Gemini Leaders: Value Statements
Life’s Greatest Trial Is Boredom
Gemini gifts include a rich and playful curiosity, exceptional vigor (famously pronounced “vigah” by John Kennedy), a way with words, and considerable charm. Their shortcomings run towards bouts of impatience with the “ignorant” input of others, petulance when they don’t get what they want, and a rather apparent lack of enthusiasm for mundane tasks and responsibilities. In so many words, there is something about them that stays, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “forever adolescent,” and not just a little reminiscent of Peter Pan.
Apparent in the lives of many Gemini “greats” is a constant need for amusement and stimulation. This can be seen in both the personal and professional aspects of their lives, and in ways not always condoned by polite society (more on this in a bit). Finger-wagging aside, however, one really gets the business sense of this in the life of the great American shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, who in his day was the largest employer of labor in the United States but purportedly hated the daily routines of work.
Certainly the life and career of Donald Trump is instructive in this regard. Is there any doubt that his various roles as a television personality and a McDonald’s pitchman and a presidential candidate and an author and a self-styled ladies man are every bit as dear to him as his real estate career? Is there a chance that “the Donald” would trade in his tabloid life for a greater level of respect on the financial exchanges?
In a leadership context it should simply be kept in mind that the “inner child” will often surface with Gemini. A Gemini appreciates George H. W. Bush’s strikingly firm assertion that as the President of the United States he no longer, whatever his mother’s instructions, had to eat his broccoli. A Gemini “gets” whatever it is in Scott Adams character that caused him to wear a disguise and give a consulting presentation to a major technology firm in which he boasted of having previously helped P&G to develop better tasting soap.
“I don’t think Dilbert will age unless I do,” Adams once responded to an online inquiry, “and I’ve stayed twelve-years-old for quite some time now.”
One Is an Insufficient Number
Gemini sees the world in terms of ambiguous choice, believing most matters to be grayish rather than black and white. So much about their lives suggests two souls warring in one body, and the classic image of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other resonates strongly here. Gemini is very aptly symbolized in astrological iconography as the sign of twins.
In a business analysis, the first thing that becomes readily apparent in this regard is that even a very successful Gemini tends to pursue a dual career. Many, for example, whatever their careers are also very successful authors. But while such an observation can be made of the leaders of other astrological signs, the duality with Gemini runs towards particularly striking dichotomies. For example:
■ Donald Trump, as already noted, is as famous as a television personality and political candidate as he is as a real estate developer.
■ Robert Maxwell, famous as a media baron, was also an international money launderer and a spy for both the Soviet Union’s KGB and Israel’s Mossad.
■ Ditto for “philanthropist” Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum, who was also a money launderer and a spy, and was once described by New Republic magazine as “the greatest confidence man of the twentieth century.”
■ Igor Sikorsky, Russian-born father of the modern helicopter, was a highly regarded religious visionary and philosopher.
■ Bob Hope made serious stabs at boxing and butchery before embarking on his entertainment career.
■ Scott Adams, famed as the creator of the Dilbert cartoon empire, is a vegetarian food manufacturer and restaurateur.
In a particularly neat trick of astrological fate there are the actual Gemini twins, Francis and Freelan Stanley, who at the turn of the twentieth century invented the highly esteemed Stanley Steamer automobile. By all accounts a remarkable vehicle, one that in 1906 set the land-speed record of 127 miles per hour, it was this steampropelled car that might have well become the prototype of automobiles in service to this day. While historians advance various reasons why this did not happen (basically, it took a long time to heat the steam), some say the Stanleys’ relative lack of interest in industrial mass production was key, as they were just as avid about pursuing studio photography and building concert-quality violins.
Although not entirely germane to a business study, it is worth mentioning that the other area where duality (or triplicity, or quadruplicity, etc.) quite frequently rears its head in the lives of Gemini leaders is that of intimate personal relationships. Driven by a requirement for diversity, stimulation, and approval, the lives of the Gemini “greats” are often quite speckled with philandering and/or multiple matings. This becomes culturally important when, as a National Public Radio survey revealed just a few years ago, more teenagers knew about of John Kennedy’s hanky panky with Marilyn Monroe (both Geminis) than were aware of JFK’s political party affiliation (Democrat).
Some Geminis, of course, remain devoted to a single career focus and to happy, committed partnerships. For others, personal consistency just doesn’t always count for much. In a personal or professional relationship it’s well worth noting with which Gemini you are dealing.
Thanks for the Memory
If you have never actually listened to the lyrics of Thanks for the Memory, Bob Hope’s familiar theme song, you might understandably take it as a sweet and melancholy farewell. Yet if you really listen to the words it becomes quite clear that the song is a classic kiss-off. Gemini is rarely a paragon of long-term sentimentality.
