The art of timing and managing


Starting out in life as a nondescript French seminary-school teacher, Joseph
Fouche wandered from town to town for most of the decade of the 1780s,
teaching mathematics to young boys. Yet he never completely committed
himself to the church, never took his vows as a priest-he had bigger plans.
Patiently waiting for his chance, he kept his options open. And when the
French Revolution broke out, in 1789, Fouche waited no longer: He got rid
of his cassock, grew his hair long, and became a revolutionary. For this was
the spirit of the times. To miss the boat at this critical moment could have
spelt disaster.

 Fouche did not miss the boat: Befriending the revolutionary
leader Robespierre, he quickly rose in the rebel ranks. In 1792 the town of
Nantes elected Fouche to be its representative to the National Convention
(created that year to frame a new constitution for a French republic).
When Fouche arrived in Paris to take his seat at the convention, a violent rift had broken out between the moderates and the radical Jacobins.
Fouche sensed that in the long run neither side would emerge victorious.
Power rarely ends up in the hands of those who start a revolution,

 or even
of those who further it; power sticks to those who bring it to a conclusion.
That was the side Fouche wanted to be on.
His sense of timing was uncanny. He started as a moderate, for moderates were in the majority. When the time came to decide on whether or not
to execute Louis XVI, however, he saw that the people were clamoring for
the king's head, so he cast the deciding vote--for the guillotine. Now he
had become a radical. Yet as tensions came to the boll in Paris, he foresaw
the danger of being too closely associated with any one faction, so he accepted a position in the provinces, where he could lie low for a while. A
few months later he was assigned to the post of proconsul in Lyons, where
he oversaw the execution of dozens of aristocrats. At a certain moment,
however, he called a halt to the killings, sensing that the mood of the country was turning-and despite the blood already on his hands, the citizens of
Lyons hailed him as a savior from what had become known as the Terror.
So far Fouche had played his cards brilliantly, but in 1794 his old
friend Robespierre recalled him to Paris to account for his actions in Lyons.
Robespierre had been the driving force behind the Terror. He had sent
heads on both the right and the left rolling, and Fouche, whom he no
longer trusted, seemed destined to provide the next head. Over the next
few weeks, a tense struggle ensued: While Robespierre railed openly
against Fouche, accusing of him dangerous ambitions and calling for his arrest, the crafty Fouche worked more indirectly, quietly gaining support
among those who were beginning to tire of Robespierre's dictatorial control. Fouche was playing for time. He knew that the longer he survived, the
more disaffected citizens he could rally against Robespierre. He had to
have broad support before he moved against the powernd leader. He rallied support among both the moderates and the Jacobins, playing on the
widespread fear of Robespierre--everyone was afraid of being the next to
go to the guillotine. It all came to fruition on July 27: The convention
tumed against Robespierre, shouting down his usual lengthy speech. He
was quickly arrested, and a few days later it was Robespierre's head, not
Fouche's, that fell into the basket.
When Fouche returned to the convention after Robespierre's death, he
played his most unexpected move: Having led the conspiracy against
Robespierre, he was expected to sit with the moderates, but 10 and behold,
he once again changed sides, joining the radical Jacobins. For perhaps the
first time in his life he aligned hirnself with the minority. Clearly he sensed
a reaction stirring: He knew that the moderate faction that had executed
Robespierre, and was now about to take power, would initiate a new round
of the Terror, this time against the radicals. In siding with the Jacobins,
then, Fouche was sitting with the martyrs of the days to come---the people
who would be considered blameless in the troubles that were on their way.
Taking sides with what was about to become the losing team was a risky
gambit, of course, but Fouche must have calculated he could keep his head
long enough to quietly stir up the populace against the moderates and
watch them fall from power. And indeed, although the moderates did call
for his arrest in December of 1795, and would have sent hirn to the guillotine, too much time had passed. The executions had be co me unpopular
with the people, and Fouche survived the swing of the pendulum one more
A new government took over, the Directoire. It was not, however, a
Jacobin government, but a moderate one---more moderate than the govemment that had reimposed the Terror. Fouche, the radical, had kept his
head, but now he had to keep a low profile. He waited patiently on the
sidelines for several years, allowing time to soften any bitter feelings
against hirn, then he approached the Directoire and convinced them he
had a new passion: intelligence-gathering. He became a paid spy for the
govemment, excelled at the job, and in 1799 was rewarded by being made
minister of police. Now he was not just empowered but required to extend
his spying to every corner of France---a responsibility that would greatly
reinforce his natural ability to sniff out where the wind was blowing. One
of the first social trends he detected, in fact, came in the person of
Napoleon, a brash young general whose destiny he right away saw was entwined with the future of France. When Napoleon unleashed a coup d'etat,
on November 9, 1799, 

