48 Laws of Power

We all know how damaging office gossip is and what a  negative effect it can have on morale, productivity, and profitability.

But what happens when the person stirring the muck is a leader? Or worse – a senior leader?

I knew a guy once who had it made – we’ll call him Tom. In the beginning, he had organizational respect, a team that valued his advice and direction, and an executive team that supported the somewhat new thinking he brought to the table. Tom could have written his own ticket; he had just one problem.

He could not keep his mouth shut.

Whenever there was an opportunity to grumble about this or that, he took it. Usually it was one-on-one, with anyone who would listen, and followed with, “let’s just keep this between us.” Then he’d go tell someone else the same thing. We all know what happens from there – eventually, the word got out and it was a bad situation indeed.

In one of the greatest books ever written on power and influence called The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene and Joost Elffers outline 48 laws, citing historical examples and consequences of those who followed the law and those who did not. Tom continually broke Law Number 38: Think As You Like, But Behave Like Others.

Greene and Elffers write:

“If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.”

What’s the lesson here?

Simple. As leaders we have two options: we can choose to be a force for evil, spreading dissent, being divisive, muckraking, and essentially telling everyone how smart we are and how stupid everyone else is – neither of which is very “leader-like” behavior. Or we can choose to be a force for good and support the organization that entrusted us with leadership responsibility. Does this mean we can’t dissent or have differing viewpoints or share our ideas with those who appreciate our “uniqueness?” Absolutely not! But we can and should do it in a constructive and positive way that adds value to the conversation.

Quite frankly, I don’t have a lot of time for guys like Tom. Employment is “at-will.” It is not indentured servitude and we can leave anytime we want. If things are so terrible that we have to bad mouth this person or that process on a daily basis, we think the company sucks, or (worse still) we spread negativity about the management team – we need to do the right and ethical thing and leave. We are paid to lead and part of our responsibility is to support the company’s mission, vision, values, and leadership – even if we sometimes disagree. Airing the dirty laundry to other staff members just makes us look really, really bad.

When we disagree with something, be constructive and make sure we are discussing the issues with the right people. Remember the power we have as leaders and that we set the tone for ourselves, our staff, and others we touch each day.

Be a force for good. Influence in a positive way. Set direction with recommendations, not just empty complaints.

Let me know what you think.

Until next time…


PS – please be sure to rate, comment, and subscribe!