By Peter Jeff, Author
The Leadership Mints Series
Sitting ringside at a professional boxing match as a sportswriter you see the splatter of the blood on the canvass. You hear the grunts and groans. You wince at the pain in the eyes of the boxers. And you see ropes vibrating with a venom like a rattlesnake when a boxer is on the ropes.
You are THAT close to the action, even closer than those who pay $10,000 a seat to sit AROUND the ring albeit not exactly ringside. And there in the thick of the action a ringside viewer “gets a clearer and more comprehensive view of the infighting, something the home fan seldom gets (watching on television),” observed a long time boxing sportswriter.
So do those who sit ringside in the corporate arena — close enough to sit eye-to-eye with the Chief Executive Officer but yet far enough away to never have to risk going toe-to-toe. They become “consiglieri or the real advisors behind the throne,” notes David D’Alessandro, the former Chief Executive Officer of John Hancock Financial Services in his book Executive Warfare.
Chances are you first became familiar with that job title — Consigliere– in the movie The Godfather. Robert Duvall’s character served as the trusted lawyer and confidant to the Corelone family.
The Consigliere often had to referee internal and external conflict without getting killed in the process. He or she stayed above the fray primarily because he or she stood on the sidelines, never in line for one of the line positions to run the family.
Those Consiglieri (plural of Consigliere) are often staff leaders in human resources, public relations, investor relations and the law department, D’Alessandro observes who have “unfettered access to the boss.” They are able to walk into the office of the CEO” without a moment’s notice and just glide by the assistant with or without an appointment.”That’s because those consiglieri have no personal career ax to grind and no personal agenda to pursue.
I enjoyed that kind of unfettered access to the Chief Executive Officer and other key decision makers in a billion -dollar plus company for nearly 20 years. Sitting ringside in the corporate arena, I saw up close and personal how leaders throughout the organization dealt with complexed problems from liability and compliance issues to employee engagement and media scrutiny that impacted the bottom line. Continue reading