Perhaps both the best and worst that can be said of Gemini is that they tend to be dominated by thinking, and their minds tend to be enormously focused in the moment. For good, this allows remarkably cool and cogent analysis of a current state of affairs. For bad, this allows the memory to become short and the heart to appear ungenerous.
It is discomforting to come across key moments in the lives of so many Gemini leaders in which appreciation of the past and responsibility to the future is given short shrift. Character revealing anecdotes abound in which Gemini bosses rather pragmatically, if not cruelly, sever ties with long-term associates without so much as a handshake. Consider Robert Maxwell’s massive embezzlements from his employee pension funds, Bob Hope’s unceremonious dumping of partners in each move up the ladder of success, the other Beatles throwing bricks through Paul McCartney’s window when the latter sued for self-interested business dissolution of the band, and, of course again, there is Trump’s cold-hearted trademark phrase, “You’re fired!”
Ironically, Gemini leaders do have a pretty good memory when the issue is a perceived slight against their own interests. Donald Trump, who by all accounts lost a lot of other people’s money and went through some bleak financial times himself, is reported to have written “f—— you,” on the requests of disgruntled past lenders when his affairs started to improve. Paul McCartney acknowledges having carried an active 25-year grudge against record producer Phil Spector, whom he blamed for ruining the album Let It Be with changes not run by Paul.
So the best one may expect from a Gemini is a burst of in-themoment brilliance, such as occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when John F. Kennedy very astutely calculated that his adversary Khrushchev, with greater military vulnerability and politically more to lose, would pull back from ultimate confrontation. As for sentiment, though, the best one may do with Gemini may be Kennedy’s subsequent comment, “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”
Truth Is Negotiable
When most people hear the word “truth,” they have a tendency to think of ethical principles carved in granite or scientific verities as constant as the law of gravity. A Gemini, on the other hand, tends to think of truth as a sharpshooter hitting a bull’s-eye or an Olympic gymnast sticking the perfect dismount. The difference is that while truth will remain constant in the first example, in the Gemini world, tomorrow’s truth may be a jammed gun or a fractured ankle.
Eschewing big principles as far more conditional and ambiguous than others will admit, Gemini leaders prize the brilliant consideration and expression of what is going on right here and right now.
The wonderful things that can emerge from such an outlook are great daily newspapers such as Katherine Graham’s Washington Post, great monthly magazines such as Cyrus Curtis’ Saturday Evening Post and Ladies’ Home Journal, and great yearly car redesigns such as those produced by Alfred Sloan’s General Motors. It is similarly worth noting that a tight and conditional Gemini focus is usually essential to successful advertising strategy. It was Alfred Sloan who made General Motors the country’s largest advertiser, and Cyrus Curtis who on a large scale developed the now widely accepted practice of placing advertising near relevant editorial.
The trouble some people have with the Gemini outlook is simply that opportunism is no dirty word in the Gemini businessperson’s lexicon. Yet many of these same detractors would agree that there is no better state of mind for performing a marketing or sales function than guiltless opportunism. That there may even be something approaching a kind of business nobility in such an outlook is evident in a brilliant project undertaken by Cyrus Curtis and the Curtis Publishing Company that derived, in true Gemini fashion, from an understanding of adolescent boys.
Recalling his own start as a newsboy, Cyrus Curtis put together what was likely the greatest sales training program for boys in our nation’s history. The League of Curtis Salesmen was an early twentiethcentury network that touched the lives of 250,000 youths, who sold the three major Curtis magazines—Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, and Country Gentleman—door-to-door for commissions and prizes. Provided with training materials, given stationery and business cards, and afforded opportunities for advancement on the basis of their sales performance, many of the boys in that program embraced their skills and successes and went on to outstanding sales careers as adults.
Keep this in mind when you hear such Gemini statements as Armand Hammer’s observation that “those who insist on telling the truth never have a future,” and Bob Dylan’s pronouncement that “all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.” These are just the other side of Alfred Sloan’s reflection that “Bedside manners are no substitute for the right diagnosis” and Clint Eastwood’s insistence that “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” A Gemini, blessed with a quick mind and unburdened by constrictions of philosophy or tradition, will sell that toaster better than most.
Talk Is Anything but Cheap
It is the passion of Gemini to make life more interesting for themselves and for others. They accomplish this primarily through the written word, although the spoken word, sung word, and acted word are also very much in their arsenal. Self-involved as they may sometimes be, an evolved Gemini describes the existing culture with great clarity and truly inspires that culture to come up with ideas for the betterment of the human situation.
Pulitzer Prizes, Academy Awards, and Emmys, more so than business honors, do tend to pile up for these charming and fascinating individuals who are so quick with a turn of phrase or a lively observation.
Indeed, in business circles and elsewhere their candor can make vested traditionalists somewhat nervous. It is undeniable that they demand more than a fair share of attention and that they sometimes play fast and loose with responsibility and the rules.
Sometimes though they channel the exact thing that needs to be said at the exact right moment, and for this there should be some genuine appreciation.