methods are unorthodox and he certainly has faults, but all leaders
can learn from the way Tony Soprano manages people, negotiates and handles
conflict, author ANTHONY SCHNEIDER writes
over Attila. Step aside Abraham Lincoln. There's a new leadership superhero
in town, and he's none other than the godfather of New Jersey. Tony
Soprano may be an unlikely figure for the pages of Fortune magazine
or a business book, but he is a leader who responds to the exigencies
and opportunities of the times, inspires good work, builds a strong
team, revitalizes his business and makes a lot of money.
mobster millionaire, Tony Soprano has a proven track record of increasing
profit margins and keeping himself and his lieutenants out of jail.
He has built a powerful team of competent, colourful made-men, most
of whom would do just about anything for him. "Just tell me T, what
do you want me to do?" one of his captains asks when trouble is brewing.
And the majority of his employees, business partners, even foes, trust
and respect him. In the words of a crooked cop: "At least with Tony
Soprano, you know where you stand."
takes time for his family and insists that his crew takes time for theirs,
he tries to be a good father, he's even kind to animals. Oh yeah, and
he manages to do it all without getting clipped, no small feat in the
are many reasons why Uncle T is such a good leader, but the cornerstones
of the Tony Soprano approach are vision, speed and decisiveness, and
the ability to delegate. He thinks smart, acts fast and executes well.
is like good braciole
success stems from his vision. Unlike his father, uncle and countless
mob execs before him, Tony has a vision for prosperity, security and
family. He knows where he wants to go and has a plan for how to get
there. As one made-man puts it, "Tony sees the big picture."
vision is all about people. Unlike many of today's managers who are
timid, play by the book and foster competitiveness to drive people to
work hard, Tony uses judgment, love and muscle.
It's not easy to get hired. He rejects more candidates than he employs.
And when he sees a good potential employee, like Furio Giunta, a tough,
amiable Neopolitan who speaks English and understands power and negotiation,
Tony hires him away from his current boss.
loves his team. He fosters collaboration not competition. He says "I
love you" to captains and soldiers alike, and he says it often. He hugs
people, tells them they're doing a good job.
he squeezes. Hard. He puts pressure on his team to work smarter and
faster. He gives people responsibility and pushes until they make good.
And he'll yell, manipulate or punch to make things happen.
leaders say they don't have time for vision. They have too much to do
without worrying about artsy-fartsy ideas like vision that don't contribute
to the bottom line.
leaders say vision is vital, and they spend a lot of time articulating,
refining and communicating it. So, Tony thinks long and hard about what
areas of his business are the most profitable, who the future leaders
are, and what are potential trouble spots. He brushes up on the law,
is vigilant about security and goes to great lengths to communicate
vision and values. He's a particularly good coach to Christopher Moltisanti,
his nephew and a rising star in the family business, telling him: "Think.
The big . . . picture."
The vision thing
See the big picture.
at things from 5,000 feet.
trends and plan for the future.
innovation and creativity.
your vision by reading, discussing and seeking the opinion of experts.
speed and wet feet
Tony Soprano approach is fast, aiming to create and save an essential
business commodity: time. In the five minutes it takes to sip an espresso,
Tony analyzes a situation, listens to the background and arrives at
a decision. Bada boom.
Tony works, he works. He multitasks. Just watch him. He's on the phone,
coaching a new made-man, listening to his top team, getting reports,
delegating, reviewing results. When he's on a business trip, when he
drives in his car, or when Furio drives him to a meeting, he works.
Even when he is at the Bada Bing, he works -- talks on the phone, sets
up meetings, negotiates, checks in.
is not only fast, he's efficient. He gets to the root of a problem so
he can reach a decision fast. He delegates quickly, assessing the issue
then assigning a team or individual. He rarely has time for a long meeting.
He's more likely to choose a focused sit-down to resolve issues. And
when the sit-down is over, he stands up. When he's on the phone at the
Bada Bing and a call comes through that can't wait, he doesn't hesitate,
just moves onto the emergency. If he doesn't need to do something personally,
he sends someone else and spends the time having a chat with an anxious
captain or playing video games with his son A.J.
he has a solid vision of his business and is able to think and react
quickly, Tony is decisive. And it is vital that leaders be decisive.
They cannot shy away from tough decisions, nor can they go back on a
decision once it's been made. Here's Tony on decisiveness: "A wrong
decision is better than indecision." He sees decisions clearly and makes
them quickly. That's why he is able to work so fast, why his company
is agile. He is decisive even when he doesn't have as much information
as he would like. And he sticks with his decisions. He gets a lot of
flack for making Gigi a captain instead of Ralph, but he stands by his
no to things you shouldn't do.
new technology and processes to increase productivity.
When I delegate, I delegate
is a master at delegating. That's why he's able to maintain so many
businesses and business relationships. He tells one of his capos: "It's
your job to make my job easier."At
the same time, he respects the needs, skills and goals of his team --
and earns their respect. "Those who want respect," says Tony, "give
delegation is about people. And when it comes to delegating, Tony thinks
more about who than how. To that end, he makes friends with co-workers,
becomes personally involved, knows about their private lives, interests,
families. He talks to Christopher about life and love, knows about Paulie's
mom and Hesh's hobbies.
believes employees' needs and goals are as important as any task they
are given. As a result, he's not a spurious boss, doesn't hand off an
assignment to the first person who walks past his office. He knows management
is a two-way street; that's why he fosters strong, lasting relationships,
builds trust and assigns tasks that help the delegate learn and grow.
when Tony delegates, he gives full responsibility. When he decides to
make Gigi, not Ralph, a captain, Tony sticks by Gigi's decisions. So,
when Gigi picks the sickly "Old Man" Baccalieri to do a hit, Tony doesn't
get in Gigi's way, doesn't undermine the new captain's authority. "It
was Gigi's idea," he says. "I'm not cutting his . . . balls off."
do it all
Delegate tasks both large and small.
realistic goals and attainable deadlines.
available for support, coaching and guidance.
up to monitor progress and problems.
you delegated poorly, reassess and delegate differently next time.
poster boy? Not
by his wife, Carmela, where he was one night, Tony says: "I wasn't anywhere.
I was a monogamy poster boy." Well, that's not exactly true. Maybe he
wasn't unfaithful that particular night, but he's not exactly faithful.
he's no leadership poster boy either. While he has a natural talent
for leadership and many of the skills of a new breed of manager, Tony
doesn't always get it right.
Tony does everything on a grand scale. He's King Lear in a SUV, Hercules
follows, then, that his mistakes are big, glaring, ugly. He's an inconstant
father and unfaithful husband. He's deeply prejudiced, and his racism
has deleterious effects on his self, family and business.
communicates too little, turns a deaf ear too often. And he's prone
to excessive violence. How does he respond when his sister calls with
news he doesn't want to hear? He yells and breaks the phone. What happens
when Ralph sets fire to a stable? Let's just say: body parts in a bathtub.
at his best, Tony aspires to a new style of leadership and personifies
a new management paradigm that is as effective as it is timely. His
methods are unorthodox and he certainly has his faults, but we can all
learn strategies and tactics from the way he manages people, resolves
conflict, negotiates and leads. Bada brilliant.
Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc., 2004