Secrets of Power and other leadership lessons from Elizabeth I

  1. briefly and occasionally, signal that you are not the subordinate’s friend.
  2. briefly and occasionally, signal that your support is conditional.
  3. briefly and occasionally, signal that you will punish those who disappoint you.
  4. briefly and occasionally, signal a reminder that the employee needs the employer, not the other way round.
  1. in the course of a conversation, narrow your eyes. (Every so often, and almost without regard to the topic at hand).
  2. let a pause in the conversation go on a beat longer than it normally would.
  3. let another pause go on so long that the subordinate wonders, “whoops, what did I say.”
  4. lower the emotional tone of an interaction by suddenly smiling less. Women are encouraged by our culture to offer a constant encouragement to their conversational partner. Stop doing this occasionally. Just look at the person you are talking to.
  5. look at your subject, er, your employee, less often. The subject should be looking at you all the time. You at them only some of the time.
  6. you are in charge of business…and the conversation. You set the topics. When you are talking, subordinates should not be talking. And when you start talking, the subordinate should stop talking. Immediately.
  7. cut down down on the ritual greetings that happen when we greet and leave one another. Yes, you are glad to see the subordinate and sorry to see them go. But not that glad or sorry. We don’t want anything as curt as “ok, we’re done here” but you, the boss, is entitled to end the conversation a little precipitously. “Anything else? Thanks for dropping by.” You don’t owe them anything more.



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Grant McCracken

Grant McCracken


I'm an anthropologist & author of Chief Culture Officer. You can reach me at