Berlusconi Power Moves: Stealing The Show (Case Study)

How to steal the show when someone else is the most popular (or most powerful) person in the room but you don’t want to be their subordinate?
Berlusconi came up with an interesting solution to that.

Berlusconi Background

Trump has often been compared to Berlusconi. And for good reasons. Both self-made billionaires, they both went into politics and reached the highest heights in their respective countries.

Trump is Touchier though and more of a loose cannon. Berlusconi is a bit warmer and more humor-loving.
Plus, of course, the singing and the women.
In a way, Berlusconi is “more stereotypical Italian” than Trump.

But don’t let that fool you.
If anything, it makes Berlusconi even more dangerous. Trump won a “lucky election” in many ways. Berlusconi instead dominated politics and won election after election.
Berlusconi also has a much tighter grip on Italy than Trump on the US (easier since it’s a smaller country) and he is richer than Trump (and that’s more difficult since the US is richer than Italy).

Both Berlusconi and Trump though have an immense drive to accumulate wealth and a boundless thirst for power.
They both stop at nothing.

Video Background

The owner of many enterprises, the premier for the best part of a decade, and the undisputed leader of his party, Berlusconi is used to being in charge.

But he’s not in the twilight of his years.

In the last elections, he managed a surprising comeback but was still the junior coalition partner in the right-wing political landscape. That means Berlusconi had to give way -and defer to someone else.
And deferring is something Berlusconi is not particularly fond of.
What would he do then?

Watch this video first and see if you can think of what he’s up to:

And here’s what Berlusconi was up to steal the show:

1. Pretend You’re The Master Mind

If you cannot give the speech yourself, pretend you are the mastermind behind the speech.
You’re the one who did the tough choices, he’s the flunky delivering it for you.
How does Berlusconi do that?

  1. Spell out the words
  2. Gesticulate as he speaks

That way it looks like he’s an active participant in the speech. Or, even better, people will think he knows the speech so well that it must have been him who wrote it.

2. Don’t Look at Him

The more you look at the speaker, the more you’re giving him power.
Notice Berlusconi rarely if ever looks at him.
Compare it with the woman, who’s looking up to Salvini while she touches her necklace’s beads (at 50 seconds mark of the above video).
Don’t worry, we won’t make any Freudian references :).

3. Don’t Follow

When somebody has finished speaking or delivering a speech, don’t leave after them.
When you do, it looks like you’re their low-power entourage.
Leave before if you can or, even better, linger on and leave later just like Berlusconi did.

4. Acts of Insubordination

The more you are in service and the more you follow orders, the more you’re in the subordinate role. Thus, avoid being in a position of following orders as much as you can.
Ideally, you will sneak in little acts of insubordination.
For example, someone might tell you:

Alright, let’s go.

Instead of going, you say:

Yes I’ll join you in a second, lemme finish this (/go to the bathroom), you go ahead

Notice you say “yes”, but then deny it with a good excuse (so it doesn’t seem like a direct confrontation). “You go ahead” is very natural there, but it’s a de facto counter-order.
In Berlusconi’s examples, he avoids leaving indeed and:

5. Get in The Last Word

The more someone speaks while you just listen, the more it seems like you don’t count much (unless you’re the one assessing and making the final decision but that’s different!).
Try to weigh in with your opinions instead.
Best of all is if they are staggering or struggling to answer some tough questions. Don’t jump right in. Let them roast, then provide the right answer for everyone to notice.

If they don’t struggle in any way, you can add a small detail or weigh in with your own opinion at the end. It will slightly discredit them and it will increase your clout.


Countering Berlusconi’s game while delivering a speech was difficult.

Stop the middle speech, and you look like your priorities are in-fighting instead of delivering. Draw attention to Berlusconi, and you look petty and easy to derail.

Salvini didn’t do too shabbily actually. He’s also a shrewd guy.
By not giving any attention to Berlusconi, he didn’t validate him. And by turning to the woman instead, he isolated Berlusconi and made him look like an outsider vying for attention, which was also not bad.

What when wrong though is that he had a normal knee-jerk reaction to the power move. Berlusconi power moves him, and his power moves the woman (put hands on her, escort her away).
However the power dynamics there was Salvini on the woman, but Berlusconi on Salvini, so not ideal.

To fully neutralize that last shove, he should have dealt with Berlusconi directly. How? Two ways:

  • Linger on further in front of the microphones.

That would have made Berlusconi look powerless standing from behind and not getting what he wanted.

  • Turn to Berlusconi, and tell him to speak

Another good power move could have been to turn around to Berlusconi and tell him something while pointing at the microphones (it doesn’t matter what since nobody would hear that).
That way, it would have looked as if he was allowing Berlusconi and telling him what to say. Great way to fully flip the script.

Lessons Learned

Berlusconi was supposed to be in Salvini’s team and camp, and look what he did.
I think there’s an important lesson learned from this video.

When you have “in your team” people with boundless ambition or people with a huge hunger for power… Don’t trust them!

Or at least keep an eye on them.

The power-hungry and the super-ambitious have only one team: their own.
Best of all is if you can rid of them.
If you can’t, ring fence them or expect they’ll conspire against you.

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