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If you are new to this series, please read the introduction.


Keep Your Hands Clean

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.

Occasional mistakes are inevitable - the world is too unpredictable. People of power, however, are undone not by the mistakes they make, but by the way they deal with them. Like surgeons,,they must cut away the tumor with speed and finality. Excuses and apologies are much too blunt for this delicate operation; the powerful avoid them. By apologizing, you open up all sorts of doubts about your competence, your intentions, any additional sins you may not have confessed. Excuses satisfy no one and apologies make everyone uncomfortable. The mistake does not vanish with an apology; it deepens and festers. It is better to cut it off instantly, distract attention from yourself, and focus attention on a convenient scapegoat, before people have time to ponder your responsibility or tour possible incompetence.

Do everything pleasant yourself, everything unpleasant through third parties. By adopting the first method, you win favor, by taking the second, you will deflect ill will. Important affairs often require rewards and punishments. Let only the good come from you and the evil from others. Baltasar Gracian, 1601-1658

It is often wise to choose the most innocent messenger, as a sacrificial goat. Such people will not be powerful enough to fight you, and their naive protests may be seen as protesting too much - may be seen, in other words, as a sign of their guilt. Be careful, however, not to create a martyr. It is important that you remain the victim, the poor leader betrayed by the incompetence of those around you. If the scapegoat appears too weak and his punishment too cruel, you may become the victim of your own device. Sometimes you should find a more powerful scapegoat - one who will elicit less sympathy.

In this vein, history has shown the value of using a close associate, as a scapegoat. This is known as the "fall of the favorite."

Imagine the innocent goat. On the day of atonement, the high priest brings the goat into the temple, places his hands on its head, and confesses the people's sins, transferring guilt to the guiltless beast, which is then led to the wilderness and abandoned, the people's sins and blame vanishing with him.

As a leader, you must never dirty your hands with ugly tasks, anything that will make you look bad or abusive of your high position. Yet, power can not survive without the constant squashing of rivals - there will always be dirty little tasks, which need to be done to keep you in power. What is required is a cat's-paw, someone who does the dirty dangerous work for you. Similar to the scapegoat, the cat's-paw will help you preserve your spotless reputation.

The cat's-paw will usually be a person external to your immediate circle, who will unlikely realize how he or she is being used. You can find them everywhere - people who enjoy doing you favors, especially in the expectation of reciprocation. As they accomplish may seem to them innocent enough, or completely justified, they are clearing the field for you, spreading the information you fed them, undermining people, who they do not realize are your rivals, inadvertently furthering your cause, dirtying their hands, while yours remain clean.

The easiest and most effective way to use a cat's-paw is often to plant information with him, which he will then spread to your primary target. False or planted information is a powerful tool, especially if spread by someone, who is beyond suspicion. You will find it very easy to play innocent and disguise yourself, as the source.

In summary, always get someone to be the executioner, or bearer of bad news, while you bring only joy and glad tidings.

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