Fear,  Favour , Fortune 

It’s the 50 th anniversary of The Godfather probable the most famous and many would say the best film about the mafia. Films and t.v. series set in the world of organised crime are often referred to in articles  to illustrate the principles of effective business thus spicing up what otherwise might be rather dull academic accounts. In any discussion about leadership, strategy, negotiation tactics, effective communication or employee motivation a reference to the severed horse’s head in the bed is going to grab the readers attention. But what I find most interesting rewatching the film 50 years on is what it has to say about Loyalty and giving Favours to build relationships. Practises that have always gone on in business but seem to have become more acceptable. 


A scene at the beginning of the film shows the Don giving an audience to those who wish to use the occasion of him becoming a Godfather at his nephews christening to ask a favour. As is the tradition on such occasions he is obliged to grant the favour but as he explains to an enraged father whose unmarried daughter has become pregnant to a local boy, if he agrees to help the father then he may be asked a small favour at a later date, a favour he can not refuse. The father wants the boy killed. The Don points out that this would leave his daughter with out a husband and the child with out a father. They settle on breaking the young man’s legs. 


Doing someone a favour doesn’t usually come with an explicit commitment to return the favour but it does put you in the others debt. And if you’re in a position to do a lot of favours then a lot of people are going to feel they owe you. HR are good at favour, help you out of a little local difficulty. Maybe bypass some of those recruitment procedures on this one occasion. You don’t have to go as far as suggesting who should be appointed just let it be known who you think is the best candidate. Then there are contracts everything is done by competitive tendering these days except when an exception is made. The lowest bid isn’t automatically successful there can be other criteria but it helps if a friend lets you know what the lowest bid is. May be your bid could be fast tracked. 


In Mafia society loyalty is very important. To many chief executives personal loyalty is very important. Both expect unquestioning support and maintain it through a system of patronage and fear.  The mafia have the more effective employee retention strategy and a code of silence the equivalent of your average business Non Disclosure Agreement. Of course there are inevitably over time changes at the top. In the Godfather that involves getting rid of the those who’s loyalty is to the Don not to the organisation, it is much the same in business. Hence the famous quote,” it’s not personal it’s just business”. 

Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 

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