I muse upon this in the aftermath of the recent election and installation of Pope Francis I. Now what, I hear you ask, has this got to do with Leadership and Management or Intelligence? Why is Leadership seemingly so unintelligent?
Consider the following:
We know (as modern science has explained) the origins of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day. Objective thinkers will realise that leaves little room for God in the traditional sense of an all-seeing individual with a plan for our existence and who lays down rules we must obey. But clearly a huge swathe of mankind is still obsessed with believing that one exists. So what we have just witnessed is the appointment to leadership of a model that objectively we know is based on a fallacy. Moreover that leadership has a huge impact because the direction it takes influences behaviours for billions around the globe.
I’m less concerned about religious bodies as organisations that are compassionate and provide social support mechanisms – but these should not be indelibly linked to an underlying belief system that is demonstrably flawed. That might boil down to some simple ideas. Yes, to pricking the social conscience regarding the poor. No, to telling people how to live their private lives and creating demons of the unapproved.
Take this back into the workplace and you start to see parallels. We know objectively that things should be different – yet repeatedly we see appointments that negate such objectivity. How many consulting reports or management insights have set out straightforward ways to progress – yet management chooses to ignore them? Or shareholders who know they could exert pressures – but choose to lie dormant? It is the same human failing exhibiting itself yet again. There seems to be some boundary that we are unwilling to cross as a society – almost as if we wilfully want to ignore what science and objective thinking has taught us.
It appears in all corners of our lives; from xenophobia about immigrants to NGOs failing to understand that their remit is still to be accountable for objective outcomes.
So what could we do about it?
I start from the premise that these paradigms of beliefs have to be understood in terms of their historic derivations. Religions evolved as ways to explain the inexplicable to primitive societies. Subsequently elders have garnered power by laying down the laws to be followed by the masses and we have lost sight of the origins of the underlying questions. So maybe, in organisations, we need to go back to examining the belief systems and challenging those ab initio, if we are to advance beyond the tinkering phase with leadership and its consequences. That is going to trample on a lot of current thinking about outsourcing or stakeholder engagement. It will also challenge the idea that bigger is better and focus instead on the quality of what we do. It will also mean that ethics might be brought to the fore, without leaving them hostage to some ancient mythology.
To quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “Fetch me the Holy Hand-Grenade of Antioch” – I want to go and blow up a few sacred ideas to release us from their grip.