In my line of work I am privileged to know many extraordinary leaders. Now and then I run into one that I call Henry, usually when I’ve been asked to replace him.
Prince Henry of England wasn’t raised to be king. He was a spoiled child, whose mother and grandmother doted on him. He was handsome, well read, musical, spoke several languages, could sing and dance, and write poetry. He loved jousting, and excelled at all sorts of sport. The child Prince Henry was the delight of everyone at the court. Then, at 11 years old, his brother Crown Prince Arthur died and Henry was next in line to be king. At 17 he was crowned, married his brother’s wife, Queen Katherine, and things went South fast. You know the story: he dumped Queen Katherine after 22 years of marriage, chopped the heads off 2 of his 6 wives — as well as the heads of anyone who got in his way or disagreed with him.
Enough about the old Henry, let’s discuss how to spot a Henry today
- Henry can be brilliant and charming and dazzle in an interview.
He talks more than he listens. His expectations can be unrealistic.
- Henry hires weak people.
He likes people who tell him what he wants to hear, and if they don’t, off with their head (think Thomas More).
- Henry is incapable of win-win negotiations.
It’s his way, or the highway. (When the Pope refused to annul his marriage to Katherine, he had himself declared Supreme Leader of the Church).
- Often a Henry will manage his team hub-and-spoke style.
He avoids regularly scheduled team meetings. He has all the answers, and he doesn’t want to hear from you.
- Henry takes credit for everything.
In Henry VIII’s court, he always won every joust, every card game, and every sport. See a pattern here?
- Henry doesn’t like criticism, input, or sharing the spotlight.
You’ll rarely see his team presenting at Board meetings.
- He fails to see his own faults and no one will tell him the truth.
As Henry VIII became obese, the men in his court padded their doublets so he would not seem so huge.
- If something goes wrong, it’s your fault.
Thomas Cromwell’s downfall was because he arranged the marriage to the not-so-pretty Anne of Cleves. After the marriage was annulled, Henry put Thomas’ head on the block.
- Henry trusts few people with the exception of a chosen bully.
Cardinal Woolsey and Thomas Cromwell played that role for Henry.
- Short tenure is a pattern under Henry’s leadership.
At least you can get a new job and not put your head on the block.
Henry VIII is a fascinating figure from history. In the business world today, he still makes an appearance from time-to-time as a problem for his court and country.
Know any Henrys?