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Power, Manipulation, and Warfare

Machiavelli wrote three major political works that advised leaders on the primary disciplines he believed mattered most. The Prince was a guidebook for becoming a powerful dictator, and many of its lessons focused on gaining and retaining power. Machiavelli’s second work, The Discourses, explored his preferred form of government, a Republic where power was to be divided among the many rather than the few. The Art of War explored the qualities of a great general and included detailed descriptions of early military maneuvers.

In author /his (Tina Nunno) works, Machiavelli observed that many leaders do not know how to be entirely good or entirely bad, so they choose a middle course of action. CIOs must practice a variety of extreme tactics if they are to gain the skills they need to become strong wolf CIOs and prevent negative situations from getting out of control.

Wolf CIOs are at full strength when they have gained the essence of all six of the other animals in the extreme animal ecosystem–the lamb, the dove, and the dolphin–those that practice light-side leadership tactics–and the lion, the snake, and the shark–those that practice dark-side leadership tactics. As a blend of light and dark–best described as grey–the wolf is at the center of this “hub-and-spoke” model. The animals are also binary pairs, with the lamb and the lion representing power, the dove and the snake representing manipulation, and the dolphin and the shark representing warfare. Leaders must master these three disciplines in order to strengthen their inner wolves.

Power is the ability to make something happen–and it is something that is expected of all leaders. Leaders must embrace power unapologetically and recognize that wielding it is both an opportunity and a threat. CIOs that use a lamb power approach are often driven by the desire to be liked. They are typically reluctant to say “no” in order to please others; they use positive incentives to motivate team members; and they often fail to develop conflict-management skills. CIOs with a lion approach, on the other hand, actively gather positional and coercive power. They are typically confident and charismatic and are viewed as good at execution but not at inspiring others. CIOs with this style often rise to power in aggressive and competitive cultures where they can hold their own with other “predators.” A wolf is neither a lamb nor a lion–it is both.

Most CIOs deal with a greater demand for IT than they can deliver, and many take the lamb power approach to prioritization. They hope to please others and avoid conflicts by saying “yes” to as many projects as possible and then end up with more projects than they can handle. Over time, their colleagues view their inability to say “no” not as a sign of willingness to help but as a sign of weakness. Lion CIOs engage their various teams in decision making and maintain their power. Wolf CIOs find a way to combine light and dark tactics and combine force and finesse to benefit their enterprises.

People are easily influenced by what things seem to be. Humble lamb CIOs often take little to no proactive action to ensure that their enterprises know they are making things happen, and the only time colleagues hear anything about IT is when things have gone wrong. It is the CIO’s job to tell the story and advocate for and manage the organization’s reputation. Lion CIOs want to be perceived as strong, so they tend to “roar” about successes but are reluctant to divulge their weaknesses. Since everything always appears to be great, few colleagues volunteer assistance. Wolf CIOs build their reputations and power by proactively communicating about their accomplishments and asking for help to deal with real issues. They actively hunt down those who say negative things about IT and work to set the record straight. They protect their reputations by growling and not being soft targets.

No one likes being controlled or told what to do, but people without boundaries tend to behave irresponsibly. This is especially true when it comes to technology. Senior executives often pursue new technologies as though they are in pursuit of new toys.

CIOs must distinguish between information gathering and asking permission. Gathering a reasonable amount of input when needed is wise, but allowing others to make decisions democratically when not required can lead to a loss of power. Lion CIOs allow their stakeholders minimal input and are sometimes too comfortable with control. Wolf CIOs calculate the risk of deliberately not doing what they are told, which allows them to usurp power from the masses without their knowledge.

Money is power, and the ability to move money and strategically invest it is fundamental to the CIO’s ability to create change, but money does not always ensure strength and safety. While having control of large sums of money can make CIOs powerful, it can also make them vulnerable to attack when those funds are coveted for alternate uses. Competition for money can quickly turn an enterprise’s light culture to a dark one.

Even the most powerful CIOs do not win all the time, and the strongest leaders often have the most difficulty dealing with losses. Great wolf CIOs maintain their focus on the good of the enterprise and their colleagues in order to minimize collateral damage–sometimes at great personal or professional expense. A partial win is better than no win at all, and sometimes the goal is to successfully choose between bad and worse. Wolf CIOs need to be manipulative, but they must not be perceived as such. Rather, the most skilled manipulators are viewed as helpful, empathetic, and charismatic leaders.

CIOs must learn to recognize manipulation and take appropriate countermeasures to prevent it. Applying light-side techniques when handling others is often referred to as influence, whereas applying dark-side techniques moves people into manipulation territory. Manipulation is more appropriate and effective than influence and honesty when colleagues are deceitful, irrational, or more powerful. Wolf CIOs must strive to use manipulation altruistically rather than for personal gain.

While trusting others too easily can be dangerous, so is rushing to judgment. CIOs must use their analytical abilities to assess new stakeholders to determine if they are worthy of trust or an investment of resources. Respectfully questioning colleagues can yield information about their trustworthiness. To find others’ hidden agendas, wolf CIOs go to the source, exercise pragmatic optimism, and hope for the best but plan for the worst.

