There is a fundamental schism in what we consider to be leadership. On one side we have Bosses and Rulers, whose core motivation is status and on the other we have Authentic Leaders and Visionaries whose core motivation is purpose.
The question everyone else has to ask themselves is why do we EVER elect, select or promote status motivated individuals to positions of authority?
Status motivated Rulers and Bosses may appear to add short term value, but always at a catastrophic externalised cost and as a result they never add long term value.
The reason that we the voters, we the shareholders, we the customers and we the employees allow this to happen is because of our own reluctance to lead. Most of us want to focus on raising families, creating beautiful things, being athletes or just getting on with our lives. We don’t want the kind of responsibility, pressure and stress that comes with being President, Prime Minister or CEO. We want someone else to do it for us.
By contrast status seekers will say and do anything that they believe will get them to or keep them at the top of the heap, where they believe the status they crave exists.
They will appeal to our own weakness for not wanting to take responsibility by blaming and vilifying out-groups for our own problems. They say: “The reason you can’t get the jobs/pay/lifestyle you want is because – they – the out-group – are taking them from you.” They will offer attractive simplistic “solutions” to complex problems that let us off the hook of making our own decisions and taking our own responsibility.
In office status seekers will offer nothing positive to anyone except their own crony elite. They will erode freedom of speech so that when their simplistic “solutions” fail we will not even know about it, until it is a catastrophe. They will create a cult of identity that rewards sycophants and clones and punishes difference and questions. Their legacy will be a wasteland of destruction.
We must learn to discern the difference between status seekers and purpose pursuers and we must make status seeking a fundamental barrier to office:
Status seekers use the language of “them vs us”
Purpose pursuers use the language of “we are in this together”
Status seekers promise that simple solutions will work.
Purpose pursuers recognise that creativity and effort are required to solve problems.
While purpose pursuers are plentiful, few are willing to admit that they are leaders. This humility, and the daunting effort required to solve the problems, prevents many of them from even from even offering their candidacy, either in business or politics. They need to be cajoled, coached or outraged into candidacy.
Status seekers by contrast leap at the chance of status, ignore the challenges and responsibilities and focus ruthlessly on the prize.
Is it any wonder that we end up with such a skewed experience of leadership?
This year we face two future defining choices in two of the most significant populations in our society. By the end of 2016 the United States and the United Kingdom could be ruled by status seeking demagogues. If this happens be prepared for a bonfire of socially and environmentally progressive protections and legislation and a raft of tax cuts and benefits for cronies, sycophants and elites.
Be prepared for the world to get a lot less fair for everyone who just wants to focus on raising families, creating beautiful things, being athletes or just getting on with our lives.
We need to reshape our thinking on leadership. We need to nurture and develop purpose pursuing leaders from a young age and not just in the military. We need to elect, select and promote purpose pursuing, authentic leaders and visionaries in business and politics. We need leaders who will enrich the future rather than just themselves.
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