Problem about working with friends is that it confuses the boundaries and distances that working requires. If both partners in the arrangement understand the dangers involved, a friend often can be employed to great effect. You must never let your guard down in such a venture, however; always be on the lookout for any signs of emotional disturbance such as envy and ingratitude. Nothing is stable in the realm of power, and even the closest of friends can be transformed into the worst of enemies.
Michael III of the Byzantine Empire and his friend, Basilius
Michael III of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-ninth century A.D. placed too much trust in his friend,Basilius. They had met a few years before, when Michael had been visiting the stables just as a wild horse got loose. Basilius saved Michael’s life. His strength and courage had impressed Michael, who immediately raised Basilius from the obscurity of being a horse trainer to the position of head of stables. He loaded his friend with gifts and favors until became inseparable. Basilius was sent to the finest school in Byzantium, and the crude peasant became a cultured and sophisticated courtier. Michael turned the peasant Basilius into a sophisticated and educated courtier. Basilius later on became greedy for more wealth and power and had his former benefactor and best friend Michael III murdered.
Michael III staked his future on the sense of gratitude he thought Basilius must feel for him. He had created a monster. He had allowed a man to see power up close—a man who then wanted more, who asked for anything and got it, who felt encumbered by the charity he had received and simply did what many people do in such a situation: They forget the favors they have received and imagine they have earned their success by their own merits.
I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends. – Abraham Lincoln
Song Dynasty Ruled China for 300 Years
For several centuries after the fall of the Han Dynasty (A.D. 222), Chinese history followed the same pattern of violent and bloody coups, one after the other. Army men would plot to kill a weak emperor, then would replace him on the Dragon Throne with a strong general. The general would start a new dynasty and crown himself emperor; to ensure his own survival he would kill off his fellow generals. A few years later, however, the pattern would resume: New generals would rise up and assassinate him or his sons in their turn. To be emperor of China was to be alone, surrounded by a pack of enemies—it was the least powerful, least secure position in the realm.
In A.D. 959, General Zhao Kuangyin became Emperor Song. Emperor Song knew that his “friends” in the army would chew him up like meat, and if he somehow survived, his “friends” in the government would have him for supper. Emperor Song persuaded his generals to retire to a life of nobility and give up their dreams of grabbing his throne one day. He spared those who conspired against him, and was able to win over enemies with his generosity. Song was finally able to break the pattern of coups, violence, and civil war—the Song Dynasty ruled China for more man three hundred years.
Lessons for Working With Friends and Enemies
• Friends will not openly disagree with you in order to avoid arguments.
• Enemies expect nothing so they will be surprised when you are generous.
• An enemy spared the guillotine will be more grateful to you than a friend.
• When you decide to hire a friend you will discover qualities she has kept hidden, be on the lookout for any signs of emotional disturbance such as envy and ingratitude.
• Skill and competence are more important than friendly feelings.
• Hiring friends will limit your power.
• All working situations require a kind of distance between people.
• You destroy an enemy when you make a friend of him.
• An enemy at your heels keeps you sharp, alert, and focused.