It is often said that you can’t be a gentleman in business. Business is ruthless and cutthroat, people are selfish and will climb over you to get to the top. Business people are frequently told to live by the rules of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Gordon Gekko (the character from the film ‘Wall Street’) and by Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, and to take out the emotion from business and do what you need to do to succeed.
I personally think that this is total Claptrap and Baloney. I have been involved in business, either through my family or with my own companies, since I was about 13 years old. I have been involved in many different forms of business and all manner of business people and had advice from a wide range of mentors, from Billionaires to Corporate Leaders and Academics.
In my experience, business people that have the longest, happiest and most sustainable careers are the Gentleman.
Why do I say that? Because leaders should inspire loyalty and passion. Because all business is based on people, and people remember how you made them feel first and foremost. Because success is more than money in the bank. Because it should not be lonely at the top.
Dr Tina Seelig, who is a Professor at Stanford University specialising in Entrepreneurship, reminds us that people have long memories and you never know when people will appear from your past to affect your future. So be kind and considerate on your business journey as you never know where it may change the course of your life.
I have read all those books mentioned in the first paragraph and there is some excellent information in them, there are even some key elements to take heed of and to implement, though it is not the book I would recommend. I have taught Entrepreneurship a number of times and have frequently been asked for advice for entrepreneurs starting out on their careers. I always say the first book an aspiring entrepreneur should read is “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It is the handbook that I re-read all the time.
The ability to inspire loyalty in people both inside the business and outside the business with customers and partners is driven by your passion, your compassion and your ability to listen and to think of others first.
Money can be delightful, it gives you the ability to do a great many things and yet it does not solve all problems. It cannot insulate you from heartache, it cannot purchase you genuine affection and deep routed happiness.
One of the top issues that CEOs face is loneliness. This is partly the fault of current business culture and partly the fault of the CEOs themselves. People need people and everyone needs someone to listen to them and understand their needs, even Gordon Gekko.
I am not saying that at times you don’t have to make tough decisions and do difficult things, but there are ways to do them, ways that show you to be the Gentleman you are, not the callous business man that the media would like to portray.
We are at a crossroads in business, where the world needs to change the way it operates to build a commercial world that is in sync with the will of the people. We need to think and behave like gentlemen, not ruthless machines for profit.