6 Leadership Lessons of a Machiavellian Manager

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Desperate to get control over her misbehaving children, Suzanne Evans turned to Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous sixteenth-century book about politics, The Prince, and used his “manipulative rules” to bring order to the chaos.

In her book Machiavelli for Moms, she tells how she got her family in line by following such Machiavellian maxims as “It is dangerous to be overly generous” and “Tardiness robs us of opportunity.”

Since my company is based on the idea that leaders can learn a lot from the classics, I’m always delighted to hear about anyone who knows how much can be gained, in business and in personal life, from studying the great thinkers of the past.

That said, I get a little annoyed when people refer to Machiavelli as “manipulative.”

A How-to Book for Tyrants?

True enough, when The Prince was first published, it was denounced as a set of how-to’s for tyrants. And yes, over the centuries “Machiavellian” has become a synonym for sinister, sneaky, and bad. Today, a book titled Becoming a Machiavellian Manager would not sell well at all (or maybe it would… but no one would want it seen on their desk!)

Lately, however, I have been re-reading The Prince for a deeper dive into the wisdom it may provide. And I have to say that a Machiavellian Manager (if that’s understood to mean a leader guided by what Machiavelli actually wrote, not by what everyone thinks he wrote) is someone I could easily admire and follow.

Contrary to popular belief, The Prince does not advise leaders to be evil. It advises leaders to be prudent.

In fact, the entire book is a detailed examination of that one virtue—prudence, or pragmatism—and what it looks like when practiced by people responsible for the safety, security, and the well-being of large populations.

One might argue that there are plenty of other virtues leaders ought to have

What about:

  • Courage
  • Empathy
  •  and Justice?

Machiavelli might agree with you.  But he’s not writing about those virtues. He is writing about one very practical idea, namely, how to make sure things turn out well for you and the people you lead.

6 Leadership Lessons

Here are six pragmatic leadership lessons I’ve taken away from The Prince:

  1. Face up to your responsibilities as a leader.
  2. Know what you want and what others want. Try to align the two.
  3. Understand that having control is not the same as having an impact—and that control is always tenuous.
  4. Never imagine that the favors you hand out today will make people forget the insults you dealt them yesterday.
  5. Don’t let your behavior be swayed by unproductive emotions such as fear and anger.
  6. Think clearly and dispassionately about the likely outcomes of your actions.

Should a Leader Always Do the Right Thing?

Lesson No. 6 is one area where I’ve fallen down as a leader. Although I’m good at constructing plans and advising others on how to get from A to B, I don’t always think through the likely outcomes of my actions, preferring instead to make choices based on what “feels right” or what seems “the right thing to do.”

I like to think of this as integrity, but Machiavelli would remind me that leaders don’t have the luxury of making choices based solely on personal principles.

They also need to consider what will happen to their team, their organization, and their allies if they choose a certain path.

You Game of Thrones fans know exactly what I’m talking about (Spoiler Alert for Season One!):  We may give Lord Eddard Stark high marks for integrity, but I think we have to dock him a few points for making choices that result in his execution. His family’s destruction, political chaos, and a bloody war with thousands dead. Just sayin’…

Ends Justifying the Means?

Some might argue Machiavelli’s views are too close to “the ends justify the means” as this ia an idea with a bad history. But thinking back on bosses good and bad, I remember the good ones following the six lessons above and the bad ones mostly ignoring them.

I think I’d rather have a Machiavellian Manager than a leader who sticks to principle and gets us all eaten by direwolves.

What do you think? What Machiavellian (i.e., supremely pragmatic) leaders have you known, and what did you appreciate about them? When does Machiavellian pragmatism go too far? And … was Eddard Stark a good leader, or not?

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————–
Jocelyn Davis

 Jocelyn Davis is Founder and CEO of Seven Learning
She is an Author, Speaker, and Consultant on Leadership Issues
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web

Image Sources: 

 

Wise Leaders Embrace “Benign Subversives”

Benign Subversives

We all hate naysayers, snipers and back room gossips. They subvert our vision, undermine our message and divert attention from our objectives. They must be rooted out, disciplined, fired!

“Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.” ~ Henry Steele Commager

Valuing the Truth

I understand you, I really do. But if you are to excel as a leader you must develop a taste for high quality. sometimes unpalatable,  knowledge about the “State of the nation.”

You need to discern clearly between corrosive people and other people who simply don’t see it your way, but are nonetheless well-meaning and really want the organisation to succeed.

These are the “Benign Subversives.”

