Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Do you work with a Machiavellian Manager?
Suppose we 'update' Machiavelli's "The Prince" to be about corporate leaders instead of about being a prince. Here is how I could summarize his book.
Please firmly place your tounge in your cheek as you read this.
CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH THE STRENGTH OF ALL DEPARTMENTS OUGHT TO BE MEASURED
It is necessary to consider a point in examining the character of departments; that is, whether a manager has such power that, in case of need, he can support himself with his own budget and other resources, or whether he has always need of the assistance of others. And to make this quite clear I say that I consider those who are able to support themselves by their own resources who can, either by abundance of men or money, raise a sufficient strategy to confront anyone who comes to usurp them.
CONCERNING THINGS FOR WHICH MEN, AND ESPECIALLY MANAGERS, ARE PRAISED OR BLAMED
It remains now to see what ought to be the rules of conduct for a manager towards staff and peers. And as I know that many have written on this point, I expect I shall be considered presumptuous in mentioning it again, especially as in discussing it I shall depart from the methods of other people. But, it being my intention to write a thing which shall be useful to him who apprehends it, it appears to be more appropriate to follow the real truth of the matter than the imagination of it; for many have pictured companies and departments which in fact have never been known or seen, because how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil.
Hence it is necessary for a manager wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity. Therefore, putting on one side imaginary things concerning a manager, and discussing those which are real, I say that all men when they are spoken of, and chiefly managers for being more highly placed, are remarkable for some of those qualities which bring them either blame or praise; and thus it is that one is reputed kind, another miserly; one cruel, one compassionate; one sincere, another cunning; one hard, another easy, and the like. And I know that every one will confess that it would be most praiseworthy in a manager to exhibit all the above qualities that are considered good; but because they can neither be entirely possessed nor observed, for human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be sufficiently prudent that he may know how to avoid the reproach of those vices which would lose him his status; and also to keep himself, if it be possible, from those which would not lose him it; but this not being possible, he may with less hesitation abandon himself to them. And again, he need not make himself uneasy at incurring a reproach for those vices without which the status can only be saved with difficulty, for if everything is considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed, would be his ruin; whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and prosperity.
CONCERNING KINDNESS AND MEANNESS
Commencing then with the first of the above-named characteristics, I say that it would be well to be reputed kind. Nevertheless, kindness exercised in a way that does not bring you the reputation for it, injures you; for if one exercises it honestly and as it should be exercised, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the reporach of its opposite. Therfore anyone wishing to maintain among men the name of 'kindly' is obliged to avoid no attribute of magnificence; so that a manager thus inclined will consume in such acts all his resources, and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to maintain the name of 'kindly', to unduly weigh down his staff, take away their perks and do everything he can to increase his budget. This will soon make him odious to his subjects, and having his budget cut he will be little valued by any one; thus, with his kindness, having offended many and rewarded few, he is affected by the very first trouble and imperilled by whaterver may be the first danger; recognizing this himself, and wishing to draw back from it, he runs at once into the reproach of being miserly.
Therefore, a manager, not being able to exercise this virtue of kindness in such a way that it is recognized, except to his cost, if he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being mean, for in time he will come to be more considered if he were thought of as kind.
CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH MANAGERS SHOULD VIEW CORPORATE LAW
Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a manager to follow legal guidelines, and to live with integrity and not with skill. Nevertheless our experience has been that those managers who have done great things have followed the law to little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by skill, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word. You mush know that there are two ways of increasing dominion the one by the law, the other by force. If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not work according to the law with you, you too are not bound to work with integrity with them.
But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.
THAT ONE SHOULD AVOID BEING DESPISED AND HATED
The manager must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches.
That manager is highly esteemed who conveys this impression of himself, and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for, provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered by his staff, he can only be attacked with difficulty. For this reason a manager ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his staff, the other from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by having strong sanctions for violating cross-departmental policies and having good allies, and if he has strong sanctions he will have good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even should affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every attack. I consider that a manager ought to reckon conspiracies of little account when his staff hold him in esteem; but when it is hostile to him, and bears hatred towards him, he ought to fear everything and everybody.
