The truly powerful don’t have to prove it – Part 1

The truly powerful don’t have to prove it – Part 1

The big gorilla beats his chest and makes a lot of noise to show he is boss. It is very effective. His harem come scrambling to pay homage and declare their undying loyalty, possibly even fidelity – though I don’t think they are quite into that yet. Nor, of course, are a lot of human gorillas. Human bosses have their ways of declaring success, too. Size of office, cars, yachts, homes, egos all proclaim success and wealth. Then they are vulnerable. So prevalent is the symptom that I conclude that the too visibly successful are truly insecure.

Have you ever watched a man subdue a raging bull without hurting it? He won’t move. He doesn’t make nice soothing noises – or any noises at all. He doesn’t flinch. The enraged animal is looking for some weakness, some uncertainty or lack of confidence. Any movement or sound can be interpreted as just that. So the man stands motionless for a long time – maybe ten or fifteen minutes. The animal doesn’t know what to make of it but settles for the possibility that the man is more powerful than he appears. It turns and goes away.

I had an aunt who could jump a horse over barbed wire. Horses cannot see barbed wire so it’s a risky thing to do. Most people lay a coat on the wire so that the horse can see it. She didn’t need to do that. Her control of her horse was such that she could communicate exactly when to jump. No horse ever hit the wire when she was riding it. She was powerful.

Her power lay in her ability to communicate with her horse. Horses are not very intelligent but they are very proud. That is why they compete so well. My aunt’s hands on the reins and heels on the horse’s flanks were able to tell her steed ‘jump now’. Her horse obeyed.

Bosses don’t have reins and spurs, much as they would sometimes like to. Their sources of control are more subtle. These controls have changed dramatically even in the last ten years and they are still changing – today more than at any other time in history. So what do apparent power, today’s controls and a culture of cheating have to do with each other?

Consider the five things that really motivate us and compel us to action.

  1. Fear, but only when you are offered a solution to it,
  2. Pride in accomplishments that you see as useful,
  3. Earning money rewards for work done,
  4. Providing for others who depend on you,
  5. Recognition, often by being thanked or promoted.

How much of each of the four motivators that an employer can use do you think your employer should engage to drive or inspire you? The answer is the basis on which you must judge the success or failure of the world’s top bosses.

We’ll look at why on Monday.