Today, America’s captains of business and industry command increasingly vast sums as compensation for their services. Accordingly, there is an enormous disparity—on the order of 325-to-1—between what the average paid-worker in an organization gets and what the CEO gets. We refer to these captains of industry as business leaders: But are they really?
Isn’t their practice closer to dictatorship than leadership? Don’t react critically think about it!
Since like dictators they do dictate the behavior of others within their sphere of power while taking a disproportionate share of the gain for themselves, why not refer to them as dictators? Dictators are not known for limiting the exercise of power-over to their actual ability; a dictator does not acknowledge (or allow public acknowledgement) of any limitations in his/her ability. In exercising power-over a dictator suppresses and oppresses those subordinate to him/her. A dictator wields autocratic (clearly not democratic) rule or control over that which they preside. Organizations over which executives preside are clearly not democracies; there is clearly subordination throughout the hierarchical command system. Dictators use force in gaining and exercising power-over others. In organizations the use of fear-based methods of management is quite commonplace; it is the go-to means for getting people to do what those in authority desire in service to themselves and the organization’s owners. The many who are subordinate are all too familiar with the Skinnerian stimulus-response if…then… dictate of those in authority, such as if you do this then you will get that or if you don’t do this then you won’t get that. No matter the phrasing, fear is the dynamic as these injunctions keep in doubt the satisfaction of what Maslow called basic or deficit-needs. Moreover keeping fear ever present, people are held accountable for getting the desired results: It’s all about exercising command over the behavior of others. We could go on but I think enough of the picture is revealed.
Captains of industry have reached star-power status in society. We believe them to be, and they often portray themselves as being, the smartest people in the room. Infallible! After all they often are the best and the brightest from our most prestigious business schools. Why else would they be able to command such high esteem and exorbitant compensation?
We shape the leaders we get! The American culture is likely the most individualistic in the industrialized world. That is, probably more than any other society, people in America have learned to structure life according to the precept that it is all about ‘me’ getting it all: Yeah, material self-interest maximization, that’s the ticket! Accordingly it is generally believed that not only is it possible, but it is right, for people to separate him/her self from other selves—rugged individualism, we are all independent individuals—in the pursuit of one’s own material gain. In the process, particularly in the workplace, we see it necessary to (often quantitatively) judge each other’s utility in service to our own wants—everyone is instrumental to me getting mine. Yet, holding to our individualist ways we declare, we did it our self!
While this doesn’t bode well for our work-life experience, given the power exercised over government policy business and industry impacts all of life in society. Business and industry is not just about the marketplace, it is also about doing the business of government. Getting whatever you can for your self inevitably translates into the hell with society and everyone else in it—everyone and everything has instrumental value in service to me. Where is there evidence that those with influence use power to benefit all humankind; where is the evidence of morality in leadership?
Leadership is about demonstrating care and concern for the development and wellbeing of others. Leadership is about using one’s legitimate authority to advance both individual and collective development simultaneously. Leadership is about developing and sustaining humanly productive relationships; it is not about accumulating great wealth for one’s self and one’s closest friends—though it may happen. Leadership requires one to develop his/her personhood, not his/her position and wealth. Leadership requires a development-orientation not an acquisitive-orientation. Leadership requires caring and that takes courage!
Leadership cannot emerge from a self-serving individualistic person, as the ego hasn’t the courage to transcend self-interest. It follows, leadership cannot emerge in a highly materialistic individualistic society except by chance alone—hence its rarity, particularly in American society!
Could it be that we are confusing or misplacing dictatorship for leadership in an effort to fulfill (through a kind of magical thinking) this very human need? Could it be that we are misguided in attending to our real crisis?
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