As a leader, you should embrace them as important allies, uncomfortable as it may be at first!

Recognizing the Benign Subversives

How can you recognise Benign Subversives and how best to employ their energy? The answer is to re-frame your impression of them and their objectives and see how you can learn from them in support of your own strategy and aims.

History is littered with examples of leaders, organisations and even governments whose drive to uphold an increasingly untenable core vision mutates into self-fulfilling “groupthink.” The organisation ends up assuming the best of everything and never prepares for the worst.

Schlomo Ben Hur, Nikolas Kinley and Karsten Jonsen describe this destructive scenario wonderfully in their paper “Coaching Executive Teams to Reach Better Decisions.”

“Leaders can get stuck in groupthink because they’re really not listening, or they’re listening only to what they want to listen to, or they actually think they’re so right that they’re not interested in listening. And that leads to a lot of suboptimal solutions in the world.” ~Jacqueline Novogratz

The Benign Subversive is Your Antidote

Leaders readily employ expensive external executive coaches to assist in their personal quest for understanding and success. They accept their challenges and inconvenient observations and pay highly for the privilege.

Great coaches act like human mirrors showing their clients the truth in their thinking, feeling and acting.

If you re-frame each internal Benign Subversive in this role you’ll see them as a positive force for purposeful change not an enemy.

Recalibrating Your Team

If you publicly affirm their valuable contribution and encourage them, the quality of their contribution improves as they become more internally motivated.

What’s more, other less assertive people will begin to contribute.

The richness and utility of this transparent information stream is the granular intelligence that great leaders and organisations thrive upon. For a research perspective De Dreu and West concluded in 2001 that, “minority dissent stimulates creativity and divergent thought, which, through participation, manifest as innovation.”

What the Benign Subversive observes may remain inconvenient and uncomfortable, but is a vital contribution to avoiding failure or achieving success. Rely on them to give you another view, one which would otherwise be invisible to you.

As leader you then have the choice to accept or reject their views but at least your decisions will be based on more complete information.

Remember this…

“It is easy to believe in freedom of speech for those with whom we agree.” ~Leo McKern

Taking the Next Steps

Now consider this:

  • Notice who in your team or organisation exhibits the characteristics of a Benign Subversive. How do you view them – problem or solution?
  • Gently encourage objective, non-judgemental observation and criticism; how do people respond? Decide how best to exhibit meaningful responses.
  • Notice the balance between your positive constructive versus negative destructive criticism is response your team or organisation reports to you.
  • How do you react emotionally to a report who disagrees with you or brings you inconvenient news?
  • Notice what happens when you receive objective criticism with a simple “Thank you I will definitely consider what you say”.

Recommended Reading
Managing Corporate Communications in the Age of Restructuring, Crisis, and Litigation: Revisiting Groupthink in the Boardroom by David Silver

Get your free mini-version of “Your Personal Leadership Book of Days – Avoid Cookie Cutter Solutions by Using Your Adaptive Intelligence,”

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web

Image Sources: fortunewallstreet.files.wordpress.com

On Leadership, Employee Morale and The Joy of Ketchup

The Joy of Ketchup

My father has always been a picky eater. He doesn’t like bold flavors at all, so we did not have the joy of trying different foods as kids. He liked things to be overcooked and unfortunately for us, that meant the rest of us had to eat our dinners that way too.

He would cook steaks so well that they were tough to chew. I didn’t know how good a steak could be because ours were tough and burned.

The Joy of Ketchup

Ketchup is a wonderful invention. It was created to enhance the flavor quality of certain foods, but wasn’t ever intended to be used with every item on your plate. But in our house, it was a necessity!

The only way to make some of Dad’s overcooked food palatable was to cover it with ketchup.

We put it on overcooked steak, mashed potatoes, and even the plain white rice he would cook! What was intended to be an enhancement to the dinner experience became a necessity in order to hide the underlying fact that the food was terrible.

The Ketchup of the Workplace

There once was a company called Lomo Ralé Inc. The culture was very fragmented at there:

  • Departments worked in silos
  • Management dictated decisions rather than collaborating with employees
  • The people were both over-worked and under-equipped
  • The environment was a stressful place for employees

As a result of these conditions, employees only gave the effort that they were required to give. There was no reason to give any extra effort. For most of the frontline employees at Lomo Ralé, the company seemed to drain the life out of them.

Then the CEO had read an expert’s book about what incentive awards could do to morale in the office. She gathered her executive team together and came up with a program that would allow the employees to take short breaks in order to to play games and also provide them with plaques and other awards for strong performance.

