Even The Best of People: On Leadership, Activism and Lores

I’m less worried about “bad people end up doing bad things in positions of power.”

I’m far more worried about “good people also end up doing bad things in positions of power.”

If the incentives in a system are so misplaced that even the best of people are discouraged, misled, suppressed, disenfranchised or corrupted, then great leadership is useless.

The question, therefore, is not “do we need more good people and great leaders?” but instead “to what extent does keeping the status quo system make sense?”

What if we can’t really rely on great leaders to solve the systemic problem of misplaced incentives?

What if we can’t solely rely on the goodwill in a power structure that’s biased towards people in power?

What if we are not confident in the system to self-improve and we are not confident in the people whose interest lies in keeping the system as it is?

What if we can’t frame the required change properly in the current framing of the system?

That’s where activism is required. That’s where the problem has to be attacked elsewhere and from other angles.

Leadership works for organizations and societies only when people are not disenfranchised.

Change is never just a leadership problem.

However, the rhetorics we keep hearing proves otherwise.

Instead of facts, analysis and criticism, what we hear are lores. Leadership lores. Change lores. Transformation lores. Innovation lores. Empowerment lores. Diversity and inclusion lores. Even the good old management practices have lores.

Lores are soothing to hear. The only problem is that, lores are a little bit like mirage – it gives us hope, but it’s almost always not what it seems. Lores are comfortably misleading at best.

Lores are merely another form of organizational control – a manipulation of perception and exploitation of bias.

If even the best of people fall prey to misplaced incentives and misleading lores, then what hope could we have for an organization’s self-improvement? What can we, as good leaders and good people with good intentions, do to set up the organization for people of the future to succeed?

Establishing democratic oversight seems to be the only obvious path forward.


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