Tuesday, January 28, 2014


We have become so jaded and cynical in the last 50 years that certain critical distinctions are very commonly dismissed or ignored, altogether.   I’d like to address two of the many.  One is the difference between leadership and manipulation, and the other is the difference between a team and a gang.


This is not about skills or methods.  It’s a comparison of leadership to manipulation.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard coworkers say leadership is a myth – a con game to sucker people into doing what’s good for the company.  I’ve sat with these people in some pretty decent workshops on leadership and team building and seen them tune the speaker out, pretend to read the written material, and blow the whole thing off as a bad joke.  This is partly because  there are many more really sorry workshops on these subjects, and people have just had it up to there with over-intellectualized baloney.  I get that.

In reality, though, there is a huge difference between leadership and manipulation.  Some of the mechanisms are the same, and when a person studies leadership, there is a moment when they realize they have an incredibly powerful tool - one that can be used for good or evil with equal ease, like a gun or a claw hammer.

Quite simply, leadership is getting them to do, for their own benefit, things they would not otherwise do.  Manipulation is getting people to do, for your benefit, things they would not otherwise do.

The problem is that the question of who is benefitting has been made unnecessarily confusing.
An awful lot of people have been taught an exclusive model of benefit.  That is, they can’t grasp that something could be of benefit to them and to another person, especially if that person is their employer.  The exclusive model of benefit (and that’s a term I just made up.  I don’t know if there’s another, better term.)  is the result of generations of statist influence in schools, especially colleges.  The Left has done a great job of brainwashing the American people into thinking anything that benefits a business owner will automatically screw them.  It’s the “pie” model vs. the “farm” model.   A farm can produce more and more if it is worked right, but there’s only so much pie, and a piece you get is a piece I can’t get.

Let me pose a few questions. Is it to your benefit if your employer is successful?  How about if his profits increase?  How about if they decrease?  There are no guarantees in life, but will you have a better chance of getting a raise if the company is making more money?   Will you have a better chance of getting a raise if you are contributing more to the company.  Actually, there is one guarantee: if your boss goes broke, you definitely don’t get a raise!

The objective of any business is to make money.  Professors and management consultants will tell you different, but they lie.  Of course there may be any number of secondary objectives that contribute to it, but the greatest objective of any business is to make money.

Let’s leave that lay right there for a minute and talk about objectives.  There is a specific term for an organization that has several members, each of whom plays a specific role in achieving the organization’s objectives.  That term is “a team.”  Let’s say the objective is to win football games.  Each of the 11 men on the field has a specific role to play.  Each must perform his assigned task, and stay within the rules of the game.  Because the objective is known, and each member autonomous, a leader can bring them together, motivate them, and help them channel their effort so the team wins games.  Winning is good for the individuals and for the organization - in the case of football, the school or the franchise owner.

That’s a critical point:  leadership requires an objective toward which the group can strive.  Sometimes, a leader can help the group set an objective, but leadership and objective go together.  If there is no objective – that is, if there is no real point for the group’s existence, how can anyone lead them?  To where would you lead them?  To what purpose?

As silly as it sounds, there are a great many organizations that don’t have an objective.  They have processes, or rules, but no objective.  Their sole reason for existence is to follow those processes.  Nobody knows where they are going, and nobody cares.  The only thing they care about is following those processes.  Imagine a football team with no field and no goal line.  What would they do?  How could they play?  There is actually a very good, real world example of a group that exists to follow processes with no regard to where they might end up.  Such a group is called “a gang.”

The gang requires members to wear certain garments, make certain hand signs, drive certain cars, have certain types of nicknames, scribble graffiti in specific fonts and colors, associate only with certain people, and a jillion other things.  Notice that none of these things have an objective beyond themselves.  As long as you wear the right colors, you’re cool.  Break the process, and you have a problem.  The only one who could possibly benefit beyond that is the boss; he (or she) gets the glory, the fame, the adulation, and usually first pick of the loot.  Hence, the boss of a gang is not a leader, but a manipulator.

A fixation on process to the exclusion of objective is one of the defining traits of a gang.  It makes leadership not only superfluous, but impossible.

The current version of the Republican Party is a gang.  They are fixed on following processes – wearing the right mantle, using the right phrases, sucking up to the right people – to the utter exclusion of any kind of objective.  They don’t care what happens to the country as long as they have good seats in the bus that is going over the cliff.  They are obsessed with straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic.  There may be real leaders in the party, but until the party finds an objective to pursue, we’ll never know.  And I can’t tell that they are even looking.

27 Jan., 2014

1 comment:

  1. I think its illuminating how you contrast leadership vs manipulation by identifying the beneficiary. Also, comparing goals for achieving objectives to mere adherence to process.
    Its much easier to see the failings of current "leadership" and what must be done to refocus and correct the erroneous decisions of the past.