4 Leadership Lessons from James Bond Villains

Oct 2, 2015
6 Min Read

Ernst Stavros Blofeld. Hugo Drax. Auric Goldfinger. Francisco Scaramanga. Le Chiffre. While the world might applaud the heroics of James Bond, it’s villains who are the driving force in his books and movies. And many of them happen to make great managers.


Think about it. With only a few people and some oversized ambition, they’re able to conceive and execute astonishing plans while leading small teams and managing tight resources.

So what can we learn from the Bond villains and their never-say-die attitude?

Promote an agenda with charisma

According to Project manger Kymberli Morris, Vice President of sourcing and vendor management for Credit Suisse, the really interesting Bond villains are charismatic, a quality that every good leader needs.

Charisma isn’t manipulation. It’s a combination of charm, sensitivity, and encouragement. Good leaders use their charisma to motivate their stakeholders with positive words and energy.

Morris said, “I fall back on using charisma to motivate. I encourage leaders to listen to the objections and concerns and give them proper consideration. Charisma can go a long way in turning half-hearted obedience into an enthusiastic buy-in to your agenda.”

Morris also doesn’t recommend executing your minions for asking questions.

Use a small crew to great effect

In the Bond oeuvre, villains frequently lead small groups to oppose governments or even the entire world. In the book Dr. No, the American missile program is almost destroyed by a small crew…of dedicated of guano gathers (really).

Dindy Robinson, HR director for a higher education institution, notes that villains “don’t need a huge staff; they just need one or two people who are totally committed to the promised reward. They assemble people for their crew based on usefulness.”

And while a Bond villain would include beautiful women on their roster for the purpose of seducing the international secret agent, a leader in the no-less-critical world of business might want to keep a lean team, which promotes clearer communication and a more hands-on style of leadership. When it comes to team management, bigger isn’t always better.

A word of advice: Villains may promise riches but not deliver, because they’re evil. But a good leader will beat these bad guys at the game by delivering on promised rewards.

Delegate effectively

Of course a villain doesn’t chase Agent 007 down mountain slopes himself. That’s what henchmen are for. Oddjob dusts off victims for Auric Goldfinger, and Jaws (in the films) does the fatal chomping for Drax.

Robinson said that villains who manage staff have an instinctive sense of performance management. “The henchpeople know exactly what they are supposed to do. The lesson here is very simple and very clear: Assign people to roles where they have the strongest aptitude and interest, and you will have the greatest impact with the fewest people.”

Every good villain (and leader) knows they cannot be everywhere at every moment, and it is crucial to delegate. Having people on whom you can rely frees you up so you can become the force driving everyone to the common objective.

Master buoyancy skills

Of course, we are still all here because Mr. Bond defeated each evil scheme to take over the world. But still, villains such as Blofed keep coming back. How do they manage it?

Sylvia Gaffney, PhD, change management/organizational development practitioner, says, “Really good villains master buoyancy skills, because their lives are continuously chaotic, and ongoing disruptions are standard operating procedures. They learn to accept their newest reality rapidly, regain balance, recover quickly, and simply bounce back.

“Any management team can be inspired to develop resilient behaviors from observing Mr. Bond’s villains.”

The Bond villains are tenacious enough to not let a single defeat detract from their overall vision. If one method doesn’t work, they simply find another strategy.

And if this involves extra meetings across departments, budget planning, and challenging yourself and your team, you’re more than able to do so, because like any good Bond villain, your resilience is equalled with a drive to change--and to succeed.

Now go out there and conquer the quarterly earnings report.



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