5 Lessons On Leadership From Pablo Escobar

If you’ve been as addicted to Netflix’s ‘Narcos’ as we are, you’ll already have an idea of the charisma and leadership of Pablo Escobar. Here are 5 aspects of leadership he demonstrated through his thoughts, words and actions.

1.  A Clearly Defined, Larger Than Life Goal

Gentlemen, I’m going to tell you who I am. I am Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. My eyes are everywhere. That means you guys can’t move a finger in all of Antioquia without me knowing about it. Do you understand? One day, I’m going to be President of the Republic of Colombia. So look, I make deals for a living. Now, you can stay calm and accept my deal or accept the consequences. Silver or lead. You decide.

There’s no point being modest about your goals. What you have to do is stun people, overawe them with the extent of your ambition rather than play into their ideas of what you can achieve. Truth : Most people never do this, because even saying the words may cause hilarity and derision in the eyes of others. So, they tell you something reasonable, nothing too wild, lest you mock, question or deride them.

Playing it safe is going to inspire nobody while making them comfortable. If you want a unit, a group of dedicated followers willing to make your dream a reality, they need to be inspired by it. So, if you have goals, make them as grandiose and delusional as you’d want them to be. It’s your dream, nobody else’s. Know you’re going to achieve it and state it as fact. As history already on the way to being achieved. Instead of mockery and nods of approval for your limited dream, you’ll cause an impact with your words. How you handle it is upto you. But Pablo has a tip for that as well;

2.  Disregard For Popularity

‘Geniuses are always branded as crazy’ 

A follow up to the first point, but extremely valid. Every successful person was laughed at in their youth or their modest beginnings. Julius Caesar was an effeminate, unreliable party boy in Rome until his forties. By his fifties, he was Rome’s dictator. As a poor slum dweller, Escobar was laughed at for his ambitions until he became a millionaire in his twenties. Mark Zuckerberg was considered ‘odd’ and ‘antisocial’ in college. Well, he changed history by becoming the world’s youngest billionaire.

Use the mockery that others throw your way as your fuel. When someone tells you that you can’t do something, file it away. Don’t react, question yourself or be demotivated. Utilise their derision for your own end goals until finally, you’re where you want to be while they reluctantly admire your achievements!

3. Resourcefulness

‘Well, buy a bigger washing machine’

When Gustavo frets to Pablo that their criminal activities are being noticed, Pablo is nonchalant. He simply asks Gustavo to launder their black money, making it legal or at best, hidden. Gustavo replies that they have too much cash to effectively launder the money. To which Pablo chimes with the above quote.

Problems will always occur in business. Clients don’t pay, cheques go missing, people suddenly quit etc. The list is endless. However, every solution is right around the corner if panic is pushed away and quick, positive thinking is embraced. The best people aren’t resourceful because they focus on the problems. They focus on the solutions. Once the problem is identified, they even refuse to speak of it because endlessly debating the concerns are pointless. They just throw their mind around for a solution till they find one. In Pablo’s case, that amounted to burying millions of dollars in cash. In ours, well, hopefully something simpler. (and more legal!)

4. Adaptability

‘If you want to influence politicians, you’ll have to narrow your focus.’

When Pablo was warring with the Colombian government, innocent civilians died by the hundreds. Pablo’s strategy was to create an atmosphere so disruptive that the people would beg their politicians for peace. However, he temporarily forgot the basic fundamental truth of all political systems; That once they’re in power, politicians wouldn’t waste two seconds thinking about ‘the people’. So he modified his approach and concentrated his targets. The Medellin cartel embarked on a policy of kidnapping the children and relatives of important politicians, making them realise the only way to get their loved ones back was to negotiate with Pablo. Peace and a generous surrender was offered to Pablo Escobar even after he had committed terrorist acts and made millions from trafficking drugs.

Keep the goal constant but the methods varying. If a particular stratagem isn’t working or is found ineffective, do not continue with it for the sake of perseverance. Calculate, analyse and deliberate over the possibility of other means to get to what you want. The freshness of changing tacks also may unseat your opposition and galvanise your employees. There’s nothing like change to make people suddenly alert and your organisation may just need a shake up to get to where it has to be.

5. Timing 

‘There is a time to fight… and there is a time to be clever.’

Leadership is always about timing. Whether you are leading a team, a society, an organisation or the country, it all depends upon acting at the right moments. Rather than wait and prepare for that magical moment, you must create it to suit your purposes.

You often hear entrepreneurs making excuses, providing reasons as to why this hasn’t happened, or why that didn’t work out and how it was not the ‘perfect time’ to commit a particular action. The ‘perfect time’ is a myth that many fall into cause it’s easier than acknowledging the truth; that they couldn’t do something because of faults they made.

Create the time. Create the environment to execute your actions. If you don’t, well, know that it wasn’t ‘time’s’ fault.

Disclaimer ; We do not endorse any of Pablo Escobar’s actions, be them fiction or reality. We just think he was a really cool guy. For a murdering drug lord that is.

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