Information is a powerful weapon that CIOs can use as protection against untrustworthy individuals, but weapons can be turned against those who wield them. The more information CIOs bring forward, the more likely they are to be micromanaged.

To CIOs, transparency often means sharing tremendous detail and volumes of data that other executives would not think to share. Sharing too much information conveys a lack of confidence and credibility. Snake CIOs might share massive piles of data with executives, but intentionally bury key information in order to avoid being micromanaged. Wolf CIOs share what is required, but not one data point more.

CIOs typically find themselves faced with urgent requests that are delivered with powerful emotion. Urgency is a tool used in emotional blackmail, and how CIOs deal with it can determine if they are masters or targets of manipulation.

Many CIOs enjoy responding to urgent requests; they get a rush as they strap on their “hero capes” and save the day. Manipulative stakeholders often fan the flames of urgency and refer to their CIOs as friends or allies, but when their requests are fulfilled, the CIOs are simply thought of as service providers. Wolf CIOs break this cycle to create healthier behaviors and outcomes, and they give their stakeholders what they really need rather than what they are asking for.

Machiavelli believed that it was appropriate for leaders to break their promises when others broke theirs first; however, today most CIOs are vehemently against this. Dove CIOs compensate for poor project partners by applying strong resources, while snake CIOs penalize their partners by providing prompt service but assigning the weakest project teams available. Wolf CIOs believe it is crucial to be as clear as possible about what their partners need to do at the outset of the project, and then hold them accountable.

Power and manipulation are most effective when used together skillfully. CIOs often find themselves in hostile situations that require them to go on the offensive in quick and efficient ways. By applying manipulation techniques, CIOs can prevent or delay all-out warfare.

Effective wolf CIOs make sure that manipulators cannot hide or find protection among their herds. In total warfare, they scale up the impact of power and manipulation across multiple targets simultaneously and take control of a large territory. This is how wolf CIOs come into their full strength and realize their true potential.

The difference between power, manipulation, and warfare is scale. Wolf CIOs apply both light-side and dark-side tactics, even in warfare. As leaders, they inspire loyalty and make others want to follow them while simultaneously instilling discipline in their troops and fear in their enemies.

Dolphin CIOs create followers by making experiences more enjoyable; they enjoy being with and leading people, and they prefer peace to warfare. They demonstrate genuine care and empathy toward staff members and colleagues. Meanwhile, shark CIOs achieve results at any cost to themselves or others. They have excellent fighting skills and aggressively drive results. Wolf CIOs must become both dolphins and sharks during warfare. They must be highly disciplined, mastering a blend of the dolphin’s social and information analysis skills and the shark’s fighting skills.

No matter how much power or manipulation skills CIOs acquire, their reach and range are limited if they act as independent entities and cannot execute to scale. Members of teams that are so large that they lack attention and clear direction from their leaders often turn to one another in a negative fashion.

Dolphin CIOs avoid creating teams that are too large to control, while shark CIOs avoid scaling up fear and paralyzing followers. While shark-like aggression is sometimes useful in getting teams to move quickly, when used in the extreme it only increases paralysis. Wolf CIOs create strong, highly coordinated and disciplined wolf packs, or teams of highly engaged individuals who work closely together as a unit. Developing disciplined wolf packs that can maintain ranks and secrecy in warfare is not easy, but it is possible when wolf CIOs demonstrate clarity, discipline, and missions worth following.

Strong partnerships and alliances are critical to a CIO’s success. Machiavelli identified three ways to form strong alliances:

  1. Form a partnership of equals in which everyone is treated the same.

  2. Create a federation with a strong central authority that governs multiple states.

  3. Execute a mandate and take over an entire enterprise by force.

Dolphin CIOs create alliances of equals, while sharks favor the all-or-nothing power play. Wolves, on the other hand, use multilateral strategies and make the most of each crisis that occurs.

The three critical battlefronts for CIOs are top-line growth, bottom-line savings, and risk mitigation. CIOs must be cautious not to fight on too many fronts at once. By taking on too many battles, they become weak in all areas. Dolphin CIOs let themselves get boxed in and limit their opportunities for growth, while shark CIOs are suspicious and fight on the fronts their colleagues avoid. Adventurous wolf CIOs expand their battlefronts and territories into the grey areas, well outside of IT, by taking advantage of opportunities that others ignore.

According to Machiavelli, the best strategy is the one that is perceived to be so high risk or destructive that it is hard to imagine anyone implementing it. Successful wolf CIOs build their strengths and skills, and plan their campaigns carefully. Sometimes the most powerful weapon is the patience to let an enemy self-destruct. In extreme cases, wolf CIOs recognize that the best way to win the war is to allow their enemies to lose it.

CIOs can wield their power for good or for bad, but they must know how to defend themselves and wage offensive wars to grow their businesses. Wolf CIOs always use light-side tactics when they are effective, but resort to dark-side tactics when necessary to ensure favorable outcomes.

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