Sell Aggression. Buy Relationships


I saw a list shared on twitter of 25 books for CEOs from 2015. The above image was attached to the tweet. I reacted immediately to the macho impression of the attached image of the covers. Then I looked more closely and realised many of the subtitles run contrary to the general image of the cover. These books look like the typical aggressive competitive advice for CEOs to outcompete, outperform and to go big. However, the actual advice within the aggressive red or yellow cover is far more nuanced. Human relationships matter.

Sell Aggression

This is an old game. Strong leadership sells. We sell aggression. Alpha males rule the chimp pack. Wear red and yellow. Stand in a power pose. Be the best. Be simple. Know the right answer. Do one thing better than anyone else on earth and rule the whole damn thing.

Except this is the cheap shot. Aggression primes our primate brain and gets our attention. Aggression makes us pick up the book. Aggression isn’t what makes change happen and isn’t what delivers results. Aggression is the empty wind of a loud shouting exploitative push economy. Aggression is the bait in a leadership bait and switch.

Buy Relationships

Any successful leader knows that relationships is where the real work gets done. Collaboration and cooperation drive progress, not force. Nothing gets done alone. You don’t want anything done by the coerced. You want commitment not compliance.

Humanity triumphs again and again against the forces of power. Force an outcome and passive resistance will undermine its effectiveness. Bureaucracy rules. For every blustery threat, the real deal gets done in a quiet conversation as power is traded for persuasion.

Win commitment and you will see people’s capabilities blossom. The messy beautiful work of leveraging the capabilities of people happens in rich, complex and unpredictable networks of oh so human relationships. That far less saleable work, but it is the work of value. Relationships are where leaders seal the deal when they switch away from the bait of aggression.

Portfolio for the Future of Work

As our economies become more connected, faster and more complicated, these human relationships will only increase in value. Relationships bring information, trust & authority, critical differentiators, cost-lowering capabilities and fundamental elements of effectiveness.

The portfolio strategy for leaders in the future of work is to be long relationships. Those relationships will make your work far richer and more human. Buy now.

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