Now that Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure in the White House and 15 minutes of fame are well and truly behind us, the time is right to properly diagnose and fully understand just what a great gift he was to leadership studies.
Management, public relations, and human resource leadership textbooks will need to be rewritten, thanks to the poignancy of Scaramucci’s example. The “Scaramucci Rules” will become so important and ubiquitous for future university and college students, they will replace Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as the thing you learn about in almost every course.
So, for the benefit of future generations, herewith are the “Scaramucci Rules”, inspired by things Anthony Scaramucci did spectacularly wrong:
Rule Number One: Put Family First.
Let me be clear: this rule isn’t about being caring and supportive to one’s family and friends. This rule is about not being seen as a total ass by your co-workers. In today’s day and age, it is a career-limiting move to not put family first. When your wife is giving birth, it’s simply not considered cool anymore to put work ahead of family – as Scaramucci did.
Rule Number Two: Build a “One Team” Environment.
Successful organizations create cultures in which everyone feels like they’re on the same team. In fact, any statements or actions that create divisiveness are called out as wrong. Not only did Scaramucci revel in the factionism within the West Wing, but he also interpreted the discord as a source of personal advantage for himself. He thought with a fixed-pie mentality, in which a bad day for a colleague was a good day for him. Which is a world view right from the Dwight Schrute school of organizational behaviour.
Rule Number Three: Create an Atmosphere of Trust.
From Pee-Wee soccer leagues to the highest echelons of business and government, people on successful teams trust each other. And when they don’t, bad things happen. They become chaotic, toxic messes – with an every-person-for-themselves and CYA mentality. And that’s bad for the voters, shareholders, or other stakeholders who rely on the organization. There is an economic and social value to trust. That’s not my theory, it is Harvard professor Dr. Robert Putnam’s theory outlined in his excellent book Bowling Alone, which should be required reading for anyone working in this West Wing.
Rule Number Four: Don’t Look Like You’re Hiding Something.
This could also be called the ‘don’t wear sunglasses if you are a spokesperson or public figure’ rule. There are psychological reasons why the blue-tinged Scaramucci sunglasses were such a problem: when we can’t see someone’s eyes, our brains tell us we don’t really know what they are feeling or thinking. If we can’t see someone’s eyes, we don’t feel we can trust them. Bono is the exception to the sunglasses rule – but he’s Bono – and you can usually see his eyes through the badass sunglasses that he wears.
Rule Number Five: When Talking to a Reporter, Always Assume You Are on the Record.
We could also call this the “know the basics when it comes to doing your job” rule. A political Communications Director should know that you are always on the record when speaking to a journalist – unless it has been explicitly agreed to in advance, that you are speaking on “deep background”. When I first worked in government as a 23-year-old, this was very clear to me and everyone else. The broader lesson here is to be humble, and take the time to learn. Learn the basics of your job, learn the small-p politics of the environment you work in, and learn how you can be supportive of others. None of which Scaramucci did.
Rule Number Six: Don’t Diss Your Boss in Public.
You would think that this one would go without saying. But the Scaramucci Rules are so spectacular that even things that one would assume to be common sense are, in fact, called into question. The more atrocious leadership problem for the White House was that within hours of Scaramucci saying things about Reince Preibus that I won’t repeat here, Reince Preibus was fired. I think the timing of Preibus getting fired made many of us – regardless of political affiliation – a bit sick to our stomachs. But back to the lesson, which is not to diss your boss in public. Because if you do diss your boss in public, it says a lot more about you than it does your boss. Scaramucci’s reputation suffered irreparable damage once he openly spoke ill of his colleagues. And he was gone within days.
Rule Number Seven: Don’t be the Bad Guy in the Story.
It is an astounding achievement to make the likes of Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon into sympathetic characters. But Scaramucci was so unlikeable, so repellant, that other characters in this play now look like the good guys. People love stories – and as human beings, we organize the people in the dramas that play out in our world according to basic archetypes. The hero. The helper. The comic relief. And … the villain. Strong leaders sometimes need to make tough decisions that aren’t popular. In fact, they make tough decisions that aren’t popular all the time. Great leaders I’ve worked with always answer the ‘why are we doing this’ question, which is about motive. And in Scaramucci’s case, he never got to ‘why are we doing this’ – because the story became about him. His motive was simply to feed the ego of “The Mooch”, which made him the bad guy. People want to believe their leaders – and those close to them – are acting for a greater good, a common cause. And anyone who gives the impression that they are in a big job just for their own ego, will not do well.
One final rule: you’re not allowed to pick your own nickname. You’re just not.
By: Hugh MacPhie