Thursday, November 24, 2011

Boardwalk Empire: Some Lessons for Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Business Managers

Nucky Thompson may be fictive, but his greed is a real human trait.
Boardwalk Empire, a critically acclaimed series produced by HBO (Home Box Office), is not simply a tale about New Jersey during the Prohibition era when alcohol was legislated as a state enemy. Its main figure, the fictive Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, resurrects Enoch L. Johnson's character whose life history can serve as a teaching ground for chief executive officers (CEOs) of neophyte and burgeoning technology firms. It may seem uncanny to connect history and management of a technology business, but Nucky's character reeks of lessons for corporate heads. 

Just like the CEOs and the rest of the world's population of homo sapiens, Nucky's decisions, behaviors, and misdeeds emphasized his perfectly flawed human nature. Nevertheless, what he did and the consequences of his actions can guide senior managers on how to run an enterprise.

Capital Vices and Heavenly Virtues - Tempering the Impact of Paradox

Being a saint was not part of Nucky Thompson's life plan. Undoubtedly a sinner, he committed what Christians refer to as seven deadly sins: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. However, this does not indicate that for a business to succeed, its CEO should do the same.

As a ruthless gang leader and corrupt politician, Nucky aspired for greater power and material wealth. His determination to reach his goals led him to step on other people's toes and defy institutions, particularly the United States (US) Government.

In one episode of Boardwalk Empire, Nucky showed his analytical side when he told guests that the Prohibition would tremendously benefit Atlantic City. In spite of the risks, he supported bootlegging of alcohol because he knew gaining money would result in greater political influence. Apart from this, being wealthy would afford him a lavish lifestyle, enabling him to wear dapper suits and indulge in hedonistic whims. He practiced shrewdness and charm to win public support even if he knew he was circumventing the law.

HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" offers business tips for the insightful CEO and/or manager.

The lesson for CEOs?
  • Analyze to see the potential of a certain situation and be brave to take risks based on this analysis - without running against the law, of course. Though Nucky benefited for quite some time from engaging in illegal activities, he later paid for it. As managers or leaders of a company, risks need to be calculated and should consider future implications of decisions made and actions taken.
To get even with the husband of a female friend who attacked his pride and earned his tremendous ire, Nucky had him murdered. Prior to this, however, he gave the woman - represented by a battered Margaret Schroeder in the series - money instead of helping her find a job for her abusive partner.

Learning points for CEOs:
  • Unlike the unforgiving Nucky, CEOs need to practice corporate forgiveness when a competitor wins or gets ahead in terms of profits. Also, forgive when others attack the business by working on improving the firm's products and services.  
  • Be compassionate. Treat Margaret Schroeder and her request for employment as company employees whose services and welfare should be justly compensated and should be given humane and decent work conditions that comply with the standards set by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
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