Once upon a time, in the big bad city of New York, there was a man who sat on the (iron) throne of power (game of thrones, leave me alone :P). He was feared as much as he was revered. He was corrupt, but accountable; smart and shrewd as he was sentimental. This man was Don Vito Corleone, also known as THE GODFATHER!
We might look upon books by Shiv Khera, Malcolm Gladwell and Steven D. Levitt as the Bibles to a successful career and life, but we fail to recognize ‘The Godfather’ as one of them. Why should we? It is just fiction about the Sicilian mafia in New York. How could that possibly help with one’s career? If you have thought of any of the previous questions in connection with The Godfather, you are sincerely mistaken. Mario Puzo’s classic crime drama teaches you a lot about life and business in unexpected ways. After all, even illegal business is business.
We come across the characters of Don Vito Corleone and his son Michael Corleone, who are models for the ideal businessmen. They care for the welfare of their people, don’t hesitate from being ruthless when required. All you need to do is ‘wake the dragon’ (GoT, yet again).
Don Vito Corleone is willing to treat the problems of others as his own, to mete out justice when required, in return for respect and mutual brotherhood. Such activities are pretty much in tandem with the concept of ‘intangible incentives’, whereby people crave for social acceptance in return for their hard work.
The second lesson we learn is dynamism and adaptability. One must be able to think on their feet to turn the tide in their favor, since business environments follow the saying, ‘change is the only constant’. This means one must swiftly adapt with the surroundings in order to be successful. An example of this quality is seen when Michael, upon seeing the hospital deserted, realizes that his father is grave danger and requests the nurse to help him shift his father to another room. Thus, saving him from Sollozzo’s men. We also learn resourcefulness from this incident, because Michael puts on a charade with the baker’s son in law, Enzo, to show that the hospital is well protected. This illusion convinces the goons to drive away and saves his father’s life.
Both Vito Corleone and Michael possess the golden quality of patience. They know that they’re being cheated by one of their own men and so they wait for the Don’s death, so that the infidel can reveal himself/herself.
Strong moral fiber makes for great use, when weaving your yarn of network and Vito Corleone certainly abides by this rule. In the initial chapters of the book, he is approached by Virgil Sollozzo to invest in his business of narcotics, which he refuses to do. The reason he states is that, despite owning businesses that may be of a questionable nature, narcotics may harm his reputation. He also takes care of his stakeholders- the politicians and unions, whom he knows won’t approve of his deal with Sollozzo. Even when he comes to know that another mafia family, the Tattaglias, is backing Sollozzo, he refuses to be a part of the deal. This goes onto say that one should resist peer pressure, if they feel the act being committed is wrong.
One should be aware of his shortcomings and Vito Corleone certainly complies with this. He who strikes and runs away, lives to fight another day; Towards the end of the book, Vito agrees to provide protection to the drug business, in order to avoid a full scale war, which would result in bloodshed. He also wants to know the person who is betraying him and thus concedes so that he can win the war, after losing one battle. This also goes to show that businessmen need to be humane and that sentimentality is not a weakness, if directed towards the greater good.
The book doesn’t talk only of Do’s. Here’s mentioning some of the Don’t’s…
The vices in the book are primarily shown through the characters of Sonny Corleone and Virgil Sollozzo.
With Sonny Corleone, the primary lesson that we learn is that ‘haste results in waste’. Sonny Corleone, the firebrand acts first and thinks later. He rushes into battle only to realize that he has no ammunition. This might make him strong from outside, but it makes him truly vulnerable from inside. His hot- headed nature is exploited by others, which finally ends in his doom. It is good to be active, but being proactive is better. A person who thinks and acts is better than one who acts and then thinks.
Virgil Sollozzo makes the grave mistake of being overconfident and underestimating his competition. He proves himself to be the incarnation of the ‘wily coyote’ from the roadrunner series, who sets all the plans but underestimates the competition, only to fall flat on his face.
Wisdom lies in unexpected places. After all, who thought the mafia could give such valuable life lessons. If nothing else, one can now look at The Godfather as a little more than a book, which gave a series of wonderful films and count it among the lesser known-lesser read business books. It is quite like the road not taken. You might just find the way to success by giving it a shot.