She was convinced that this would fix the morale issue.

Short Shelf Life

The program was implemented quickly and there was an immediate boost to energy level in the office. Employees smiled more and seemed to actually enjoy themselves. That feeling slowly faded over time because the games and awards didn’t change the underlying work conditions.

Employees still did not feel like the managers had their best interests in mind. Decisions were still dictated downward. The “steak” of the company was still overcooked. The “ketchup” that management had thrown on top was only a mask for what was really underneath.

Cooking a Better Steak

The situation at Lomo Ralé is an all-to-common occurrence.  Managers throw a bunch of “ketchup” on top of a burnt “steak” and wonder why the best people in the organization leave.

For sustained performance, leaders have to cook a better steak – they have to provide a better environment for their people.

Turning Around a Culture

As John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It’s up to you to make the change for your people, no matter where you are in the organization.

Here are some tips for turning around the culture of your organization.

  1. Value your people. People don’t leave organizations, they leave companies because of people. Be the leader that they know you value them. Spend time with your people. Learn about their personal lives (within reason, of course). Stand up for them if they have a suggestion for an improved process. Be their champion and they will champion you. Nothing keeps a stressed group of people together better than people they know value them.
  2. Include your people in the change. Have discussionswith your people to find out what they would do to improve productivity and morale. Take the best of their ideas and do everything in your power to make them happen. Recognize them for their contributions. If they see that they can make a difference, they will want to continue making a difference.
  3. Develop your people. Not many people want to be stuck without hope of improving. Be a proponent of additional training, special projects, and other ways to help your people develop. Their improvement will only boost the team’s capabilities.

So how much ketchup have your employees been putting on what you have been serving up? Have you known that your cooking might be up to par? What can you do to change the recipe of your leadership so that people start loving what you serve? I would love to hear your thoughts!

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————–
Rich Bishop

Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
He takes a hands-on approach to your Development through Coaching & Training
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Blog | Book

Image Source: media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com

Leaders: Filling the Talent Pool

Filling the Talent Pool

Startup Success: The 7 Most Common Mistakes New Entrepreneurial Leaders Make

Entrepreneurs bring a lot of self-confidence to the table. Most abandon careers, often lucrative careers, at which they excelled to become their own bosses. This is generally a boon to their young business.

However, their high confidence levels and competence at their previous careers can lead them to make a number of common, avoidable mistakes.

Here are a few to watch out for.

The 7 Most Common Mistakes New Entrepreneurial Leaders Make

1) Not Delegating

Many, if not most, entrepreneurial ventures start out as one-person operations. The entrepreneur does everything, from bookkeeping and marketing to product development. Once the business reaches a point where more staff can be brought in, a lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to let go of managing every detail; they insist on doing or rechecking everything.

This approach, no matter how understandable, is a waste of employee time. Even worse, though, it’s wasted time the entrepreneur could better spend on developing new products, making new industry contacts or closing new deals. One of the best pieces of advice on delegating comes from Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Media.

He said,

“The trick is to start promoting from within on day one. I’m not just referring to moving people to new positions, but giving all employees enough flexibility to take on new responsibilities within their current jobs.”

2) Avoiding Professional Financial Advice

Entrepreneurs frequently attempt to manage their finances themselves, and often with disastrous results. Unless the entrepreneur happens to be an accountant starting a company, startup owners shouldn’t try to manage their own finances. A good accountant can keep a startup on the right side of tax payments and help develop a coherent salary strategy.

3) Failing to Diversify

It’s easy for entrepreneurs to develop tunnel vision about their product or service offering. They spend vast amounts of time thinking about, refining, and pitching it. That hyper-focus, while advantageous in the beginning, can work against a startup after it gets established. Frequently there are opportunities to diversify products and services into closely related areas. One such company that managed to avoid this pitfall is Vivint.

The company started as a home security company. Vivint reviews and customer insights pushed the company to expand into home automation, home energy management and then into home solar power. Each move followed logically, or built on the experience, from the one before. Allow your company to evolve to what the customer needs, and you’ll ensure success in the years to come.

4) Trying to Please Everyone

Almost no product or service is right for every customer, yet startups often try to build products and services for everyone. In the long run, this approach leaves customers cold. A fully-fledged piece of enterprise resource planning software meant for large corporations is probably not the right software for a small business, and vice versa.

The entrepreneur that focuses on a specific target market and builds for that market stands a much better chance of making actual sales.

