Machiavelli Was Right, Become a Kingmaker
by Colle Davis
Machiavelli wrote The Prince in an era of monarchs and cruel despots (15th and 16th Century). He was advising those seeking a higher station in the realm and who wanted to stay alive. Those serving the king/lord were sycophants, schemers, and hangers-on who had learned to stay in good graces. The French King Louis XIV codified courtly behavior, had it written on cards, and this ‘ticket’ became known as ‘etiquette.’
“To play the game, you have to know the other
person’s rules so you can break them.” – Dalai Lama
In my three-plus decades of working a coach with executives, politicians, business owners, and others holding high levels of lofty power, I have noted a pattern. First, are those who want to become a leader capable of creating policy and profits. These clients climbed the career ladder faster than they thought possible with the help of coaching.
Next, there is a much smaller group of those with vivid dreams of riding the momentous surge created by their peers’ progress, and survive the setbacks and rolling with the changes. Over time (years actually), I began to recognize that the smaller group were astute, intelligent, and remarkable people, and they were the kingmakers.
PLEASE NOTE: All due credit goes to Queens as well as Kings. When queens were in power, the term kingmaker was used. I’ll be using the term throughout this piece because it describes the actions, not the gender.
Here is the hardest guideline to accept for becoming a kingmaker. There are no rules; this is the path of a modern-day Prince, and there are identifiable behaviors and tools required to move quickly toward the pinnacle of success while remaining intact and unbloodied.
“This information covers the Tools of The Game, not the Rules of The Game
because there are NO RULES to The Game. Again, there are NO RULES
except those used by others to restrict themselves. One more time:
The Game itself has NO RULES.” – The Palace Coup by Colle Davis
What skills can you hone as a habitual practice to enhance your kingmaking prowess?
First step: Make a list of everyone you know well enough to call, then contact each one and ask them this question; “What can I do to help you advance your career?” This group includes school contacts, people in organizations you may be part of and people within your organization and industry.
This question is your gift to them. It is an opening for you to ask for their help in the future, and it gives them permission and the confidence to approach you at a later date, and they will remember you and your support. Recruiting everyone you talk to as a potential resource builds an enthusiastic and powerful base.
The number of people who trust you is a direct correlation to your influence and power. Kingmaker material.
Aside: Power vs. Control. These words are not interchangeable though they are often mistaken for each other. Here is the difference:
- A person with power allocates resources and assigns others the task of using them to the greatest benefit to the organization.
- A control person oversees the resources to assure they are properly used by their subordinates.
- The power person never does the work. The control person shoulders the responsibility of making sure the work is done.
- If you want power, do not do the work. Instead, delegate the work to the control person. Funny thing, the delegate is delighted with their control and respects the power person for giving them the reigns.
Here is a sports analogy:
- The team manager does not claim to be an athlete because he/she is the leader.
- The coach is not a player on the field. They are in charge of distributing resources to the advantage of the team. Coaches are the control people.
- What can you do or who do you know that can help one of your contacts?
- Start by contacting each person on your list at least quarterly for the first year. Then monthly for those who respond in any way.
- They may provide you with more contacts to add to your list, and your POWER grows.
- Keep your finger on the pulse of your large group, and it will give you unprecedented leverage that appears magical to outsiders.
- With your cadre in place, you become a conduit to make things happen at lightning speed. People will begin to ask you if you know of someone to fill an opening or a contractor to do a short gig, or a good coach, or any of a thousand other items facing them. Your group of contacts may or may not have a person to fit the bill, and you can pass on the best people/ideas to those who ask.
Assembling a growing group of supportive and eager contacts makes you the focal point in their lives. You become the go-to person who does not have the answers but has the best questions and some suggestions on how to move forward.
Years ago, I stopped giving advice and switched to ‘providing suggestions.’ If you give advice and it works, they keep coming back to you for more. If it does not work, you become the schmuck and are no longer trusted. Providing suggestions gives people the option of following up on your suggestions or ignoring them. Either way, you win.
Early mistakes in becoming a kingmaker include:
- Not doing follow-ups, forgetting birthdays/anniversaries/events of significance
- Pushing too hard to help them succeed. Kingmakers let their contacts succeed or fail on their own. Everyone has the right to fail. They have fun sharing their successes with you and crying about their failures. Be careful about listening to crybabies; they will eat your time.
- Reaching milestones and celebrating is important because it allows you to give your people the kudos they crave. Flowers, old fashion cards, a special meal are all ideas.
- There is another possible point of failure, do not give food or alcohol as a reward. Some people cannot indulge them, so don’t tempt them.
The quickest way to achieve power is becoming a kingmaker. Let others be the leaders and reduce your target profile by working behind the scenes.
When you are vested in another’s outcome, and they succeed, you succeed. Remember, being a kingmaker is hard work, rewarding on many levels, and gives you the inside track in the working of your organization.
Side note: If you ever drink to the point of being drunk, you will fail at kingmaker; it is a trust issue. Chose to stop drinking or give up being a kingmaker. There is no slack in this suggestion.
Being a kingmaker is not for everyone. In my decades of coaching, I’ve met only a half dozen. They are quiet, successful, and memorable people. Their counsel is sought, their suggestions taken, and their friendship treasured.
For more tools on becoming a leader or a kingmaker, contact me. Colle Davis firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-467-1536 (EST).