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Don Corleone and the Art of Management

What business leaders can learn from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather

November 01, 2012
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In This Article
The Godfather (1972)
  • Trust is the foundation of every deal. Never work with people you don’t trust.

  • Trading in services is more profitable than trading in money. Think twice before passing up an opportunity to do someone a favor.

  • Don’t take anything personally—everything is strictly business.

  • Attacks always come when you least expect it—complacency can be fatal.

  • Keywords
  • Organization, Strategy, Morality, Strategy, Attack

In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather opened in theaters. The movie was nominated for ten Oscars and won three, including best film. It is still considered a cinematic masterpiece.

Though the movie and the Mario Puzo book it was based on are often labeled crime stories, their roots run much deeper. “It’s a study of power,” Coppola once remarked. In fact, The Godfather is a treatise on the art of management.

The story teems with violence: adversaries are killed with a shot to the head, strangled in cars, executed in revolving doors, assassinated during massages. Or they bring a guy around by depositing the head of his favorite horse in his bed. But the violence is only a backdrop for Puzo’s theory of gaining and holding onto power through market domination and organizational structure.

Puzo could just as well have put his theories in a romance novel or a business thriller. His choice of the Mafia world was coincidence. He had read several books about the Mafia, he said, and they inspired him. He created some things himself and tried to picture others. The term “godfather” was relatively obscure before Puzo latched on to it. He discovered the word in a book about Sicilian family customs and popularized it in his book.