top of page
  • Writer's pictureOlivier S.E. Courtois

Mercenary or Man of the Seraglio?

As the 58th page of my life is turned, I started to reflect on a few things. Among them, there is one that is very clear to me today: I have the mentality of a mercenary rather than that of a man of the seraglio. I am not proud of it, I am not ashamed of it or sorry for it, it is just the way it is! In my definition of a mercenary, there is the notion of absolute freedom or independence.

This choice, if it is really a choice, has a price. Not inclined to compromise, we arouse envy, anger, mistrust, jealousy, sometimes contempt. It can lead to a form of isolation or ostracism. But this independence is the ally of transparency and courage, in the service of causes or projects that are dear to us. Some will see it as a form of escape. For my part, I see it as a commitment.

Of course, I don't judge those who take the path of the seraglio, I have walked through its alleys like many of us. Some do it by gregarious instinct, others by calculation or ambition, lack of means or sometimes by fear or cowardice. Nevertheless, the seraglio forces one to "choose" one's side, to align oneself with the "people of power".

Leadership in business is about creating support, rallying others around a goal. Above all, it is about performing through others, gaining power. Each of us moves his/her own cursor between the mercenary and the man/woman of the seraglio. In my profession, we are forced to recognize this antagonism. We must help leaders make better choices to achieve their ends, without making value judgements about where their cursor is or should be.

And you, how far are you willing to compromise? Where is your cursor?


bottom of page