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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Meritocracy

All but the most cynical among us believe that if we work hard and do well, we’ll get ahead.  The reality is once removed from that ideal.  See, the problem is: we rely on other people to get ahead.  Their goal is to…get ahead.  Until we live in a society where people care more about others than they do themselves (see altruism), we need to look at our prosperity in the context of those around us.

Sometimes, the smartest and hardest working people appear only as threats to their less capable superiors.  Threats are to be eliminated or at best subdued, not enhanced.  This is the fundamental flaw in thinking that the best people should rise to the top of any organization.  Naturally, some organizations are headed by true leaders.  Anyone who has spent some time reading about Warren Buffett knows that he exhibits the integrity and trust in his management team that causes good people to want to be around him.

Sadly, the reasons why most people strive to gain a leadership position are not psychologically healthy.  Some are driven to control an environment that they cannot control.  Some just want wealth and still others want pure power.  Any of these reasons ensure that the employees they manage will be unfulfilled.  As we all know, excrement rolls downhill.  Bad leadership begets bad leadership and the people performing line functions suffer.

How we pick our leaders is as much our fault as followers as it is theirs for leading poorly.  We have a choice to collectively reject bad leaders, but we are drawn to them like a moth to flame.  They are often tall and attractive people with soothing voices.  Their physical presence appeals to us on a visceral level that we don’t understand.  The alpha male is now the “alpha person.”  Unfortunately, the qualities that make a good leader are not perceived as attributes of the strong individual by traditional (caveman) standards: humble, empathic, thoughtful, caring…who would promote such a character?  …Certainly not a traditional leader.

So what’s the answer?  Reject bad leadership.  Workers of the world unite!  Let’s teach leadership skills in our schools.  Let’s demand real leaders even though our gut may be drawn to the bad ones.  If entire departments simultaneously threatened to quit unless bad leaders are replaced, good leaders could be forced on companies.  I have reserved the domain www.mybossisadick.com.  I think it’s time to call these people out.  It’s not their fault.  We put them there; so now we need to fix the problem.
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