Law 42: Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep Will Scatter


Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual—the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoner of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them—they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

Within any group, trouble can most often be traced to a single source, the unhappy, chronically dissatisfied one who will always stir up dissension and infect the group with his or her ill ease. Before you know what hit you the dissatisfaction spreads. Act before it becomes impossible to disentangle one strand of misery from another, or to see how the whole thing started.

Identify and Shut the Hell Raisers Down

1. First, recognize troublemakers by their overbearing presence, or by their complaining nature.
2. Once you spot them do not try to reform them or appease them—that will only make things worse.
3. Do not attack them, whether directly or indirectly, for they are poisonous in nature and will work underground to destroy you.
4. Do as the Athenians did: Banish them before it is too late.
5. Separate them from the group before they become the eye of a whirlpool.
6. Do not give them time to stir up anxieties and sow discontent.
7. Do not give them room to move. Let one person suffer so that the rest can live in peace.
8. Once you recognize who the stirrer is, pointing it out to other people will accomplish a great deal.
9. Understanding who controls the group dynamic is a critical realization.
10. Stirrers drive by hiding in the group, disguising their actions among the reactions of others.

Who Should You Isolate

· Find powerful people who have alienated themselves from the group.
· People whose power has gone to their heads, and they consider themselves superior.
· Those people who have perhaps lost their knack of communicating with ordinary folk.
· Search out people who hold high positions yet who find themselves isolated on the board.
· Find the one head that matters—the person with willpower, or smarts, or, most important of all, charisma.

Why Isolate?

· They are vulnerable to you, and your presence becomes magnified.
· It can prove a powerful way of bringing people under your spell to seduce or swindle them.
· Here they feel weak, and succumb to deception more easily, which makes them vulnerable.
· Powerful though they may be, people like this can be turned to use.
· It is often better to isolate your enemies than to destroy them—you seem less brutal.
· They are like apples falling into your lap, easily seduced, and able to catapult you into power yourself.
· To dishearten the sheep beyond any rational measure.
· Cancer begins with a single cell; excise it before it spreads beyond cure.

How to Isolate

· Render their actions visible and they lose their power to upset.
· Separate your victims from their power base or their usual social context.
· The result, though, is the same, for in the game of power, isolation spells death.

What Kind of Isolation

· Physical (banishment or absence from the court).
· Political (narrowing his base of support).
· Psychological (alienating him from the group through slander and insinuation).


If you act to isolate your enemy, make sure he lacks the means to repay the favor. If you apply this Law, in other words, apply it from a position of superiority, so that you have nothing to fear from his resentment.