What it means to be a leader

“You have taken the complex interpersonal dynamic of natural leadership formation, ripped away many nuances and intricacies and put in place a sub-optimal model.”

You have to have the natural trust and belief of those you should be serving in order to achieve great things.

True leaders are servants to their people.

It is unfortunate that industrialization has left us these rigid organizational structures that make no sense in a knowledge economy. When you put a hierarchy in front of someone and start talking about career paths, drawing their attention to where in the chart they are, emphasizing all the ‘growth’ that is above them you are in the process dis-empowering them. You are telling them this is you over here, and these are the people above you. These lofty people are your superiors and have this supposed ‘power’ over you for reasons that may be authentically valid or more often frightfully contrived and engineered.

You have taken the complex interpersonal dynamic of natural leadership formation, ripped away many nuances and intricacies and put in place a sub-optimal model. In the process simplifying the complex human dynamic to a laughably simple system that only vaguely reflects the natural tribal dynamic of a group of people coming together.

Like any simplified model it only works for certain circumstances and frequently fails for others. So why does it persist? In order for it to work it requires people to perpetuate and belief in the model. It requires people to embrace and live the model without question. It requires people to embrace it, ignoring the obvious faults. It requires people to make it a taboo to question it. Unfortunately tying people’s compensation to the model means that most rational people will do exactly these things.

People will always do what is best for themselves, and since money has become a proxy for survival when this terrible game is laid bare most people will compromise themselves. They will go with the flow since not doing so will threaten the livelihood of themselves and their family. So it is that learned helplessness kicks in and people start playing the game against their better judgement. They redefine their reality to trying to figure out how to beat the rules of the system and move up this artificial hierarchy. They give up on how it should be and start believing that that they cannot change it.

This results in so many issues, many of which I am sure will get explored in the blog. But the one I want to explore in this post revolves around how it bastardizes leadership. Leadership gets conflated into this misrepresentation of how high in the chart you are and how many leaf nodes there are underneath you. Leadership gets implied based on how well you play the game, not on whether people trust you and want to follow you.

The truth is that true leadership has nothing to do with rank or power. True leaders are servants to their people. A more natural model would be to invert the frequent organizational diagram with the subordinates sitting on top of the leaders, since a true leader’s responsibility is not to serve themselves and their own ego but those of his or her people.

“The truth is that true leadership has nothing to do with rank or power. True leaders are servants to their people.”

You are only as effective as the people who support you, and if you are only in a position because of you managed to game an imperfectly structured contrived system you are very quickly going to find out how hard it is to do anything of real substance. You have to have the natural trust and belief of those you should be serving in order to achieve great things. And no title or rank in a hierarchy can create this.

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