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Bada bing! Leadership, Tony Soprano-style

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in Best-Practices Leadership,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It may strike you as odd that someone could see fictional TV mobster Tony Soprano as a leader, even though his character is quite literally a “boss.”

But so keenly did Avon vice president Deborrah Himsel appreciate Tony’s leadership qualities that she wrote a book about him. Besides the raw power that comes from being a crime boss, Tony possesses superb empathy. Together, Himsel argues, Soprano’s power and charisma make him extremely effective.

Example 1: Tony asks his gang members to share their reactions to a given problem or idea by “giving it to my face.” After that, he makes it clear, the subject is closed.

In a business context, Tony’s doing three things right: 1) He’s soliciting feedback from his direct reports on a touchy subject. 2) He’s giving them permission to be brutally honest, and 3) By giving them only one chance to discuss it, he’s making sure the subject won’t become a distraction.

Example 2: Even though only 15 percent of his profits come from legal ventures, Tony sees his mission as noble, even heroic. He tells his psychiatrist about Italian immigrants who weren’t educated like Americans but “had the [courage] to take what we wanted.” J.P. Morgan and other big bankers, he adds, were the real criminals.

Example 3: Even though Tony’s hierarchy epitomizes clarity and simplicity in management, managing people is never clear or simple, even for Tony Soprano. He uses tough love to handle underlings, such as Christopher.

Christopher constantly campaigns to become a “made” man, even right after showing an incredible lack of judgment. After one such incident, Tony scolds: “Did you offer any guidance? What do we mean when we say ‘leadership’?”

Then, he ends the “coaching” session with a hug.

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