For political junkies like me, this date, March 4, has been circled on our calendars for months. This is after all the day that Netflix releases a new season of its hit show House of Cards.
I almost took the day off of work because I truly love the show. It’s brilliantly written, wonderfully acted and the camera work is phenomenal. Because it’s so good, I’m always shocked when I talk to someone that doesn’t watch it. When this happens, the reason those people always give me is that they “hate politics”.
If you think that House of Cards is about politics, you’re missing the point. House of Cards is about one thing: Power. Politics is just the vehicle it uses to tell the story.
The interesting thing about Power is that it transcends industry or economy segment. It doesn’t matter if it’s for profit, nonprofit, being dominate in your area requires power and House of Cards is the best case study in the subject.
Consider three of the key elements of power that House of Cards put on full display.
The first is that the power requires strategy.
A man is passed over for Secretary of State and goes on to become President of the United States of America all without a single vote being cast in his name. Forget for a second how improbable that is and consider the level of detailed planning that has to take place to make it happen. There was a clear strategy that put into place a series of events that ended with Frank Underwood taking the oath of office for the Presidency.
I am in no way suggesting that you plot to stab people in the back, set people up for prison terms or throw them in front of a train, but for anyone thirsting for power, it begins with a strategy.
The second, is that you have to look the part.
This isn’t a plug for tailored Oxxford suits in dark colors, although they have their place, but about always being appropriately dressed and looking in control.
Power in every industry has a look. Embrace it. Whether it’s a polo shirt and khakis or a power suit and tie, go for classic, well-fitting pieces that compliment your body type. Powerful people don’t wear Garfield ties, purple dress shirts or black shirts with white ties.
A large part of executive presence comes from your appearance. Take a note from President Underwood and nail the look.
The third, and most importantly, Power requires that you do what is necessary.
My favorite scene in the entire series is the very first one.
There’s the sound of screeching tires and a wounded dog off camera. The next image you see is Frank Underwood standing over the wounded animal saying “Moments like this require someone who will act, do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing.”
And we watch as he put the dog out of its misery by strangling it.
It’s a tough scene to watch but it makes a really important point that sets up the entire season. Powerful people do what is necessary no matter how unpleasant.
Again, I am not advocating being cruel to animals, gassing people in their cars, or burying witnesses in the desert, but doing the hard and unpleasant things that are required to be successful.
It’s enduring the phone calls, the uncomfortable meetings, the endless practices and grueling prospecting schedules that lead to power.
House of Cards is a case study. There are times that it nails details and other times it’s wildly inaccurate but in every scene there are lessons in the art of power to be gleaned. Watch it for yourself, take the tutorial and enjoy all of the awesome quotes that it has to offer. Just take a break after every five episodes; your brain will need the break.