During the Renaissance, Baldassare Castiglione wrote a book that has some great teachings for today's high potentials and entrepreneurs. The Book of the Courtier was a primer to learn best practices on how to successfully support the ruler, who we now call "the boss."
Back in the day, in Italy, there was lots of intrigue, drama, ambition, and back stabbing. Check out The Prince, by Machiavelli for an in-depth look at the daily behavior of those times. Actually, it was not so different from much of what we see in modern companies where the desire to be the favorite, to be recognized as the best, means doing whatever it takes. It is, we say, simply part of human nature.
There are better, powerful and positive ways to get ahead. This goes way beyond making poor excuses, being a total jerk, and saying that the end always justifies the means.
At the time of Raphael and Michelangelo, the ideal courtier (now known as a VP) was one who had the ear of the main guy. In those days he (yes, then it was always a "he") had to be highly skilled in athletic events, military maneuvers, and also talented in music and dancing. Think, someone who could win a Medieval Grammy.
Let's bring it to present time. Castiglione talked about one universal truth that is as valid today as it was back then: you have to know how to sell, how to market yourself, and how to put on an amazing performance for your peers.
And that is where sprezzatura comes in. It is the ability to create an impression that you have totally mastered the role you play; that you have studied and mastered the art of making the difficult look effortless.
OK, check these questions out to see if you are you in the running as a sprezzatura specialist:
- Have you learned the power of right timing? That moment you can show off your abilities without being a show off?
- Can you offer creative suggestions? Do you have the ability to jump in with a sudden burst of inspiration, contributing to the team with the excitement of an "aha" moment that is exactly what is needed to connect all the brainstorming?
- Are you aware of what pushes your buttons so you are in charge of how you respond, not letting the one(s) who annoy you throw you off kilter?
- Do you connect with others so they respect and acknowledge you?
- Have you put into action mastering the art of self- awareness?
- Do you have teachers who have exemplified sprezzatura, who have inspired you to be the best you can be?
Now, just a moment on the down side of this powerful quality. Once you have worked diligently to become a master you will become the target of many who are jealous. The procrastinators, the bullies, and the splitters will watch you with suspicion. Be aware and be ready to answer their treachery, not with attack. Do so with kindness and appreciation. The true sprezzatura specialists stand above the fray.
To become a master takes practice. And once you have mastered the essence of making the difficult seem easy, the essence of sprezzatura, you will be become someone with true charisma. Then you're unstoppable, a positive force to be reckoned with.