5) Rushing the Hiring Process

When it comes time to hire, entrepreneurs often take the first qualified person that applies. The reasons can seem very pragmatic. For example, the company needs someone for X process to free up the rest of the team to focus on business development.

While the business might get lucky with an ideal hire, rushed hires often wind up a bad fit for the company.

Startup organizational structures tend toward the horizontal. Someone steeped in the vertical structures common in established corporations may find the transition difficult and prove more disruptive than helpful. Taking the time to find the right personality, even if that personality comes with less experience, usually pays off in less stress and more productivity.

6) Launching Too Late

Trying to perfect the product before launching gives competitors time to put out a similar, less sophisticated product and capture an unassailable portion of the market share. Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup,” advocates for building and releasing the most minimal possible version of the product, soliciting customer feedback and refining based on that feedback.

While this approach works best with software, startups can apply it to other products. The company can always improve an existing product, but only one company launches first. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, offers similar advice. As he told Kissmetrics, if you’re not embarrassed by the way your company looks when you first launch, then you are late to launch.

7) Ignoring Advice from Other Entrepreneurial Leaders

Everyone offers opinions, but some opinions matter more than others. Ignoring the advice of established entrepreneurs, or not seeking their advice at all, puts a new entrepreneur at a competitive disadvantage. Building up a support system of other entrepreneurs and business mentors creates a place to vent, bounce ideas and learn vicariously.

Entrepreneurs, out of overconfidence or inexperience, make a number of common mistakes. Those mistakes range from the annoying to the disastrous. By avoiding these common mistakes, the entrepreneur positions a startup for a much better chance of success.

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web

 

Image Sources: thesalesblog.com

5 Sacrifices A Leader Must Make

Sacrifice

You may believe that as a leader your job is relatively easy, where you simply watch over and manage the behaviour of your employees; this is not so. As a leader, you have a number of responsibilities including not only watching over your employees but ensuring that they manage their work effectively and that they are happy.

It’s also part of your job to make sacrifices for the company and for those that work below you.

Not all of these sacrifices have to be extravagant or draw attention to your person, but they have to be made for the right reasons.

5 Sacrifices A Leader Must Make

——————————————————————-

sac·ri·fice [ sákrə f̄̀ss ]

  1. giving up of something valued: a giving up of something valuable or important for somebody or something else considered to be of more value or importance

——————————————————————-

1) Sacrificing Time and Energy

Giving both your time and energy in order to help others and the company that you work for is a sacrifice that all excellent leaders make. This is an important sacrifice because you cannot regain the time or energy that you have expended; once you’ve given them to somebody else they become lost to you. By giving your time and energy it also means that you are working hard towards not only your future, but that of your colleagues and employees too.

2) Ambition

Another sacrifice that is often made by a leader in times of need is that of their own ambition. By prioritising the needs of others including your employees, you leave less time for you to focus on yourself; any parent will understand this situation completely and the same applies to any leader.

To truly look after your workforce, you must focus on their every need to ensure their productivity. By helping those around you to succeed, you may have to sacrifice personal pursuits but these actions will always have a positive effect going forward.

3) Authority

As a leader there will come a time within your job when you are asked to sacrifice your absolute authority in order to let others progress and develop the skills that are needed to reach a higher position. Giving up authority can be difficult and threatening but it is important for your workforce to feel that they are progressing and learning new skills.

4) Benefits

As a leader it’s your duty to protect those around you and ensure their happiness; even in times of difficulty and instability. If your company is suffering from temporary financial instability (as many have during the recession), as a leader you should set the example by forgoing any bonuses and if necessary taking a pay cut. An excellent leader would never ask of anything from their employees that they aren’t willing to do themselves.

5) Relationships

As a decision-maker, you will understand that you may not always be liked or favoured for making the right decisions. For example, if you feel that an individual is not pulling their weight and fails to heed your warnings, you may find that your only solution is to remove this person from your team.

There will also be other times where you have to reject salary increases or defend requests for additional work hours to meet a deadline but by being the leader, you will sometimes have to play the villain.

Become Your Best Self

You may find that during your time as a leader, there are many other things that you must sacrifice in order to become the best leader that you can be. However, try to be fair at all times and don’t ever ask anything of your employee that you wouldn’t ask of yourself.

So, how do you feel about the idea that leaders must sacrifice in order to succeed? Do you think that if you reach a certain position or status that you no longer need to sacrifice? Or do you embrace the steps above and think that you will be more fulfilled if you learn these lessons and apply them? I would love to hear your thoughts!

