sport. He was mesmerized. He was fascinated.


The highlight of the night was a race called the 400 meter dash. The announcers talked about one runner in particular – a man named Michael Johnson. Lopez did not know it at the time, but this was Michael’s final race, the capstone to one of the most successful track careers of all time. All he knew was the camera focused primarily on one man, a man with skin the color of his own. Across his chest were three letters: USA.


The runners took their mark. The gun sounded. Michael Johnson took off. He ran with a very distinctive style: head up, back straight, everything about him screamed confidence. Lopez thought: “I can run like that. I know that I can.”


Michael Johnson flew around the track. He ran through the string at the end before anyone else. The announcers said he’d just won the gold medal. Lopez was not sure what that was. He took a flag from someone in the crowd, a flag with stars and stripes on it. He wrapped himself in that flag with pride. He held it up and ran a victory lap with it.


Then something happened that astounded Lopez. The top three runners took their places on a small platform. A man came up and placed medals around their necks. Music began to play and flags rose up from behind the men. As the music played and the flags rose, Michael Johnson did something African men never do – he wept openly and without shame!


As Lopez walked back to his tent, an idea hatched in his brain, an idea that should have struck him as being ridiculous. In his mind’s eye, he watched Michael Johnson run his race over and over again. Then and there, Lopez decided that he would be an Olympian. Moreover, he wanted to run with those same three letters across his chest: USA.


The year was 2000 but there was a problem – Lopez was a 15 year old Sudanese refugee, without parents, living in a refugee camp in Kenya.




A study of basic management principles can be a rather dreary exercise. The typical presentation sets forth a list of principles and – if you are lucky – interlaces the principles with a couple of illustrations or humorous stories. This presentation is completely different. I plan on telling a story – an inspiring story. And from that story I will shamelessly borrow twenty-four basic management principles. In effect, I intend to provide you with a fresh look at basic management principles.


[1] Lopez Lomong with Mark Tabb, Running for My Life. Thomas Nelson Press, Nashville.

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