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Top US execs have revealed the secret of their success: regular thrashings as children which taught them "important lessons, essential on the road to success", as the Evening Standard puts it.

That's according to a new study by sociologist Eve Tahmincioglu - entitled Lessons Learned on the Journey to the Top - which says that "most company leaders had tough disciplinarians as parents".

Take Leggett & Platt CEO David Haffner, who confessed: "I received the belt when I deserved it, which was about six times a year. The discipline influence remains for a lifetime. It was a major contributor to my success."

As a result of the hidings, Haffner is now "disciplined, detailed and organised", as presumably is Time Warner big cheese Richard Parsons who admitted he was he was often "spanked with a stick or 'switch' cut from a tree in the back garden", primarily for misbehaving in school.

This arboreal disciplinary theme is repeated in the case of Shell Chemicals executive vice president Fran Keeth who said she was "beaten with a stick from the family's peach tree".

Kaye-Bassman International CFO Nick Turner, meanwhile, explained: "You knew that if you didn't cut the grass right away or chop wood or feed horses, you were going to get a spanking. Corporal punishment helped with my success. I needed to learn self-discipline and to focus on a goal. I certainly wouldn't have done that if I had grown up with Mary Poppins.

"I'd say that 90 per cent or more executives got spankings and these are people who have turned out to be stable, focused, and competitive guys."

Turner seems to be right. All of the top cats quizzed by Tahmincioglu said "they were hit by their parents as children and that it did them good".

She explained: "It taught them to respect authority. They feared their parents but loved them as well. Their parents would follow through with a spanking when the children misbehaved. Today there is no follow-through."

However, a separate report by USA Today, while agreeing that all 20 execs it interviewed were "were paddled, belted, switched or swatted" as children, offered an alternative slant.

University of New Hampshire sociology professor Dr Murray Straus told the paper: "Evidence points to corporal punishment as detrimental. If some spanked children grow up to be successful, even billionaires, it's like saying, go ahead and smoke because two-thirds of smokers don't get lung cancer." ®

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