USA: Management Lessons from Hollywood - Hire and fire the Godfather way.

USA: Management Lessons from Hollywood - Hire and fire the Godfather way. - Love, trust, betrayal, revenge ... emotions can run high in the world of business. Rhymer Rigby kicks off a new series which looks at management Hollywood style.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Love, trust, betrayal, revenge ... emotions can run high in the world of business. Rhymer Rigby kicks off a new series which looks at management Hollywood style.

The Godfather, widely hailed as 'the greatest gangster picture made' chronicles the passing of power from Don Vito Corleone, the head of the New York Mafia (Marlon Brando) to his son Michael (Al Pacino). Naturally, succession in crime dynasties is a delicate business and, before Michael establishes himself, the body count has grown to include his bride, his sister's husband, several dozen assorted hoods and, through no fault of its own, an unfortunate horse. In this country at least, it is now considered extremely poor form to conduct your commercial affairs with a loaded machine gun on forearm; nonetheless, there is still plenty the British business community can learn from the infamous Five Families of New York.

The importance of leadership and unity

'Fredo', says Michael, 'you are my brother and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again.' Fredo has jeopardised a delicate business transaction by going beyond his remit. Michael reminds his brother that he is the chief executive and that public dissent within the boardroom cannot, and will not, be tolerated under any circumstances.

Effective use of warnings

Having refused Don Corleone a favour, Jack Woltz wakes up to find himself in bed with a horse's head. In the Don's eyes, Woltz is guilty of gross misconduct. But it is a first offence, so Corleone gives him a written warning. By severing the head of Woltz's favourite stallion, personalising and underscoring his message, the Don communicates effectively and demonstrates good 'people skills'.

Succession management

After the attempt on his life, Don Vito Corleone decides to retire, passing the torch to his son, Michael. He continues to give Michael advice that will ultimately save his life, however. Corleone Sr is keenly aware that the transition from one CEO to another can be a difficult one and makes himself available on a consultancy basis until the new boss has found his feet within the firm.

Key man insurance

Having stormed off to stomp his sister's abusive husband, Sonny Corleone, the Don's anointed successor, is cut down in a hail of gunfire. Don Corleone had long realised that his heir apparent would be a natural target. Although the Don had always wanted his third son, Michael, to 'go legit', were misfortune to befall Sonny, Michael would be there to step into his shoes.

Using your mandate for change

'Today, I settle all my family business,' announces Michael, before having all those who have crossed him executed, while he is at a christening. As an incoming CEO, Michael knows that his first 100 days are important: he is the 'new broom' and any sweeping changes he wishes to make should be made quickly. Tough decisions now will greatly strengthen his position later.

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