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modern interpretation of the troubled relationship between King Henry II and Thomas a- Beckett suggests that while times may have changed, the chances are human nature has not. Substitute the CEO of a major corporation with Henry, a community or civil rights leader with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the story is complete with the replacement of the faithful but ruthless knights by their modern day incarnation, the Human Resources Department. Power: The Greatest Leadership Challenge of All. One of the hardest challenges in leadership - business or otherwise - is to ensure that power is exercised legitimately. Surrounding yourself with "your own people" when this really means surrounding yourself with people who will always agree with you is a common trait of an insecure leader, but very common in business circles. Some leaders are aware if these dangers and deliberately seek the counsel of a trusted advisor who will tell the truth. But what happens when the truth is very, very ugly? In this story, Henry, a determined and powerful leader faces this challenge. Henry Had a Problem Henry had a problem. As CEO of a family run conglomerate that was one of the most powerful on the planet, he was not answerable to external shareholders and with the resources at his disposal (that included an effective private paramilitary force) he had the had the power to achieve just about anything he wanted by one means or another. He had a highly autocratic management style, but like many CEO's of similar style, had a fiercely loyal cadre of followers. Certainly not a man to be crossed. But there was one thing he desperately craved that he couldn't have. Educated in one of the UK's finest Public Schools his closest friend and confidante from those days, Thomas, had been the son of an Archbishop well known for his outspoken views on such issues as poverty and social justice and Tom had a similar vein of tenacity. Despising one another on sight, and despite coming from very different worlds the two boys struck up a friendship and mutual respect that had endured over the years, as Henry eventually took over the conglomerate and Tom followed his father's calling through dedicating his life to working with the underprivileged and eventually rising to become one of the most respected leaders in Western Europe, renowned for his clear and uncompromising views on social justice.
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A Businessman For All Seasons

Henry and Tom would often meet and debate at length their different perspectives - and while they shared a bond of friendship and respect for one another, their views fiercely clashed. Through direct and indirect control, Henry's business interests spanned healthcare, property, food production, armaments, financial services, liquor, gaming and other sectors, and he had a simple and Darwinian view that it was his right to do whatever he pleased to maximize profits regardless of the consequences. On the other hand Tom constantly argued from the perspective that there were absolute standards of right and wrong, and that Henry must be accountable for his actions. The Rift Widens Over the years, despite their friendship, this rift began to widen as Henry, increasingly emboldened by his ability to use fair means and foul to achieve his objectives, began to do more and more that Tom believed was across the line, and Tom began to build a reputation for being a person willing to speak out against Henry's approaches. This infuriated Henry, who privately had the worry that Tom had a point, and desperately wanted to gain his approval. Things became very tense. The Lines Are Drawn Matters came to a head when a long and convoluted series of business deals Henry had been working on for years finally fell into place. Over the years he had used his influence and money - and the occasional assassination, military coup or civil war - to give his operations favorable positions in a number of countries and using this, his business interests and those he controlled covertly plus a series of complex financial transactions he now had effective supply and pricing control across enough key sectors of the economy that he was effectively an undeclared dictator. Tom had learned of these plans through concerned contacts in Henry's organization and, knowing his friend as he did, was appalled at the likely consequences as Henry now had the power to cause mayhem and great suffering to many in society. He began a vocal campaign to rouse politicians and the public to be aware of Henry's plans and their evil intent. Beware What You Wish For The news broke as Henry was meeting with his inner circle of his most trusted senior executives at his retreat in the English countryside. Throwing the papers across the boardroom table in rage he shouted to his team "How long do I have to put up with this interference! How can I shut him up for good?" One of his team quietly slipped out of the room. Taking a small, encrypted mobile phone from his pocket he punched a speed dial number and it was answered immediately. "Implement Silver Arrow" was all he said, and returned to the conference. At 8pm that night as Thomas was leading his weekly church service for the homeless in a former cinema in the city's notorious red light district, two masked gunmen entered from a side door, each emptied a full magazine of 9mm rounds from their machine pistols into the startled Thomas, and disappeared while the congregation stood aghast at Thomas's lifeless body draped across the lecturn, blood slowly dripping from his outstretched hand. A Cautionary Tale? On course this story is not a modern one but one based on fact, and often referred to in literature, of the relationship between King Henry II of England and Thomas a Beckett, the

Archbishop of Canterbury. "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest" (meddlesome and troublesome are also words that have been used) was his cry of frustration, picked up by his knights, and Thomas was silenced for good. All Too Common an Occurrence The scenario is played out in the corporate world on a daily basis. Human nature is such that there will always be those whose ambition and self-focus needs to have boundaries, or they will quickly cross the line to the detriment of others. Whether described as corporate greed, personal ambition or any other label there is constant pressure to play loose and fast and there is the counterbalancing reaction by those who resist this - typically not for their own benefit. Have you ever thought, for example, why bank regulators exist? The answer is simple - because banks exist. I'm not taking a pot shot at banks - every industry has elements of the same. Modern Day Knights of Valor The only thing that has changed is that Henry II had his knights to do the dirty work for him without having scruples. Today, that's what the HR department is for. # END #

Authors note: It may appear I have a poor opinion of the HR profession and have used this opportunity to allow these view some air time. Certainly that is not my intention and I have known some excellent, capable HR professionals with sound business and personal judgment and the highest ethical standards. But I have also seen as much of the opposite and this is a reflection on the nature of this profession, so commonly caught as the meat in the sandwich between the lofty ideals of an organization and the instructions to act differently. There will always be a ready supply of individuals willing to follow instructions that cross the line in one way or another and this aspect of human nature is unlikely to change any time soon. But perhaps the way these dilemmas should be solved is for the CEO and Board of many companies to stop the ridiculous attempt to create a veneer of respectability by producing lofty idealistic documents and entire programs based on wishful thinking. Isnt it time a few major organizations came out with a believable HR strategy, and think what a breath of fresh air it would be to see chiseled into the marble columns of the corporate home office We love and respect and pay well our employees as long as it suits us to do so, and we expect exactly the same from our employees. Dont look toward the company to offer you a career we offer jobs, a career is something you manage yourself. I have a sneaking suspicion that would give them more credibility in the eyes of current and prospective employees than the most carefully crafted and well-resourced program that sounds like the manifesto for a Girl Guide pajama party.

Author: David Christensen, August 2012

About the Author: A veteran of the Asia Pacific business scene, David Christensen is an Australian (with New Zealand roots), currently based in Bangkok, Thailand where he is CEO of premium skincare and anti aging products manufacturer Royal Siam Natural Health and Beauty (http://www.royalsiam.asia) Having lived and worked in 14 countries as wide afield as Russia, India, and Japan, David has a background in advertising with Saatchi & Saatchi and DDB, extensive international business strategy consulting experience as a Partner with Gravitas Partnership in Hong Kong, and senior regional line management roles across Asia Pacific with American Express, Carlson Wagonlit, and AXA Asia Pacific. His LinkedIn profile can be seen at this link LinkedIn Profile and you can contact him by email at david@royalsiam.asia