Fouche pretended to be asleep. Indeed he slept the
whole day. For this indirect assistance---it might have been thought his job,
after all, to prevent a military coup-Napoleon kept hirn on as minister of
police in the new regime.
Over the next few years, Napoleon came to rely on Fouche more and
more. He even gave this former revolutionary a title, duke of Otranto, and
rewarded hirn with great wealth. By 1808, however, Fouche, always attuned to the times, sensed that Napoleon was on the downswing. His futile
war with Spain, a country that posed no threat to France, was a sign that he
was losing a sense of proportion. Never one to be caught on a sinking ship,

 Fouche conspired with Talleyrand to bring about Napoleon's downfall. Alpossessing a jlowing
tail, which was remarkable for the thickness
and beauty of ifs hair.
By the side ofthe weak
horse stood a tall
strong man, and by the
side of the powerful
hO"'e a short man oI
mean physique. At a
signal the strong man
seized the tai! of his
horse and tried with all
his strength to pull it
towards hirn, as if to
tear if off, while the
weak man began to
pull the hairs one by
one from the tail of the
strang horse.
The strong man, after
tugging with all his
might to no purpose
and causing the spectators a great deal of
amusement in the
pracess, finally gave up
the attempt, while the
weak man quickly and
wifh very little trouble
stripped his horse 's tai!
completely bare. Then
Sertorius rose to his
feet and said, "Now
you can see, my friends
and allies, that perseverance is more effective than brute strength,
and that there are many
difficulties that cannot
be overcome if you try
to do everything at
on ce, but which will
yield if you master
them liftle by little. The
truth is that a steady
continuous effort is
irresistible, for this is
the way in which Time
captures and subdues
the greatest powers on
earth. Now Time, you
should remember, is a
good friend and ally to
those who use their
intelligence to choose
the right moment, but a
most dangerous enemy
LAW 35 29:3
to those who rush into
action at the wrang
c. A.D. 46-120
Mr. Shih had two sons:
one loved learning; the
other war. The first
expounded his moral
teachings at the
admiring court of Ch 'i
and was made a tutor,
while the second talked
strategy at the bellicose
court of Ch 'u and was
made a general. The
impecunious Mr. Meng,
hearing of these
successes, sent his own
two sons out to follow
the example ofthe
Shih boys. The first
expounded his moral
teachings at the court
of Ch'in, but the King
of Ch 'in said: "At
present the states are
quarreling violently
and every prince is
busy arming his troops
to the teeth. If I
followed this prig's
pratings we should
soon be annihilated. "
So he had the fellow
castrated. Meanwhi/e,
the second brother
displayed his military
genius at the court of
Wei. But the King of
Wei said: "Mine is a
weak state. If I relied
on force instead of
dip/omacy, we should
soon be wiped out. If,
on the other hand, I let
this fire-eater go, he
will offer his services to
another state and then
294 LAW 35
though the conspiracy failed-Talleyrand was fired; Fouche stayed, but
was kept on a tight leash-it publicized a growing discontent with the emperor, who seemed to be losing control. 

