The Godfather is one of the most successful, influential and most quoted movies of modern times. Mario Puzo penned the original book, published in 1969, and the story we all know so well was made into a film in 1972. When the book was released it wasn’t a bestseller. However, the success of the film helped the franchise skyrocket. It introduced such terms as Cosa Nostra, Consiglieri, Omerta, Capo Regime and badabing-badaboom into the English language. As many know, the book and the movie are about a mob family headed by Don Vito Corleone and their battles with the “The Turk” Virgil Sollozzo and the other New York Barzini.
Although the film and the book were based on a ruthless crime organisation, it didn’t just show the brutality and inner workings of the Mafia, but instead it showed and described how a family could work as a strong unit. A father’s love for his children, a businessman who showed dedication and respect to anyone who depends on him for a living, a man who understands breaking a sweat to earn bread and food for his family and the principles of honour and respect for family, peers, women, children and business associates. The effect the book and the movie had on society was so powerful that the real gangsters and mafia bosses of New York emulated the mannerisms of Don Vito when conducting business with associates.
But The Godfather didn’t only have lessons to teach the mafia. Everyone can learn something from this astounding example of popular culture (this article in no way condones or encourages violence or crime).
Lessons In Leadership
1. A Powerful Community
Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando creates a loyal community from the people he has helped. By granting favours and helping people in need, Don Vito is building a network of influence. These are relationships that don’t require people to deliver a quantifiable return, but there is an unspoken agreement that person should reciprocate a favour when the time comes. If you’re in business, building strategic partnerships will enable your company and others to work through any challenging markets and will eventually fast track success. Any partnerships that are forged by trust and time are the business relationships that will bring out the greatest success. Of course you don’t have to be underhanded when dealing with people on a day-to-day basis. The modern societal equivalent to this Godfather lesson might be networking and influence partnerships.
2. Hold People Accountable For Their Actions
Don Vito reminds us how to be tough when needed. When he allowed some brief moments of weakness, it was taken advantage by the enemy and they attempted to assassinate him. It’s not because he showed weakness, but because his team failed him. In business, accountability does not mean you force somebody to get things done, but to be successful you have to be tough and focused to reach your goals. Being accountable means you need to be tough and quick when making touch business decisions.
3. Don’t Get Emotional
“It’s not personal, it’s strictly business”. Just as different mob families have their own businesses and their own turf to look out for, so to do businesses. If you make emotional decisions in business, you won’t be as successful as you might have hoped. To be a successful leader you have to keep your emotions and ego in check.
4. Be Decisive
The great Don knows exactly what he wants and this quality commands respect from his peers, his family and his associates. Command respect and loyalty through unwavering respect. As a business leader, you also need to be decisive, know what decisions and choices to make and then move forward. If you find someone in your team making the right decisions, trust them to make decisive decisions as well. Any hesitation on your part may lead to missed opportunities.
5. Spend Time With Your Family
This is one of the most important pieces of advice Don Vito gave to his children. While it’s great to be dedicated to your work, it’s not as sustainable as the relationships formed with your family. All successful leaders are connected to people outside of work. Family and friends will keep you grounded and will give you perspectives on building relationships and how to make important decisions.
6. Friends Close, Enemies Closer
Always keep an eye on your competition. Don’t hate your competition; learn from them. Just like a chess game, play it will dedication, precision and with a tactical edge. Play your cards right in your business dealings and things might turn out in your favour.
Lessons In Life
1. Do Not Involve Yourself In Other People’s Lives
Privacy should be respected and their personal lives should be theirs. You don’t have any business involving yourself in their lives unless you are asked for advice or help. Gossiping is not good for anyone, so cut the habit!
2. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
To make it simple, keep your word. If you made a promise, you need to deliver. Your word is like a binding contract and one of the most important things you can offer to anyone. It’s ok to say no to a request, but if you made a promise, do it.
3. Family Is Important
To some, family does not hold that much weight, but blood is thicker than water. Family is family no matter what. As Don Vito once said “a man doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”.
4. Don’t Act On Emotion
Just like the one mentioned earlier, acting on emotions will result in mistakes. Only take action once you have thought of the possible outcomes. You have to think wisely and in a diplomatic way about important life decisions. Don’t show anger or eagerness. As Micheal Corleone said “never hate your enemies, it clouds your judgement”. Let go of bias and you’ll find the best course of action for whatever decision you need to make
5. Return The Favour
If you have a favour to ask of someone, do it with respect and friendship in mind. Offer your friendship and loyalty and you will get the same in return. If you go against this basic social ruling you will be considered untrustworthy and unreliable. Keep a healthy balance between giving and receiving.
6. Be Prepared
There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead of time, but remember to be patient. Taking any action on any life decision without careful planning will only result in blunders. At the same time, don’t be so eager about your plans that you’re not open to change.
There’s nothing like a good book or movie to really make you think about and apply some of its principles in your daily life. The Godfather is not just about gangsters and violence; it’s a tale of family, business, power and consequences.