Various contemporaries described Enzo Ferrari as being “machiavellic”. And actually his life principle was “divide et impera”. Besides its Latin Name, the expression “divide and rule” is not directly based on the Old Romans, but on the Italian philosopher, politician, poet, diplomat and historian Niccolò Machiavelli and his famous book “Il Principe” (Italian for “The Prince”), a book about the philosophy of politics and government, especially written for the Medici family, which ruled Florence and had been the most important family dynasty at this time.
Using a principle from this text shows again that even if Enzo Ferrari originally not received strong formal education in his childhood, he used his time later to read and understand literature and history.
You may be surprised that Niccolò Machiavelli also has for Compliance some precious lessons, but his “Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.” (Later reduced to the simple: “Before else, be armed”) is a relevant Compliance strategy. A known problem in numerous countries still today, is the impunity of many public cases. If the Compliance department wants to make a difference, it has to ensure that relevant cases are not just identified, but also re-mediated. Nobody in the company stands over its code of conduct and a remediation must be adequate to the deviation, there can be no different answers for different levels of employees. If the deviation indicates it, the company has to take the hard decision to separate the employee from the company, even if this means a loss of important knowledge and complying with the difficult local labor laws. Just this way you can earn the respect of the employees.
We want to have an integrity based culture inside the company, so the focus for a Compliance Officer must be on the prevention part. Inform the employees and bring this knowledge together with personal and company values. This should be sufficient for more than 99% of the employees, who give daily their best effort for the benefit of the company. But you have to be aware that there is always a black sheep, who seeks the fast profit, even if this means bypassing company rules and public laws. An armed Compliance Department can identify these individuals and give the right answers. Beside this black and white exists a grey zone, employees, who in a first step not do the right thing, because they believe in it, but because they know they are sanctions for non-desired behavior. Most employees will internalize company values after a while in a second step.
But we cannot interpret “armed” only in regarding of weapons, but it means also “armed with knowledge and arguments”, what we define today as “being prepared”. A Compliance Officer cannot limit itself to laws and processes. He or she must understand what is behind these rules and how they not only stand in relation to business, but furthermore, how they support business and the development of the markets.
Enzo Ferrari understood both interpretations of Machiavelli. As an introvert leader, he was always prepared before he went into a discussion, like for example the famous annual Ferrari press conferences. But further he was aware that he could not tolerate people working against him and the company values, independent what level the employees had. “Consistency is the most important thing in business”, as he said. Because of different ideas, which Ferrari did not perceived as compatible with his own, in 1961 he let the long-term sales manager Girolamo Gardini leave the company. Also other key-employees, as his chief engineer Carlo Chiti. At the end it was the best for both sides. Ferrari promoted the two loyal engineers Mauro Forghieri and Sergio Scaglietti, which developed the famous 250 GTO, and Carlo Chiti became chief designer at Alfa Romeo, responsible for the not-less famous 33 sport prototypes.
Macchiavelli continued in his book: “…when they depend upon their own resources and can employ force, they seldom fail.” As it is valid for all other countries, a Compliance department has to be independent, adequately stuffed and financed; reporting to the CEO and / or a global Compliance department. Only an independent budget leads to independent decisions.
- Henz, Patrick (2017): “Business Philosophy according to Enzo Ferrari – from motorsports to business”
- Henz, Patrick (2017): “Compliance is a Race Car.”
- Machiavelli, Niccolò (ca. 1543): “The Prince”