Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Mob on Leadership

Donald Philips has made his mark writing leadership books - Lincoln on Leadership, The Founding Fathers on Leadership, US Coast Guard on Leadership and Martin Luther Ling Jr. on Leadership.  Instead of lecturing the reader, Philip’s is known for using the person’s own words, quoting extensive excerpts from letters, speeches, anecdotes and jokes to highlight the lessons he is conveying.  The books are insightful and offer practical lessons on leadership.


This week the New York Times reported on a New York trial in which Joseph “Big Joey” Massino, longtime head of the Bonanno Crime family turned government witness to avoid the death penalty or in his own words perhaps “see the light at the end of the tunnel”, testified against Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, his successor.  You just gotta love these nicknames.

Massino used some colorful anecdotes to describe life in the mob and lessons he taught underlings and it got me to thinking about a whole new series of leadership books – The Godfather on Leadership, The Mob on Leadership, Tony Montana on Leadership and of course Massino on Leadership.

Lesson 1: It takes all kinda meat to make a good sauce.

Massino, a onetime restaurateur and catering consultant, testified that “you need workers — it takes all kinds of meat to make a good sauce.  Lesson learned-diversity is good.  Utilize the strengths of the people around you.  If a football team was made up of all quarterbacks there would be no one to catch the football.  And like a good spaghetti sauce, the flavors need to meld in order to enhance the sauce.  Whadda’ they say?  There is no “I” in team.  We all work towards the common good of the organization.  And like America, the melting pot philosophy means that the social fabric of our nation is enriched by the melding of cultures.  Life would be pretty boring if we were all alike.

Lesson 2:     Stay between the raindrops.

In 2000, Massino closed down the social clubs that mobsters would frequent.  “Stay between the raindrops,” Mr. Massino said, explaining his thinking. “Less exposure.”

While John “The Dapper Don” Gotti liked the limelight, Massino shunned it.  How does this apply to the rest of us?  Go about your job, do it well but don’t toot your own horn.  When you stick your neck out, people take shots (no pun intended).  While some may see this as an abdication in leadership it really isn’t.  Leadership is about influence, not popularity.  Remember that servant leaders shun the limelight while quietly going about their business.

Lesson 3:     A leader is physically fit

In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer infiltrates the mob as a government informant but Homer ends up befriending Fat Tony instead.  When Fat Tony dies of a heart attack, his cousin Fit Tony takes over.  However, he soon lets himself go and morphs into Fat Fit Tony.  If Fat Tony would have taken care of himself, perhaps he would have made better decision and in all likihood, would not have died prematurely of a heart attack.

Massino testified, “You never talk in a club, you never talk in a car, you never talk on a cell phone, you never talk on a phone, you never talk in your house.”  Instead, Massino preferred “so called walk-talks”, where two or more crime figures would carry on a roving conversation as they strolled the streets.

I think he was on to something here.  If Fat Tony would have had more “walk-talks” maybe he would have burned a few more calories and lived to see another day.  A leader should live a balanced life and exercise should be a part of that.  A fit leader has more stamina and energy and in the long run, probably more effective.

I look forward to reading some more of Massino’s anecdotes.  If they are good, I might just consider penning that book.  In the meantime, I gotta get back to that pot of sauce simmering on the backburner...