ARE BURDENSOME CROSS-DEPARTMENTAL PROCEDURES, AND MANY OTHER THINGS TO WHICH MANAGERS OFTEN RESORT, ADVANTAGEOUS OR HURTFUL?
Some managers, so as to hold securely their department, have removed all decision-making powers from their staff; others have kept their teams distracted by in-fighting; others have fostered enmities against themselves; others have laid themselves out to gain over those whom they distrusted when they first became managers; some have built burdensome cross-departmental procedures; some have ignored and bypassed other's procedures. And although one cannot give a final judgment on all of these things unless one possesses the particulars of those departments in which a decision has to be made, nevertheless I will speak as comprehensively as the matter of itself will admit.
There never was a new manager who has taken away decision-making powers from his staff; rather when he has found them without the power to make decisions he has always granted this to them, because, by allowing them to make decisions, those decisions become yours, those men who were distrusted become faithful, and those who were faithful are kept so, and your
staff become your adherents.
Our predecessors, and those who were reckoned wise, were accustomed to say that it was necessary to foster quarrels in some of their teams so as to keep possession of them the more easily. This may have been well enough in those times when the company was in a way balanced, but I do not believe that it can be accepted as a precept for to-day, because I do not believe that factions can ever be of use; rather it is certain that when the enemy comes upon you in divided teams you are quickly lost, because the weakest party will always assist the outside forces and the other will not be able to resist.
It has been a custom with managers, in order to hold their departments more securely, to build over-burdensome cross-departmental policies and procedures that may serve as a bridle and bit to those who might desire to use their resources, and as a place of refuge from a first attack. I praise this system because it has been made use of formerly.
However the best possible policy is--not to be hated by the staff, because, although you may successful in enforcing these over-burdensome policies, yet they will not save you if the staff hate you, for there will never be wanting other managers to assist staff who have complained against you.
All these things considered then, I shall praise him who builds over-burdensome policies as well as him who does not, and I shall blame whoever, trusting in them, cares little about being hated by the people.
HOW A MANAGER SHOULD CONDUCT HIMSELF SO AS TO GAIN RENOWN
Nothing makes a manager so much esteemed as great enterprises and setting a fine example. And a manager ought, above all things, always endeavour in every action to gain for himself the reputation of being a great and remarkable man.
A manager is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy, that is to say, when, without any reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party against the other; which course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral; because if two of your powerful peers are at odds on some topic, they are of such a character that, if one of them wins, you have either to fear him or not. In either case it will always be more advantageous for you to declare yourself and to make sides strenuously; because, in the first case, if you do not declare yourself, you will invariably fall a prey to the winner, to the pleasure and satisfaction of him who has lost, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to protect or to shelter you. Because he who wins does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who loses will not harbour you because you did not willingly court his fate.
A manager ought also to show himself a patron of ability, and to honor the proficient in every skill. At the same time he should encourage his staff to perform their work peaceably so that no one should be deterred from performing their duties for fear lest they be taken away from him or another from being hired because of poor benefits; but the manager ought to offer rewards to whoever wishes to do these things and designs in any way to honor his department.
Further, he ought to entertain the people with celebrations and parties at convenient seasons of the year; and as his department is divided into teams he ought to hold such bodies in esteem, and associate with them sometimes, and show himself an example of courtesy and kindness; nevertheless, always maintaining the majesty of his rank, for this he must never consent to abate in anything.
CONCERNING THE DIRECT REPORTS OF MANAGERS
The choice of direct reports is of no little importance to a manager, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the manager. And the first opinion which one forms of a manager, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
There are many things that were left out. Some for space, some because I cringed as I was re-writing them. The cringing was because they hit pretty close to home. Overall, this should be read as a 'How Not To' rather than a 'How-To'.