Friday, August 14, 2009

The Leadership Theory

Is what's wrong with the world the fact that the wrong people are in charge?

Bear with me here; that would seem pretty obvious but I'm getting at something else.

Why are the wrong people always in charge? Why does it seem that the outstanding leaders, the best thinkers, the truly idealist and compassionate people are not the ones who assume roles of political leadership?
In fact, as soon as they assume any type of leadership, doesn't it seem to distort them into something new, something less than they were?

I think I've hit on something here. I really do. It has a few components. Run through it with me and see what you think.

What may be ailing our world is that humans, by nature, are a species in which the personalities most interested in being leaders are the ones who shouldn't be in that role. They have holes in their psyches which get filled by being in charge. They need that sense of importance so badly that they're willing to put up with anything: political campaigns, character assassination, even physical danger. These are damaged people who are trying to feel whole and once they achieve their position of power their psychological cracks don't fill. Those cracks are constantly aggravated by challenges to their sense of worth, their sense of entitlement, their sense of self. They are always struggling to defend their position, a position that helps quiet that inner voice that tells them they're not good enough. So why would they listen to an opposing viewpoint? That view is a threat to their very existence.

Listen to the screaming over health care reform that drowns out any discussion. Consider partisan politics.

See where I'm going? It gets worse.

Idealistic people, people who want to take an active role in helping others, fall into a different trap when they're put in charge. Once in control, they can develop a God complex. They are suddenly on a mission and they come to believe that anyone who differs with their views is differing with the mission. It becomes "My way or the highway." They see criticism of the work or the way it's done as a personal criticism. They come to identify completely with the cause and they become the cause. They are, in their minds, the central, vital ingredient and no one can ever appreciate them enough.

I've seen this one in action. People who work really hard doing something truly admirable who are monsters - abusive, demanding, unappreciative, insecure and paranoid. It is sad because they want to do something good. But they've become something bad.

And what of what I believe is the vast majority of the human race, the decent people who don't want to do any harm, will help if they can but just want to live their lives in a way that makes them feel good about themselves? They don't want to be in charge. They don't want to fight. They'll pitch in and help if they're needed but otherwise they leave the spotlight to those that crave it.

They should be the ones in charge. But only for a short while.

Power corrupts. It's true. And that's where I begin to believe America got it wrong. The longer you have power, the worse the effect. Term limits should be in effect for everything. Not just political office, where it's absolutely vital, but even in corporations. I'm serious. I think a CEO should have to step aside after four years, take a commensurate cut in salary and take a position as an advisor to the new CEO. Imagine the brain trust that could result as capable people moved up through the ranks every four years.

And for the government, no more career politicians. It wasn't how it was supposed to work and it doesn't work. The Senate is full of angry old men and few junior Senators delighted with what will probably be a career gig. Two terms is plenty for a president, for a Senator and two terms should be enough for a Congressman. Right now, seniority is rewarded with influence and some legislators try to use that influence for good. But seniority also means extensive outside influence (corporate money) has time to assert its control as the expense of campaign after campaign taxes all but the wealthiest representatives.

Are there exceptions to the rule this theory creates? Maybe. But I wouldn't count on it.

Human beings may have the ability to lead and even the inclination. But it's time we admitted we don't do it without messing up.

1 comment:

pinkpackrat said...

Fascinating post. Especially like your point about damaged people needing power to fill the cracks -- so true and I love the image of that.

I would add that we all tend to project our own needs and desires onto our leaders ( and our lovers as well) and see in them what we want to see. Of course, in the end we are disappointed and woe betide the idol who falls from the pedestal. Is it tragic or comic or both?