There’s a great line in Michael Douglas’ Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps revealing the motives behind the ruthless Gordon Gekko’s pursuits. He says it’s not about the money. “It’s about the game … the game between people.”
We see this game play out in how he is humiliated in numerous social situations after coming out of prison and trying to rebuild. The brash behaviors between ruthless men is worn on their chests without any remorse or pretensions.
Power is not something that is merely isolated to the ultra wealthy or powerful in this country. It is a currency that exists between people of all social classes and institutions. To deny this would be a severely naive view of reality. Power is always a part of our interactions. There is a good use of it and a malicious example that we can all reference as well.
One of the books I had been reading and having fun with is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. It is a cornerstone book that I encourage any businessperson to study. It’s critical to understand how power is part of relationships and business and to act with acumen. Otherwise, you suffer the consequences of desperate living. Those who know how to gain and use power in relationships will create frustration for those that are suppressed by it.
There are numerous case studies in the book of successes and failures around timeless principles. Power is not necessarily limited to position either. Greene repeatedly references how Talleyrand managed up with Napoleon and played his ruses and cards masterfully on many fronts and situations.
Your lot in life may be temporal or constrained, but you can always study and apply the principles of power to gain advantage and get to your goals. The game between people is always at play, regardless if you acknowledge it or not.
Principles to Live By
I think some people have great intuition around power much like some people have instincts around cash flow or likability. It depends on what your strengths are. On a pragmatic level, I think it’s important to clue in and practice playing your cards daily. It will increase your savvy and ability to influence, lead and get your way.
Here are some principles I observe around the area of power:
- Give everyone respect.
- Respect people until they do not deserve it.
- Hide your disrespect and keep focused on the goal if you are in a lower power position.
- You must understand the veiled motivations of people.
- Don’t flatter. It’s easy to sniff out.
- There’s always something to respect or like about someone. Use this to relate.
- When leading, watch out for those that undermine. This is the game of power playing out.
- Deal swiftly and precisely with your enemies.
- The more powerful you are the more enemies you will have.
- Know who is truly loyal to you.
- Make loyalty your measuring stick for relationships.
- Don’t be a dummy.
You will find many more in-depth case studies in Greene’s book. I hope you do read it and leave your take on some of these laws and principles here. I would be interested in expanding the dialogue.
One last exhortation – don’t shy away from the game. It exists whether you acknowledge it or not. It happens when you are relating to your parents or children. It happens at work and with customers.
Embrace the game and live out the principles. It will enhance your leadership and ability to get things done in a messy world where the undercurrents of power greatly affect outcomes.