Ey 1814 Napoleon's power had
crumbled and allied forces finally conquered hirn.
The next government was a restoration of the monarchy, in the form
of King Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI. Fouche, his nose always sniffing the air for the next social shift, knew Louis would not last long-he had
none of Napoleon's flair. Fouche once again played his waiting game, lying
low, staying away from the spotlight. Sure enough, in February of 1815,
Napoleon escaped from the island of Elba, where he had been imprisoned.
Louis XVIII panicked: His policies had alienated the citizenry, who were
clamoring for Napoleon's return. So Louis turned to the one man who
could maybe have saved his hide, Fouche, the former radical who had sent
his brother, Louis XVI, to the guillotine,

 but was now one of the most popular and widely admired politicians in France. Fouche, however, would not
side with a loser: He refused Louis's request for help by pretending that bis
help was unnecessary-by swearing that Napoleon would never return
to power (although he knew otherwise). A short time later, of course,
Napoleon and his new citizen army were closing in on Paris.
Seeing his reign about to collapse, feeling that Fouche had betrayed
hirn, and certain that he did not want this powerful and able man on
Napoleon's team, King Louis ordered the minister's arrest and execution.
On March 16, 1815, policemen surrounded Fouche's coach on a Paris
boulevard. Was this finally his end? Perhaps, but not immediately: Fouche
told the police that an ex-member of government could not be arrested on
the street. They fell for the story and allowed hirn to return horne. Later
that day, though,

 they came to his house and once again declared hirn
under arrest. Fouche nodded-but would the officers be so kind as allow a
gentleman to wash and to change his clothes before leaving his house for
the last time? They gave their permission, Fouche left the room, and the
minutes went by. Fouche did not return. Finally the policemen went into
the next room-where they saw a ladder against an open window, leading
down to the garden below.
That day and the next the police combed Paris for Fouche, but by then
Napoleon's cannons were audible in the distance and the king and all the
king's men had to flee the city. As soon as Napoleon entered Paris, Fouche
came out of hiding. He had cheated the executioner once again. Napoleon
greeted his former minister of police and gladly restored hirn to his old
post. During the 100 days that Napoleon remained in power, until Water100, it was essentially Fouche who governed France. After Napoleon fell,
Louis XVIII returned to the throne, and like a cat with nine lives, Fauche
stayed on to serve in yet another government-by then his power and influence had grown so great that not even the king dared challenge hirn.
In a period of unprecedented turmoil, Joseph Fouche thrived through his
mastery of the art of timing. He teaches us a number of key lessons.
First, it is critical to recognize the spirit of the times. Fouche always
looked two steps ahead, found the wave that would carry hirn to power,
and rode it. You must always work with the times, anticipate twists and
turns, and never miss the boat. 

Sometimes the spirit of the times is obscure:
Recognize it not by what is loudest and most obvious in it, but by what lies
hidden and dormant. Look forward to the Napoleons of the future rather
than holding on to the ruins of the past.
Second, recognizing the prevailing winds does not necessarily mean
running with them. Any potent social movement creates a powerful reaction, and it is wise to anticipate what that reaction will be, as Fouche did
after the execution of Robespierre. Rather than ride the cresting wave of
the moment, wait for the tide's ebb to carry you back to power. Upon occasion bet on the re action that is brewing, and place yourself in the vanguard
of it.
Finally, Fouche had remarkable patience. Without patience as your
sword and shield, your timing will fail and you will inevitably find yourself
a loser. When the times were against Fouche, he did not struggle, get emotional, or strike out rashly. He kept his cool and maintained a low profile,
patiently building support among the citizenry, the bulwark in his next rise
to power. Whenever he found hirnself in the weaker position, he played for
time, which he knew would always be his ally if he was patient. Recognize
the moment, then, to hide in the grass or slither under a rock, as weIl as the
moment to bare your fangs and attack.

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