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Georgina Stamp

Georgina Stewart works for Marble Hill Partners
She helps Organisations to Recruit for Executive Roles and Interim Management
Email LinkedIn | Twitter | Google+ | Web | Blog

Image Sources: despair.com

 

Articles of Faith: Who Do They Say that You Are?

Who Do You Say I Am?

—————————————————————————–
This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
—————————————————————————–

Have you seen the new movie Son of God? It’s an awesome display of interaction between leader and follower.

One of the most poignant bible verses regarding leadership is where Christ turns to His disciples and asks, “Who do the people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-30)

A simple, yet significant question which should be asked by all leaders to those they are leading, whether first degree followers such as the disciples, second degree followers such as the apostles and believers, or third degree followers such as the Pharisees (yes, our enemies follow us, as well).

The Question: “Who do the people say that I am?”

You Are a Leader

You are a leader, therefore, you have followers. Who do they say that you are? Everyone who follows you, everyone you lead, everyone in your circle of influence and, possibly, everyone in their circle of influence, refers to you in some manner.

From your pet to your pet’s vet, your mother-in-law to your mother-in-law’s hairstylist, your virtual assistant to your virtual assistant’s assistant.

In your life, whether near or far, first or last name basis, direct contact or by virtue of association, these people have defined you, pigeonholed you, categorized you, promoted or demoted you, simply by what they call you.

The Question is this: “Who do they say that I am?

On Being Named

The Lion of Judah received several monikers in response: John the Baptizer, Elijah, a prophet, and so on.

He then turned the question inside out, exposing their sub-consciousness, asking this:

“What about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Gutsy Peter nailed it, “You are the Christ, the Messiah!”

The Finisher of our Faith’s response to Peter: “The Father must have told you. No one else knew.”

My Own Personal Experience

Now, this is by no means, a comparison, but recently, I serendipitously learned what “they” (the “they” being those as referenced above) call me.

A reporter from our local newspaper wrote about me, calling me a slew of predictable names, self-proclaimed names that I had keenly persuaded my community to call me: writer, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, trustee (of a community college), and volunteer.

But, there was another term she used, one that wasn’t included in my marketing repertoire.

When she called me this name, like Peter, she nailed it! And, I knew that the FATHER had given it to her because no one else had verbalized it, certainly not me. It was a truth I may have realized it; but, never actualized, never embraced.

Assuming that she was using the term in its most positive connotation, yet intrigued in her so doing, I picked up the phone and dialed her number. When she answered, I said – with half of my accusatory voice implying a TV courtroom libel suit, the other half venerating as I sensed an addendum to my dossier had just been signed off by the Creator of the Universe.

“What did you just call me?”

She was caught off guard; perplexed even.

“Did I get something wrong?”

You see, as I am constantly cheering her on for the fantastic, professional, neutral journalist that she is, she had never imagined such an encounter as this…from me.

Before I could answer, she began reciting her adjectives.

“Yes,” I interjected, “you said all that, but you said something else.”

She drew a blank. So much pressure!

Finally, I said, “You called me a ‘civic activist.’”

She explained with the sincerity of encouraging intentions,

“Of course I did. That’s what you are. That’s how I see you. That’s how I’ve always seen you.”

It was the sound of her voice traveling through the airwaves, but it was the Voice which I heard, just as Christ must have heard as He read Peter’s lips. The Voice said

“You are truly blessed. It was I who told her what you are because it is I who created you. You are a leader; a civic activist, a compassionate advocate who loves your fellow-man and yourself equally, and who loves Me with all of your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.”

And with His gift of infinite instruction, He said “Now walk ye in it!”

Getting Ready For Your Next Level

Has the LORD blessed you with such a revelation?  Do you sense He is preparing to do so?  If your answer is yes, I would suggest you grab the safety bar, and hold on!

Your leadership feathers, having been clipped by the dull shears of unawareness, are growing in.   And you are being instructed to “walk ye in it!”

Now let’s contemplate a few questions:

  • Who are your followers: first, second and third degree levels?
  • Who do they say that you are?
  • Have you even asked or are you waiting – like Chicken Little – for the words to fall out of the sky?
  • Who do you say that you are?
  • Who does the FATHER say that you are?

And finally, do you walk yet in it?

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————–
Donna Clements

Donna Clements is a Professional Writer and Motivator
She inspires Positive Social and Individual Change
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | http://www.wordpearlspress.com/

Image Sources: preacherontheplaza.files.wordpress.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42,006 other followers

%d bloggers like this: