The Core

Fabricating a Business Personality

You will never move forward if you do not assume a working personality that supplants your own, at least in part, while you grow on the job. Those who do not have a functional business persona distinct from their “true” personality either go mad or become the CEO.

For the most part, the ability—and the right—to reveal one’s true self grows over time, until you reach the highest levels of power, where people are unalterably and irrevocably authentic, gigantic, festering warts and all. Sometimes all that’s left are the warts . . . and a lot of money.

You will have to make decisions on makeup and proportion for yourself. Before you do, let’s look at the elements:

Grooming (5%): There are men who still use strong aftershave and women who travel in a cloud of seductive scent. Others (men, mostly) have facial hair. These things contribute mightily to one’s definition of organizational self.

Costume (11%): For many years, everybody in China and at, say, Westinghouse dressed in the same blue suit. In China, they added a red scarf and a little blue cap sometimes, and in Pittsburgh men wore blue ties with little silver polka dots. Deviations from that norm made a statement. Today, I know of at least one individual who wears bow ties. This, too, goes a long way toward the construction of his persona, for better or worse.

Choice of hardware (17%): iPhone? Galaxy? Retro BlackBerry? iPad? Earbud? Bluetooth? At this stage of history, the display of your hardware makes a powerful statement about you, particularly if the implement you fish out when the phone rings is a clamshell that belongs in the Smithsonian.

Work habits (23%): What hours will you keep? What does “on time” mean to you? Are you available to do a conference call while attending your mother’s funeral?

Approach to aggression, rage, and violence (10%): There are those, even when young, who operate on a short fuse. This gives the ones destined for greatness immediate and credible power—the power to scare people. Later, that develops into the power to kill people, sometimes literally. In the early stages of your career, that potential energy must be somewhat circumscribed, but if you are one of those lucky few who can get angry at a moment’s notice and frighten even those older and more potent than you are, then good for you. The other kind of angry people are the ones you see picking up cigarette butts on the sidewalk and screaming about fluoride in their water. You’ll want to apprehend the difference.

Friends (17%): We will delve into this issue in a later level of study, but an initial look at the role played by “friends” in the business universe is a key part of your Level 100 personality construct. Friends can sometimes, if not always, be counted upon as allies, which are more important than friends. An understanding of the nature of friendship in context, too, is important.

Substance abuse (7%): Alcohol and other stimulants and depressants play an enormous role in business, government, and the arts. You need to establish your positioning vis-à-vis this important issue, to ensure minimum destruction of your newly minted persona. This, like so many other things, is not only a personal but primarily a cultural issue. When the CFO hands you a Sambuca Romano at 2 a.m. as a nightcap after two cocktails and three bottles of wine, you’d better know how to drink it without calling Ralph on the Big White Phone.

Craziness (10%): Each individual must wrangle his or her personal insanity and use it for the best business objectives. One must also learn to manage the insanity of others. Those who do not currently possess insanity are encouraged to acquire some.

For further information on the lessons contained here, refer to The Curriculum: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Master of Business Arts.


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