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Packungsaufdruck der R6 von 1934

Ernest Dale: Handbook of Kings

Kings and their counselors

Among the personnel problems of chief executives is the need to select the right counselors. The following is written in the form of a handbook for kings, but it is evident from the text that the author means not the rulers of nations – although they might use the same advice – but the modern kings, the heads of great corporations. Mr. Domizlaff, an advertising consultant, has been throughout his life in contact with top executives in central Europe. 


There are two major types of counselors which Kings need and which I shall call Machiavellists and Platonists.

The Machiavellists are excellent counselors and advisors. They have a lot of technical know-how and some healthy egotism of their own. But you have to be careful about them since they are not very honest, loyal, or reliable.

The Platonists are honest, reliable, and extremely loyal, but they are hampered by their high ideals and inflexibility. They are not able to understand the egotism of royalty.

Which one you want to choose depends mainly on your ability to handle them. Both are valuable in their own way.

You are thinking about the possibility of having friends. Let me tell you: Kings cannot afford to have friends. Friendship calls for a certain equality which a King cannot permit to exist in his kingdom. The greatest mistake is to think of your counselors as of your friends, or trying to make friends with them.

The only real friends for a King are loyal subjects.

An even more dangerous mistake which most Kings make is to overlook and disregard their own limitations. Some amount of self-criticism is of greatest value.

For a King technical knowledge is very important, but it comes after the knowledge of human beings, and the art of composition with human material – in other words, an ability to lead people.

Bigness alone cannot be the criterion of a kingdom. More important is its heart and soul, in other words, its King. Sometimes it happens that a kingdom outgrows its King or otherwise the King's characteristics do not coincide with those of the kingdom; then it is not able to live and will die a premature death.

Sooner or later, all large organisms will have to die, of course. Some of them can grow pretty old, however.

Let us suppose that you are the King of an industrial empire. Your royal nature can develop fully only if it coincides with possible future traits of the kingdom.

Resistance from within usually does not arise from the egotism of your subjects, but from internal fights among the larger cell groups. These fights and quarrels must be kept under control because the success of one is possible only with the sacrifice of the other. This means that in your industrial empire the superiority of one department over the other (provided their status would normally be equal) can be deadly to the whole organization. Regulated competition among them, however, keeps the body alive. That shows that it is essential for a King to know and understand the laws of life and the connections of their effects and impacts, and to be able to direct them with the highest possible efficiency towards the common goals.

As the empire grows stronger, it tends to make the King more dependent than the least of his subjects. Then the King becomes the first and highest servant of the kingdom.

On the outside, economic kingdoms may look perfectly alike, but there are individual differences that make them complement each other like parts of a machine.

One King is strong in manufacturing. His kingdom will be a factory. The other one knows more about distribution. His kingdom will be in the field of marketing. Specialization on the outside has, of course, its bearings on the inside of an organization.

Nature usually creates only organisms that are able to survive. Rarely does nature create things that are incomplete and lack vital parts. The same thing is true with organizations. There is a much greater danger that the King will try to “establish order” and thereby destroy parts of vital necessity because he does not fully comprehend their importance for the whole. A good example is that of the King who conquered a competitive empire and ousted its King. First, he tried to be its King as well as King of his own one, ruling two independent kingdoms side by side. It did not work. Then he tried to make the second kingdom part of his own first one. But he was still disappointed. With all his efforts the second empire remained lifeless, dead. With its King it had lost its soul.

The temptation for you to become King of a second and third empire is a great one indeed. But you will need a new soul for every new empire. You have to ask yourself: Can you divide yourself into two or more souls, and give each empire one of its own? A few truly great Kings have been able to do so, but in most cases the attempt is bound to fail.


From Brevier für Könige [Handbook for Kings] (Hans Dulk Verlag, Hamburg, Germany, 1950), pp. 8-13. Translated by Ernest Dale, Ph. D., Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania and Ernest Dale Associates. In: Readings in Management: landmarks and new frontiers, 1965. pp. 87-88.

Learn more about Hans Domizlaff by Ernest Dale: The Urfaust.