11 Management Lessons From Pablo Escobar

Amidst the chaos and the political unrest in the country, a child was born to a poor family; who was soon to become the most wanted person of the time – of course for all the wrong reasons. His was a life which could inspire you, whether you are with him or against him. And, series like Narcos (on Netflix) made sure people get to know the story (well, snippets actually) and never forget this man, who some (in his circle) regarded him as a legend, yet maniac – Pablo Escobar.

There were many factors which provided a cushion for his rise and everything he did. Be it the political environment, the social behaviour of the area, or the natural cover which could have been exploited and used to one’s advantage. Even then, you need someone daring and capable to take the risks and make best use of every resource and opportunity available. Personally, after watching the series, I was taken aback at the audacity and ruthlessness with which he acted and offered “Plata O Plomo” i.e. Silver or Lead to anyone who came in his way.

The DEA agent, Steve Murphy, at one point said, “The bad guys need to get lucky every time. The good guys just need to get lucky once.” He may have been a bad person, because of his illegal activities and un-humanitarian acts, but he did manage to run such a huge empire for so long. At times, his approach was way ahead of anyone’s imagination: it was just wizardly. He impacted so many lives, in good and bad ways, and forced one of the most powerful country like USA to change its policies.

As they say, everyone whom you come across has something to teach you, and in spite of all the wrong doings the man had some lessons which he unknowingly taught us.

  1. Be Bold – Even when he was a small timer and was making a name for himself (you may remember from the initial episodes), he walks up to the police office and tells him that he pays money to every police office in the town and he will be safe … even if he was bluffing, he had the boldness and confidence which would make you think twice before doubting him.
  2. Never Play All Your Cards or Give More Options – All the negotiations started with a Silver or Lead, if the person was too afraid then he would join him or would face the ugly side of it. Rarely, there were times when either of these did not work. And when this happened, you re-assess the situation and act accordingly.
  3. Outline Goals and Work on Them – Since an early age, Escobar wanted to be a rich man and had a goal of accumulating 100 million local currency by the time he was 22. He did manage to accumulate, perhaps more, by the time he was 26. Slipping up or delays are not under your control, but setting up goals and working towards them is. “Imagine you were born in a poor family, in a poor city, in a poor country, and by the time you were 28 years old, you have so much money you can’t even count it. What do you do? You make your dreams come true.” ~ Steve Murphy. Even if you don’t follow it, the importance of planning is unaccounted. Every unplanned or unthought-of action will find its way to come back and bite you when you least expected it.
  4. Tap Into Any Opportunity Early – Every opportunity comes knocking on your door once, we have heard that before and it might be true to some extent. To recognise the emergence of a potential and take the risk to grab it early, makes all the difference between 0 and 100.
  5. Hire People for Their Loyalty, Skills They Will Learn on the Way – Hire people with integrity, who share your vision, and have a desire to work and grow with you. Every person who brings information to you, manages your work, or advices you has a place and value. Never treat them badly. It’s hard to find dedicated people, so keeping them loyal to you would be less expensive when you train them once, rather than training new people every now and then. A great leader is able to identify the individual potential, trains him well, and keeps him close always. One needs to be transparent to people close to him.
  6. Keep Your Team Motivated and Well Rewarded – You only grow when you have people who would put themselves to protect you. But everything comes at a price, even loyalty. If you treat your peers, your subordinates, and people who work with you well, motivate them, and reward them accordingly you would never have to worry about your work or anything else. It’s not the product or machinery who creates wealth and grows business, it’s the people who are responsible for their bit. A single person can’t do it all by himself, and it would be the dumbest thing to think.
  7. Protect Your Family from Harm’s Way – No matter how ruthless you are, you always have a weak spot. Whether it’s your own family or your co-workers, they are all your responsibility. When the going gets tough, you don’t put your family under the bus. A great leader will ensure their safety at every cost. He will stand by his people and not run away to protect himself first. Moreover, he will not let the blame fall on any other person than himself.
  8. Know When to Back-Off and Live on Your Own Terms – Violence or intimidation will not always work. The 1% time when it doesn’t work will be more expensive and problematic than the 99% times it may way or may’ve worked. There are times when external pressure is too much and you are out of options. It’s not advisable to take the bull by the horns, at all times. A great leader knows when it’s time to take a step back and re-assess everything. This is not an act of defeat, this is for the welfare of everyone associated with you. Moreover, it gives you the much needed time to re-plan things, the way you want, with less pressure and distractions, rather than being held hostage to others’ demands.
  9. Never Make Unwanted Enemies, Just to Prove You Are More Powerful – Yes, you have the money, the power, and the people to get things done. Still, keep a tap on whom you are supporting or not supporting. There have been great examples of people who were led to their downfall by people whom they groomed or supported. A great leader does not go around sunk in his pride and arrogance to offend others. Respect, is hardly bought, and is earned through your deeds. Never underestimate others or offend someone to a level where they make it their sole mission to come after you.
  10. Never Give Up – I almost admired Pablo Escobar for the courage he had. At times, he knew his end was near but he never let his fear show up. Just when you thought he was done, he would conjure a trick and disappear to safety. His approach of taking the problem head-on and causing ripples all around had his rivals sweat their pants, for decades. No matter what the situation was, no matter his options, and no matter where he was caught up or what he was left with – he just never gave up!
  11. No One Is Invincible – The moment your position and power gets in to your head, the clock to your downfall starts ticking! Your actions impact others, and you don’t want to be at the other end of the stick when Newton’s third law kicks in hard.

“Geniuses are always branded as crazy.” ~ Pablo Escobar

Author speaks: I’m not here to change the world; I intend to make an impact on one soul at a time. If you like my work, please press Like, or better yet put a Comment; perhaps a feedback. However, the best appreciation of my work will be to Share this with your friends and your social circles (FB, Twitter, Linkedin, G+, and others).

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