I caught an interesting article recently on LinkedIn, Power Causes Brain Damage.  It got me pondering and recalling the impact the Milgram Experiment we watched in a Methods of Organizational Research class had on me where I realized our temptation to abdicate personal responsibility when someone will take that mantle from us.  Along with another part of my research on leadership, where I came upon how charismatic leaders can easily take up the responsibility of those in depressed, repressed or oppressed circumstances, it occurs to me that followers have a responsibility in the corruption of power, especially in leadership.

Effective leaders will keep those around them who are able to keep them in check and rooted in reality, even empathy.  Unfortunately, we see too many leaders who are not so effective, right?  Leadership can be isolating unless precautions are taken and that takes awareness.  Awareness takes learning.  Too often, those merely vocationally or academically skilled are promoted without learning how to lead others, let alone themselves.

Then there is the Navigating Conflict workshop I developed and facilitated based on the Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson book, Making Conflict Work.  It reveals how power, relationship and goal compatibility impact how we navigate conflict.  Human sociology is naturally hierarchical, yet as even revealed in the book, we know the effective and compatible use of power when we encounter it.  Don’t we?  If we delineate power along a continuum of self-serving to common good or socially responsible, when those with power start leaning too far into self-serving, as followers, what do we do?  We appease, we submit, we navigate around.  It may work, at least in the short term, but how often do we let it become a long term proposition?  How often do we let the fear of self-serving power go unchecked?  It seems to me that in the face of self-serving power, we reflexively retreat to a follower’s version of it.  Do you witness that?  We retreat into fear and fall into protecting ourselves.  I see this retreat, however naturally human, as abdicating our followers’ version of social responsibility.  It creates an ugly cycle, doesn’t it?

I have long advocated and facilitated the idea of self-leadership being a skill for all to develop – those inclined to follow as well as lead.  It involves developing self-awareness, effective communication and relationship building capabilities, collaboration and teaming savvy, conflict navigation, emotional intelligence, and other ways of being more socially effective.  Anyone can pursue these concepts.  They can be naturally derived from effective family leaders, academic experiences that put us in circumstances that can organically nurture our need to be more effective with others.  Unfortunately, those same self-protective aspects of human nature can play out within those same circumstances, so we all need exposure to more effective and socially responsible ways of being.   This could even be the case for the more vocationally minded, whom we, in the US, have not seen fit to value and support with an educational path.

I see self-leadership as a way to developing better followers, better follower-ship, where we, with care and consideration, keep the powerful, especially those in leadership, in check, even if they haven’t chosen us to do so.

I welcome your thoughts on the matter.  Please chime in!

Most kindly,

~ Jacqueline Gargiulo, MSMOB/MA

No doubt, many sense that not is all right with our society. What some do not seem to realize is a wave of civil terrorism afoot, and not by those we are being led to believe through “hitleresque” propaganda and fear mongering. Do we really think the likes of the KKK and Skin Heads have simply gone away? It is my observation that no, they have simply made their way into religion and politics, continuing to drive an agenda of hatred, preying on existing fears that all is not right with the world, seeking their sense of entitlement to supreme power.

The tyranny our forefathers saw to obstruct by creating a constitutional republic was not, in fact, that of government but of the existing governing body, a ruling class of royalty – a class of the financially and power entitled. Our forefathers sought, with the constitution and the formation of a democratic republic, to obstruct the ability of tyranny against the individual by any organized power. They sought to build a governing body elected and thereby in essence ruled by the citizenry of this great country. Our constitutional government has, over its mere two centuries, existed to preserve the rights of the individual, and still seeks to do so for the most part, but in more recent decades has been slowly infiltrated by the likes of civil terrorists, often in the name of religion, looking to undo the rights of the individual so that their agenda of entitlement to superiority might be driven.

So, in this effort, the likes of the KKK and Skin Heads have joined ranks with what is too quickly becoming a ruling oligarchy, preying on our fears with rhetoric of a tyrannical government when in truth it is their ruling class form of tyranny they espouse and pursue. Have we not all heard the phrases, “takes one to know one” and “the pot calling the kettle black”? We left a ruling class of elitist royalty but have now entered an era of an elitist oligarchy supported by an elitist army of white supremacists. This, too, unfortunately, is an historical part of our founding, given the machine of slavery for which our forefathers and this country are infamous, yet perhaps too forgiven.

Why else does our education system continue to lag the rest of the free world? Perhaps to enable a tyrannical class to infiltrate and upend the very system our forefathers put into place to avoid, that this would-be ruling class would have us believe is the very problem. And perhaps it is indeed becoming so?  It has been a slow coup, and many probably haven’t even realized their part in it. It can be seen in the erosion of politics as a short term service to the populace into a long term career opportunity; in the gerrymandering of voting districts to remain in power; in the likes of Citizens United – which is, I would hope obvious by now – a uniting of the ruling oligarchy and supremacists by making ownership of business representative of those they employ. Really? Do we really think that everyone in an organization would knowingly support the wishes of an entitled would-be ruling class? Well, we do. Our fear is great enough, and they are wily enough to convince us to do so, because in truth, it is simply human nature at work. They may not, excepting a few, even recognize themselves as the civil terrorists they are. Power simply has an unruly effect, and when the same had already been hiding out in the name of religion, our sensibilities on that front had been eroded, except where – in our primary case – Christ’s own anti-tyranny message has gotten through despite best efforts otherwise.