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3 Mar 2014

Leadership, The Secret (Pt 8): Top Rule Violator

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series Leadership - The Secret

3 Gold Stars - Leadership SecretWe often have idealized visions of leaders and leadership, treating them as universal goods where only bad people can make them bad. If we’re not leaders, we’re something less when viable, alternatives do exist. Nevertheless, an untold secret of leadership is that leaders are often the top rule violators in any group (“The ‘Breaking Bad’ School” [The Economist, September 28, 2013 edition]). Inherent aspects of leadership encourage this. It’s not just people.

Just as breathing helps us live, it also encourages aging, meaning every living thing has the natural processes for its death. This holds true for all human endeavors such as companies, and leadership is no exception. Leadership models though, rarely, if ever, acknowledge negative side-effects inherent in leadership.

For example, Stanford Prison Experiment showed how normal, well-adjusted humans – when given absolute power over others – frequently abuse that power. Leadership, because of the power it grants, often infects people with hubris. It’s so infectious that even associating with those of power can encourage it especially in men.

Still, some cling to the idea that leadership is only bad when bad people are leaders. So, image for that someone presents a model of how our bodies function. What kind of model would not include their natural reaction to disease and injury, things that build resistance and muscles?

From this perspective, rule breaking and hubris are inherent aspects of leadership helping to weed out weak leaders and the groups fostering them. Yes, sometimes, leaders need to break rules to accomplish things. It plays on them though, triggering power and specialness emotions, encouraging falls from grace.

Of course, as hubris goes about its weeding, many innocent bystanders pay the price too. Perhaps it’s a reminder of the selectivity we need to have for our top rule violators.


Series Navigation<< Leadership, The Secret (Pt 7): Experts, Research & Beauty ContestsLeadership, The Secret (Pt 9): Problems Defining & Studying >>

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