Monday, May 2nd, 2016


I’ve been reading Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. It’s a biography of Catherine the Great of Russia.

There have been some ‘great’ women leaders in past history that would be just as great today. It would be a great (word of the day I guess) book for women leaders to read and weigh against their style and principles. Certainly, the learning applies to men as well.

What Catherine did:

** She wanted to lead from the time she set eyes on Empress Elizabeth who greeted her in full magnificence. Catherine said, “Yes, I want to do that.” She learned by sixteen she was more competent to lead than others and wanted the top role.

**She knew how to win people to her side. She learned this when she was powerless and persecuted and became adept at garnering a following of loyal people.

**She waited. She knew what she wanted, and it took her years of ups and downs and growing into her own confidence to become Empress.

**The moment came and with help from those loyal followers she seized a moment and the throne. Seized. Took the throne. Knew when the time was right. Knew that she was right. Knew she would be killed or isolated unless she acted.

**She was generous and rewarded people grandly and publicly for achieving important results. And she rewarded possible enemies and gave them the limelight which won many over to her side.

**She understood the international chessboard and always aligned with the side that got gains for Russia. She knew when to talk directly and when to talk through others. And she knew how to snub as needed.

**She benchmarked Russia against Paris and Berlin and London. She invited learned people to come and talk with her–Voltaire was her idol. She hired from other countries, and when she needed a Navy expert, she hired John Paul Jones.

**She understood ceremony and used it well. She knew what moment needed a symbolic event and created one.

**She took care of herself. She had a cadre of people (and favorites) where she demanded informality–explicitly.  She would put a royal ban of silence on complaints and politics and gossip for social evenings of dance and cards and laughter. She prized people who made her laugh.

**She worked hard. She was handson and read all diplomatic pouch contents daily.  

**She stood by the principles of The Enlightenment and tried out many naive projects of selfgovernment and pragmatically decided her Russia was not ready and needed a strict royal matriarchy.  

So looking to evaluate your CEO?  Here are the traits of Catherine the Great as told by Massie—“she had genius, natural abilities, an excellent memory, artifice without craft, the art of conquering every heart; much generosity, graciousness, and justice in rewards; and a consummate knowledge of mankind.” How’s that for a benchmark?


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