Lessons From a Fictional North Jersey Mob Boss
As a successful leadership-development executive at Avon, Deborrah Himsel understands what it takes to become an effective business leader. Using the central character from the HBO series The Sopranos as a reference point and example of a leader who embraces the right leadership qualities, she describes a variety of business scenarios where Tony Soprano's wisdom and skills can pay off. By demonstrating how his style and techniques worked for him within the complex hierarchy of a North Jersey organized crime family, she applies those lessons to modern business and explains how they can help real business leaders compete.
Himsel explains how embracing many of the qualities that Tony Soprano embodies have helped her apply the leadership learning she has received throughout her professional career. She describes how blunt, Soprano-style forthrightness has helped her deal with her subordinates as well as consultants. Using 360-degree feedback, seeking self-awareness, and coaching underlings are relevant leadership skills Tony demonstrates season after season. Himsel has distilled these skills and methods into a leadership plan that is both full of valuable lessons and easy to grasp. She explains that many of the leaders she has trained easily relate to Tony Soprano's combination of power and vulnerability, the ways his personal and professional lives overlap, and how he struggles with choices when there is no right answer.
Himsel recognizes the fact that a fictional mob boss is not exactly the perfect role model for business leaders, considering that many of his methods for achieving his family's goals are illegal and inappropriate in a corporate setting. In Leadership Sopranos Style, she explains that she is simply translating Tony's methods into inspirational examples of organizational leadership that can help leaders understand several viable decision-making techniques that can be used by anyone, anywhere.
Leadership Sopranos Style covers numerous business topics, including strategy, structure, decision making, leader charisma, receiving feedback, and conflict resolution. Although Tony Soprano's scams and schemes are often criminal in nature, Himsel cuts through the drama and presents the methods and moxie behind his actions that can inspire executives to improve the ways they recruit and retain top talent, make promotion decisions, take advantage of global marketplace opportunities, and cope with financial crises. By identifying and analyzing Tony's weaknesses, vulnerabilities and mistakes, Himsel turns a provocative yet accessible fictional character into a strong example of a leader who can teach real executives many things about their own jobs.
Himsel uses specific scenarios from The Sopranos to describe how "Tony-like" techniques can help leaders improve their strategic thinking. These leadership techniques include:
- Keep a money mind-set. Every great strategy must turn a profit. Tony stays focused on how to maximize the spending capacity of his customer base.
- Tap into the most compelling customer need. Tony takes the time to meet and talk with his customers as well as to talk to his people about their interactions with customers.
- Subtly emphasize new business over old. Himsel explains that Tony's approach of taking numerous small but acceptable risks to create successful new ventures fits the market realities in the early 21st century.
Throughout Leadership Sopranos Style, Himsel describes the elements of a successful leadership plan that combines the benefits of charisma; maintaining a simple, clear and adaptive leadership structure; coaching and influencing; receiving and listening to feedback; developing an effective communication style; making tough choices; and developing self-awareness as well as emotional intelligence. By grounding her lessons in the colorful underworld of Tony Soprano's criminal activities, her points hit home thanks to the power of the compelling plot lines and highly developed characters of the show.
To help leaders capture her insights, Himsel presents checklists, questions and tools they can use to measure their progress and learn more about improving their leadership styles to become more effective.
Why We Like This Book
Leadership Sopranos Style offers leaders a familiar backdrop on which they can observe leadership behavior at its best and worst. With insight, style and wit, Himsel presents memorable leadership lessons that are timely and inspirational. By using such a well-developed (and well-written) character to epitomize the lessons she imparts, she is able to capture the depth and intensity of the tasks leaders must master to become more effective in their pivotal roles.