Captains of industry constantly seek to glean valuable lessons from the pages of history, but they usually consult the wrong models. Almost nothing can be learned from the management styles of Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan, who never had to fret about maximizing shareholder value, and the same is true of Julius Caesar and George S. Patton, who rarely gave much thought to how their actions would play out in the press.
It’s perfectly okay to drive the competition out of business. But gloating over the lamentations of the freshly widowed sounds bad on CNBC.One remarkable historical figure whose actions could prove relevant to contemporary business leaders is Henry Plantagenet of
What made Henry’s management style so memorable-and so relevant to modern times-was that he distanced himself from the assassination by merely mumbling out loud, “Oh, who will rid me of this meddlesome cleric?” By mouthing these words in the presence of a quartet of Late Feudal gangsters masquerading as nobility, he ensured that he would never be connected with the crime personally, even though everyone in
Think of all the unpleasantness that could have been avoided out in
Dunn’s mistake-one Henry II would never have made-was leaving a copious paper trail snaking right back to her office. She did this by allowing her minions to foolishly put the enterprising gumshoes on the HP payroll. Scandal and heartbreak could easily have been avoided had Dunn merely mused out loud, “Oh, who will find a couple of guys named Vinny, Cheech or D-Train to rid me of these meddlesome leakers?”
By doing so, HP could have secured the services of furtive men dredged up from some seedy Frisco saloon, but without leaving her own footprints.These men could easily have obtained the targeted phone records using their own trademark techniques-but would have done it sotto voce style, without anyone being the wiser. And since the men would have been paid in crisp packets of unmarked twenties, they would have left no trail leading back to this otherwise fine company.
In short, had Dunn only studied her medieval English history more carefully, this whole horrifying imbroglio could have been avoided. This is yet another case where top-flight executives either ignore the lessons of history, or learn the wrong lessons.
So let this be a lesson to the entire business community: If you need some dirty work done, don’t use guys who actually submit invoices and keep records. For best results, find a guy who knows a guy, and hire that guy to find the guy you’re looking for.
You got a problem with that?