Chapter 9. Kiss the Ring: Hierarchy Matters

Someone once asked a Washington insider how to deal with important people you can’t stand. His reply: “You put on your respectful face, and you don’t blink.” This strategy is known in business circles as “kissing the ring.” Its origins lie in a much earlier era, when royalty and clerics wore rings of office denoting their status. Bowing your head as you kissed their rings was how you showed respect for their office while not necessarily feeling that sentiment toward the characters themselves.

Why go to the trouble to show deference to someone you don’t like or respect? In the cut-and-thrust world of business, as in the political sphere, it’s all about survival. Or, to look at it more positively, enlightened ...

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