Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer!

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Whatever other impact Boris Johnson has, he certainly keeps people on their toes. He achieves this by being unpredictable, newsworthy and unembarrassed by making a fool of himself. For David Cameron, he is also a threat to his leadership and the position of George Osborne as Cameron’s rumoured-to-be preferred successor.

Presumably, Boris has been appointed to the new Cabinet on the principle that it pays to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. Those who have had managerial responsibility will recognise the wisdom and discomfort of such a move.

The impact one malcontent can have on a team; operating unit, or business is well rehearsed. If that malcontent is also after your job, the problem is amplified. Although they may be likeable, they are also liable to be those you dislike. The temptation is to ignore them and to keep them well away from you. However, this leaves you out of touch with what they are doing and their impact on the organisation.

Apart from keeping in touch, there is also the issue of challenge. Malcontents sometimes have a point, and if that point cannot be met with well-grounded counters, it should perhaps be considered more seriously. Leaders that find it hard to work constructively with such ideas and actions are probably doing themselves and their organisations a disservice. As a leader, the question becomes:

  • How are you responding to those that you dislike and are disruptive?

Of course, disruptions founded merely on self-aggrandisement or mischievousness, and without any other point, need to be squashed, and possibly even surgically removed. But before doing so, leaders need to ensure that there isn’t a point worth their consideration. If not, in extremes, the consequence is another banking crisis. So keeping your enemies close may well have extraordinary value.








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